July 11, 2006

News & Opinion: Creating The Good Life - A Review

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 8:02 PM – Filed under: Personal Development & Human Behavior

As I mentioned yesterday, I was off on vacation last week. I made a conscious effort to take non-business books with me. The one I ended up reading was Creating The Good Life: Applying Aristotle's Wisdom to Find Meaning and Happiness by James O'Toole.

I had been wanting to read some of Aristotle's work, but found his original texts intimidating. O'Toole walks you through his journey of understanding how Aristotle's writings applied to people today. One thing that makes the book compelling is O'Toole talking about his personal journey to live a better life.

He leads with the idea of Happiness, spending time defining it in Aristotlian terms.
...Almost everyone associates happiness with the mental state of "feeling good." However, Aristotle says it is "an activity." He elaborates, explaining that happiness is the "highest of all goods achievable by actions." Apparently, happiness is something we do rather than something we feel.

I found O'Toole's book to be written in a very deliberate, well-thought out manner. He lays out all of the arguments. He shows how the current work of philosophers and psychologists supports or refutes Aristotle's teachings. O'Toole asks the reader a number of times if he/she agree and wants to continue the journey.

If you venture into the book, here are the kinds of questions you will be contemplating:
  • On my deathbed, will I be able to look back and say I led a good life?
  • What will make me truly happy at the end?
  • What work puts me in "the zone"?
  • What should I be doing now to get where I want to be in the long-term?
  • What am I doing now that I should stop doing --that is, what gives me gratification but will not contribute to my lasting happiness?
  • What do I need to discipline myself to do and not do in order to stay focused on what is truly good for me in the long-term?

Those are going to seem like common questions. What Aristotle (with O'Toole interpretation) lays out is why they are the right questions and why you need to invest time and energy into finding those answers.