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The key to living 'the good life'

Little eco thinks the 'good life' is dancing through a paddock in a pink tutu. Little eco footprints

When I’ve been fortunate to witness a falling star I’ve usually made a wish related to happiness. If these wishes are anything to go by, I clearly thought that being happy was the key to living a good life. But apparently I was on the wrong track – and am more likely to find a good life in helping others.

In 'The good life: What makes life worth living?' social researcher and psychologist Hugh Mackay convincingly argues that a good life is not measured by happiness, security, wealth, status, or achievement. A good life is determined by our willingness to connect with those around us.

A good life is one that recognises, respects and responds to the needs of others.

The book has been a bit of an eye-opener for me. I’ve realised that although I volunteer occasionally – there’s definitely room for improvement.

It seems I’m not the only parent using family commitments as an excuse for not contributing more to my community. Volunteering rates in Australia are highest in women over 45 and men over 55.

Mackay suggests that being a parent of a young child makes it even more important to help others.

“What we do need, as children, is for someone to nurture our altruism, to teach us from an early age to take other people’s rights, needs and wellbeing into account. We need to be taught from the very beginning how to cooperate rather than compete.” “..our most civilising impulses need to be encouraged when we’re young”.

I’ll make more of an effort to help others from now on, particularly as a family. We recently joined our local Landcare group and I’d like to help out more at our local school.

Do Something Near You

Do Something! is an organisation that helps Australians to create social and environmental change. Their Do Something Near You community directory and volunteer portal is a great tool for finding ways to help in our own neighbourhood.

I typed in our post code and received a long list of volunteer opportunities. High on my wish list are Girl Guides and Country Women’s Association.

The Do Something Near You website almost feels like being able to shop online for a good life. Now that’s a type of shopping I could learn to love.

Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 19th October 2013.