What makes a good life?

Kelly Fang/File

Citing a motivational life advice TED talk is so overdone that the practice feels cliche to its core. But is that really reason enough to not do it? From us at the Clog to you, we say, let the haters hate — this is about a TED talk.

This talk was given last December by Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and Zen priest. The title of his talk: “What makes a good life?

Waldinger’s talk is undoubtedly useful for UC Berkeley students. As college students, aren’t we supposed to be hard at work trying to find what we’re passionate about? Aren’t we all trying to find ways to live a good life?

Citing a recent survey of millennials asking what their most important life goals were, Waldinger stated that 80 percent of us think that being rich will make us happy, and 50 percent of us think that we’d be happy if we were famous.

This type of thinking should come as no surprise. As UC Berkeley students, we’re constantly under pressure to perform, to make money and to achieve. But will fame and money really make us happy? Waldinger thinks otherwise, saying in his talk that although we’re often told that achievement is the goal we should all be striving toward, it is not the defining characteristic of a good life. Rather, he argues, the defining characteristic of a good life is good relationships.  

We at the Clog think that we should all try to incorporate this philosophy into our daily lives. Without a doubt, UC Berkeley students stress out over achievement and success more than most. It’s also true that many of us are so busy with assignments, tests, papers, internships, jobs, applications and other extracurriculars that we don’t have time to spend with each other. And even when we do have time, it’s usually only enough for Facebook.

Maybe if we try to apply Waldinger’s theory — that relationships are the most important part of a good life — we can start to debunk the myth that academic or professional successes alone will make us happy. That is to say, maybe we can start to believe that a good life is more than how much money we make after graduation or what level of honors we receive with our diplomas. Wouldn’t we all be a little bit happier if we spent less time stressing over internships and a future that isn’t here yet and spent a little more time with each other?

So next time classes and the unceasing workload of UC Berkeley have got you down, remember that we’re here together to do more than mindlessly crank out assignments and papers. Grabbing lunch or coffee with a friend might be more important; happiness is more than just the grades on your transcript.

Contact Chris Hewitt at [email protected].

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