I’m excited to share an interview with award-winning author Jonathan Fields! I first met Jonathan back in 2007 when Gretchen Rubin introduced him to me as a suggested guest for my Sirius Radio Show. I loved Jonathan’s insights on life so much he became a weekly guest! Jonathan currently runs mission-driven media and education venture, Good Life Project®
, where he and his team lead a global community in the quest to live more meaningful, connected and vital lives. They produce a top-rated podcast
with millions of listens and views in more than 150 countries, where Jonathan regularly shares conversations with the world’s leading voices, like Sir Ken Robinson, Elizabeth Gilbert, Milton Glaser, Brene Brown, Gretchen Rubin and hundreds more. He now has an amazing new book How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science and Practical Wisdom.
Actually, it’s not just a book to be read – it’s a gateway to a better life, to be lived.
Q: Jonathan – I read and loved your newest book “How To Live A Good Life”! As many of my readers know, I have a platonic crush on Aristotle – who writes about “The Good Life” – which Aristotle also interchangeable calls an “Admirable Life” and a “Growth Directed Life.” Can you explain to our readers how you define what a “Good Life” might be
A: Love the idea of “growth-directed” and it aligned well with a simple model I’ve found really helpful. Think of your life as three buckets: vitality, connection and contribution. Your vitality bucket is all about
optimizing your state of mind and body. Your connection bucket is about cultivating rich and meaningful relationships. And, your contribution bucket is about how you bring your efforts to the world and what you create. We often call this our great work, though it’s not always the same as our living.
A good life, then, is about the process of doing a little something every day to fill each bucket. It’s a daily practice steeped in growth, action, intention, connection, meaning.
Similar to Aristotle, that ends up being a pretty admirable and growth-directed life.
Q: A lot of people are living a life where they feel disconnected and mired in regret and caught up in “busyness.” What are some “antidotes” you offer in your new book?
A: Yep, busyness. A modern plague…or is it? What if you were busy with movement, meditation, creativity, yummy friendships and loves, nourishing conversations and contributing to communities, deepening into meaningful quests, creating from a place of strength and full expression and service to others? Still a bad thing?
Labeling busyness the devil is the easy way out. Truth is, it’s not about “being” busy, it’s about what you’re busy with, why you’re busy, how you’re busy and with whom. Being maniacally, autopilot busy on a purely reactive and mindless level, that’s a bad thing. Being busy with things to do that fill you up, come from a place of intention and purpose, that’s a good thing.
The real problem is not busyness, it’s that we’ve left intention and agency out of the equation. And, the real answer is to reclaim them. First, by cultivating a daily mindfulness practice, which is why I devoted a whole chapter in the book to this. Then, by discovering who we are and what really matters to us, and learning what to say yes or no to. Then, we’ve got to move beyond just knowing these things to acting upon them, and building our lives around this intentional, mindful and choice-driven ethos. Goodbye purposeless pace, hello fierce grace!
Q: I love how your new book is an intersection of science and spirituality. Can you share with my readers something interesting from science that might benefit them?
A: Giving helps us as much as it helps those who receive. There’s a phenomenon known as the “giver’s glow.” When we are kind, when we give to others, it affects our neurochemistry in a way that elevates our mood, often for an extended period of time. It makes us feel good.
In this way, oddly, giving can never really be entirely selfless. The person you give to wins, and so do you. And, that’s not only okay, it’s wonderful. Because it adds a physiological motivation for kindness that reinforces an ethical or moral basis. Together, they create win-win outcomes for everyone. Do good, feel good!
Interesting, too, we get a bigger hit when we cluster our giving into shorter windows of time, rather than spreading them out. So, maybe pick one day a week to make being kind a priority. That doesn’t mean you get to be greedy and mean on other days, just that it becomes a guiding ethos on that one chosen day. I actually share a special activity in the book called #Give30 that challenges you to give up to 30 times in a single day. People find it’s remarkably easier than it sounds, and it makes you feel great.
Q: I’m a big believer that how you start your day and end your day can be bigtime gamechangers for people’s lives. How do you recommend people start and end their day – to enjoy “the Good Life”?
A: I think you have to adapt your morning and evening routines to the realities of the life you have, its opportunities and constraints. Parents of toddlers will have very different options that empty-nesters or late-night hipsters.
That said, I am a huge fan of morning routines. Staples, for me, include waking at a similar time every day, followed by a few minutes of yogic breath-work or pranayama, a 25-30 minute seated mindfulness practice and a few minutes of movement. Then, I’ll often do a quick snapshot of my
buckets to get a sense for where I’m going to need a little extra love that day, and I’ll often write down the single most important thing to do and commit to doing something to fill my most-depleted bucket, too.
I move into my day and try to do those last few items first, especially if they’re things that’ll take a dose of willpower, which tends to wane as the days goes by. In the evening, I keep TV out of the bedroom, have the same hygiene routine and then usually read and/or write a bit of gratitude thoughts before dozing off.
Okay, now that, of course, is my dream day! In reality, I stick to most of it, but also am sure to allow plenty of space to be human. Sometimes stuff just happens and I need to adapt those routines to the moment. No matter what, though, my day always starts with pranayama, mindfulness and a bit of movement. Those are my anchors.
Q: Thanks Jonathan! Where can people find out more about your new book?