I’ve been reading a fabulous book called The Good Life by Hugh Mackay, and the theme is really relevant to Lifestyle Fifty which of course is all about The Art of Ageing and living the good life, offering tips about how to live life to the fullest as we get older.
Do we live life to the fullest?
But deep down I keep wondering what is the Good Life at the heart of the idea? How do we really make sure we live life to the fullest?
I’m always asking myself these questions because I know that the good life, or living life to the fullest is not all about acquiring stuff, keeping fit, looking good, and indulging ourselves, just because we can.
There has to be more to it than that.
Are Baby Boomers the lucky generation?
If we are looking for meaning about the Good Life, and how to live life to the fullest, then I think as Hugh Mackay says we need to look at the significant stimuli and pressures on our generation that have shaped our ideas about this topic.
On the surface it would appear that we baby boomers seem to have had an easier passage through life than our parents.
Some say we’ve had it too easy.
But now as we look ahead to our old age we are told that we have reached a time when we are entitled to ‘The Good Life’, and we must live life to the fullest before it’s too late. Sadly, often ‘the good life’ seems a little void of the good things we’ve been led to believe we might expect.
To the previous generation at least, this idea probably seems a little churlish.
After all, we haven’t lived through world wars, or great depressions, and we’ve had no devastating plagues, so we’ve had a good life and need expect no more of it at retirement!
The Age of Aquarius and all that
Yet like all generations baby boomers have had challenges, most notably cultural, technological and economic, which we’ve had to adapt and adopt in equal measure. Technology has moved at such a pace that jobs which in our parents lives were for life, possibly don’t even exist any more.
Although many baby boomers protested against wars, enjoyed free love, and pushed for world peace, much of our attention has been focused on money and material possessions. The 1980’s and the largesse of those years being a case in point.
We’ve been led to believe that the good life is about how much money we earn, the house we live in, the cars we drive, the power we wield, the clothes we wear, how much (great) sex we have, and the places we travel to. In many respects these are the things that have defined us.
And how media and marketing have plied their ‘good life trade’ and what ‘living life to the fullest’ actually looks like over the years to an almost subliminal level. We are completely hijacked by it at a very deep level.
As well as all the hype around having it all, many of us have been focussed on our children, their lives, their welfare and their achievements to a much greater extent than any generation previously. In some respect we may have used our children to provide meaning to our lives. In this case there is a severe case of the empty nest syndrome to contend with when they fly the nest.
Me Me Me and more Brand Me
But in reality, our generation has had a severe dose of ‘Me Me Me-Itis’ and it’s all been about how fast we can climb to the top of our self imposed hills to find our pot of gold.
Perhaps this is also because we’ve been fed the idea that perfection is possible. That we can be perfect, the best at anything we turn our hand to, and we are led to believe that every frailty is just a challenge to overcome. In fact they promote that there’s a cure, a potion or a method for every frailty if we care to buy it.
The media and advertising will also have us believe our inadequacies can be overcome by a new outfit, a new hairdo, a new car – we are led to believe that if we work hard enough we are entitled to a great career, a fantastic salary, a fabulous home and social life, and if we haven’t got it all then there’s something wrong with us.
Living life to the fullest becomes all about ME.
Personal Brand Marketing
Look a little deeper and Facebook along with other social media have further created a perfect platform for personal brand marketing, which if you look just beneath the surface is really just like jostling for popularity at school.
Then there’s a slew of reality TV shows, and the cult of celebrity both of which promote hollow values which we get sucked into believing.
Glitz and joy are touted as the values of the day. Status symbols and online bragging are encouraged.
Self esteem and feeling good about yourself are put forward as givens even if you’ve done nothing to actually warrant these feelings.
But if we really examine self esteem, then we see that actually the deepest sense of satisfaction is garnered from self respect based on self control. Bragging and self promotion won’t get us there.
During our life time, especially in the western world, we’ve developed an childlike dependency on things being sorted out for us, for governments to fix things and banks to lend us money, for products to be available immediately on a no interest or on a ‘never never’ term, for the latest technology to give us online thrills, and drugs to instantly relieve pain, or enhance our lives.
Of course we need all this – we are told – in order to live life to the fullest.
Is this it? We sometimes ask.
After bringing up children or having demanding careers, we reach the 50 something years and become aware of a nagging anxiety, even a sense of being unfulfilled.
Our life is not empty by any means, and we fill it adequately enough, but somehow it’s lacking, and there feels to be something deeply unsatisfying about the future as if there’s a hollow that needs to be filled. We may even look to our adult children to help fill the void, having a much deeper engagement in their lives than our parents generation might have expected of us.
The next big thing
In our earlier years many of us were fortunate to always be moving onto the next big thing. Looking forward to the next stage with a sense of anticipation.
There was always something happening, or about to happen in our lives from leaving home, to getting a job, falling in love, getting married, moving into a first flat, decorating our first house, having children, buying a car, family holidays, birthday parties, Christmas and more. In fact there was a tide of happening that swept them along without much time to make sense of everything.
No wonder really that when we get to the top of our self imposed hills, and can’t find the pot of gold, we look around and ask: “Is this it then?”
Because our generation has mostly been focussed on having fun, acquiring stuff, trying not to age, and having a good time, I wonder as we get older is this enough?
In reality I put it out there that the secret to the good life, and living life to the fullest is about much more than this.
What do you think?
Credit and Thanks: In writing this post I’ve put my spin on ideas and social observations made by Hugh Mackay in his thought provoking book The Good Life, What Makes A Life Worth Living. It’s definitely worth reading.
Buy The Book
Buy The Good Life here if you live in Australia
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