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How to Live a Good Life According to the Greatest Thinkers in History

I think we can all agree that we want to the best life possible whilst we are here on earth.

Many of us try our best day in and day out but still come home with a nagging sense of disappointment. A feeling that we could be more, or be doing more. We feel that living the ‘good life’ that we imagined is difficult, if not impossible.

But is it?

It turns that many of the greatest thinkers the world has ever known pondered the same questions we now consider.

Many of them had their own struggles about what they considered the ‘good life’ and built philosophies around them, so they had principles and rules by which to live their lives.

Today we will look at some of the most powerful ways you can integrate their thought processes into your own life.

What the Greatest Thinkers have to Say on How to Live a Good Life

Appreciate what you have

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” - Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher

It is easy to go through life with no appreciation or gratitude. If you look for them, you can find a million things you would like to change or that aggravate you. In fact, the more you look the more you seem to find.

how to live a good life

What successful, happy people do is drag their minds away from dwelling on such petty things and, instead, show heartfelt appreciation for the things around them. The result of this?

They are automatically more at ease with their surroundings. That sense of tension that underlies so many daily activities is dissolved as the resistance to the present seizes. Life flows unimpeded, and great things follow.

Instead of worrying and fretting about what you don’t have today, appreciate what you do. According to one study, keeping a gratitude journal is a powerful way to instil this habit.

Harvard Health Publication Research found that the people who wrote down the things they appreciated on a daily basis for 10 weeks reported significantly higher happiness levels than those who didn’t.

Believe you will have what you want, and you will

“It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” - Muhammad Ali, boxer

Belief is one of the most misunderstood mindsets, and many people tend to avoid it because of its religious overtones. This is a huge mistake, however, as consciously directed belief is key to achieving what you want in life.

Muhammad Ali was a master of belief. He told himself over and over again he was ‘the greatest’, even before he knew he was. He embedded that thought deep in his subconscious mind.

The result? He became one of the best boxers ever, was dubbed ‘the greatest’ and has etched his name into history. Funny how that works.

Here’s the deal:

No matter what you want to do, you must first have the inkling - or the belief - that you can do it. Nothing has ever been achieved without belief, whether in yourself, in the cause, or in a higher power.

Trust yourself

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

We often go through life going against our own intuition and best interests because it is the way we are ‘supposed’ to live.

Ever since childhood, parents, teachers and well-meaning guides have told to do this and not to do that, shaping our adult life without really ever giving our inner light a chance to shine. If your feeling really grateful for your teacher and how they guided you simply buy them a gift for being the best teacher.

As good as the intentions were of these people, true advice can only come from within yourself. This is true for all of us,because no one has ever lived the life we are living right now.

Even if they have experienced similarities, what they did to overcome their problems may not be relevant to the present time or to your personality.

Thank people for their advice but don’t follow it blindly. Learn to trust yourself.

Know that you are going to die

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” - Steve Jobs, Entrepreneur

There are many cultures around the world that are far more embracing of death than people in the west. In many ways, this is a healthier way to live and gives a realistic perception of what we can expect from our life. After all, no matter what we acquire or achieve we will have to leave it behind some day.

Reminding ourselves of this frequently ensures we keep our minds focused on doing the best we can possibly do in the moment, without becoming unduly attached to our creations.

Meditating on death also makes it easier to appreciate our current situation. Many people block their way to better things because they get depressed about their present life.

By deeply accepting the fact your time is limited and you have no idea when it might be over, you can release their petty thoughts from your mind. Having a realistic, yet not pessimistic (big difference), view of reality is extremely powerful and liberating.

Science backs this up - A new study published in the Journal of Sports and Exercise Psychology found that basketball players perform better when they contemplated death pre-game.

Focus on the positive

“Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them.” - Jack Canfield

The material world in which we live is made up of opposites. Light and dark. Cold and hot. Wet and dry. Each aspect of everything ranges on a spectrum, book-ended on either side by the extremes.

At first inspection, seeing these opposites in action makes this world appear as though it is in constant conflict. But look deeper. Each opposite, rather than being separate entities, are rather just the same thing at different ends of the line, varied by time and conditions (the meaning of the phrases ‘there, but for the grace of god, go I).

Suddenly, things don’t look so ‘at ends’ with each other as before. We can see things as they are.

Here’s the practical side of what we are talking about:

As everything has an opposite we can focus on either the positive or the negative aspect. Neither is correct, in a larger sense, but it is a positive focus that will allow for the most confidence action.

It is the Positives that fills us with optimism and hope, and an inner knowing that our goals are ours for the taking just as long as we can keep our eyes on them for enough time. By this realization, we learn how to live a good life.

Make a decision and act

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.” - William Hutchison Murray, writer and mountaineer

Check this out:

Much of life is wasted in procrastination and hesitation. We feel we have to wait for perfect conditions, or when we feel right, to make our move and make an impact. This tendency, or trick of the mind, has caused more failures, more half-finished novels and more broken dreams than anything else in history.

Do you want to know the secret on how to live a good life?

It is to act - now. Try it for yourself, on something small and simple that you know you can achieve. Act without excessive thought. The chances are any anxiety or tension you were feeling melting away. You were suddenly full of energy and focused.

Action brings a corresponding response from our emotions, which adds momentum to our decision. Through that, all manner of things can happen. Through that, anything is possible.

Written by Terrence Kennedy

Terrence Kennedy is the man’s man on a journey to self-discovery. A traveler, extreme sports aficionado, an observant wanderer, a DIY-Know-How, an ultimate outsider and a documentarist of culture, sex, dating, relationship, fashion, style and gentleman's etiquette. He has learned a lot through his escapades, and is happy to pass that knowledge on to you.