Muscle for life

Is the “Great Life” a Great Lie?

Is the “Great Life” a Great Lie?

Why struggle to achieve a great life when it’s so much easier to settle for a good life?

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve seriously pondered that question.

Why make the great sacrifices of time, money, and interests and why accept the great burdens of great living? What’s wrong with indulging in the comfort of complacency?








And why do people divide so sharply on these types of issues? Why do some people resonate with men and women of great ambition while others take pride in “having conquered the need to conquer the world?”

I mean, let’s face it…every one of us, “rich or poor,” lives in sumptuous luxury compared to our ancestors.

We can communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime. We’re surrounded by unlimited amounts of ready-to-eat food. Deadly predators are a world away. Modern medicine can save us from all but the most catastrophic sicknesses or events. Our great struggle for survival involves trying not to bury ourselves in credit card debt or or drink or eat ourselves to death.

What more do we really need? Isn’t that great living? Should modern society’s obsession with material wealth and recognition be viewed more as a perversion than a standard?

Well, I’m no philosopher and I don’t presume to know what a great life really is, but when I meditate on this type of existential dilemma, I think of the following quote…

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

-John Wooden

In case you don’t know of him, Wooden was a legendary NCAA basketball coach that lead his Bruins to ten championships and a sixty-one game winning streak, and who developed a recruiting system and full-court press style of play that revolutionized the game.

Wooden also said some pretty profound stuff about life and achievement in general, and I think his statement above strikes at the heart of the “great life dilemma.”

A great life isn’t determined by the standards of others but instead by your own sense of yourself.

It isn’t about the external but the internal: the personal journey of self-discovery and self-actualization wherein, through the application of ourselves to life, we learn what our abilities truly are.

At the end of this journey, no objective measurement of the friends we make, skills we learn, or wealth or wisdom we acquire matters. Who’s to say we did or didn’t share our lives with enough people or achieve enough mastery or make enough money? Only our measurements of our efforts count. Only we can know if we made the most of our endowments and opportunities or if we squandered them.

We all can live great lives in our own ways, according to our own abilities, and we all have our own adventures waiting.

This is why I move as quickly as I can every day, trying to fit into my life as much as I can before the clock expires. This is why I strive to spend the majority of my time with people I love and respect and why I’m loathe to settle for giving anything less than what I’m fully capable of in my work, relationships, and pursuits.

Will it all add up to a great life? I don’t know, but it’ll be a hell of a lot more fun and fulfilling than a “good life.”

What are you thoughts on living a great life? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • wildjack82

    Its always hard to use our own potential as a measuring stick. It’s so much easier to just look around us and find those that we have surpassed to stroke our ego and ensure that we are doing “okay” (and get depressed by comparing ourselves against those who are far ahead of us)
    Truth is that if we can find a way to measure ourselves against our own potential, then not only will we far surpass what we ever though possible, but we will in turn want to help others be lifted up and give of ourselves.
    Funny how seeking for self mastery, and internalizing, actually makes us turn our hearts outwards and actually be of value to others and society.
    Good article. I used to be bummed when your new articles were not ‘fitness’ related, but I’ve liked your philosophical articles lately. Gives me something to chew on for the day.

    • Michael Matthews

      Very true!

  • The “great life” is a great myth perpetuated by corporate fueled modern consumerism to make a lot of money. And it’s working very well, obviously, especially when emotionally vulnerable young people are the ones targeted, which is usually the case these days.

    For me, I’ve realize that the two things I need are freedom and control. I want to be free to do what I believe in — not necessarily to do what I want all the time — but the ability to do things that support my belief in my life vision. Control means interacting with who I want to interact with, saying no to whom I want to say no to, and basically accepting people into my life who are empowering while cutting out those who are toxic.

    I have a “freedom” number. That means as long as I’m bringing in x dollars a month I’ll be OK. That’s what is really important to me, otherwise the extra money, while it may be nice, is not worth any significant sacrifice of freedom or control.

    That podcast with Mark Divine really resonated with me because I too was on the path to getting a CPA and a cushy accounting job. Good money, but I hated it and I was miserable. If you’re spending your day working for something you don’t care about or believe in, that’s a surefire recipe for despondency and depression… straight out of the horses mouth.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for sharing Pete.

      Enslaving ourselves to jobs we hate or banks to afford shit we don’t need and barely enjoy is definitely no way to live.

      Personally I’ll take lots of money and lots of freedom and control. 🙂

      Glad to hear you had the integrity to know you weren’t going in the right direction.

    • matt

      Holy Smokes!!! Well said brother. Agree 100%

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks Matt!

  • matthias kupperschmidt

    Very good post. A life will always feel empty if you are not happy with what you are doing, so to say, if you live your life and your happiness and the happiness of the people around you increases, you’re doing the right thing :-).
    That’s why the “how” is totally irrelevant.
    Every human being wants to be loved by others, it lies in our being. So, in order to be loved, we have to love others :-)) – But that’s unfortunately harder said than done, because it requires, as you correctly said, that you work on your self. More specifically, you have to work on your mind. To love people, we have to daily practice our acceptance of situations and people, accepting what “is”. Further, practicing to see how other people suffer with so many lilltle things will make it easier to love them and support them.
    Google “patient acceptance”, “exchanging self with others” and “creating compassion for others” if you want to read into it. I can also recommend you some books.

    Finally it is not all about us, it’s about others. Not “me me me” but making sure that the people we meet daily are well. The post man as well as the grumpy guy at the gas station :).

    Regards, Matthias Copenhagen

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Matthias and I agree! Well said!

  • Cory

    Great Article. I am going through these questions right now. My
    department was laid off from work, but I was ready for a change. I had a
    chance to go to another department but turned it down since my only motivation was collecting a paycheck. I have a few months of severance, so I am going to take the time to choose something I really want to do. I also want to have control where if I fail or succeed it is all up to me instead of trying to impress management for a low percentage raise once a year.

    • Thanks Cory! I’m excited for you. Let me know how it goes. 🙂

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