The Good Life?

In Person Centred Planning we are passionate to pursue and plan for a good life for the child or young person who is the focus of our efforts. This contrasts with attempts to provide effective provision to meeting Special Educational Needs that is so central a task in the ‘medical model,’ service centred world most of us work in or bring our disabled children up in. 

But what is a good life?

We learned from ‘Beyond Welfare’ the importance of:

  • Money
  • Meaning
  • Friendship

for communities and these certainly make sense for individuals.We have used the pursuit of these principles as a central way forward with our Community Circle work around the UK.

Going way back to the ancient philosophy days of Aristippus and Aristotle and the study of well being we discover:

  • Hedonism – the pursuit of pleasure
  • Eudaimonism – life in accordance with ones virtues/seeking meaning/engagement with the existential challenges of life

Later Epicurus advocated balancing virtue and pleasure as a way to find a satisfying life.

Viktor Frankl the famous psychotherapist who survived the Concentration camps encouraged us to seek for meaning:

‘Happiness cannot be pursued: it must ensue.One must have a reason to be happy’

John  Stuart Mills the philosopher believed that the good life could only be found by fixing on some object other than on an individual’s own happiness – on the happiness of others, the improvement of mankind, some art or other pursuit – followed not as a  means but an ideal end. 

More recently psychologists have valued intrinsic goals and values that involve personal growth, intimacy and contributions to the community. People listening to their ‘inner voice’ rather than the extrinsic goals of consumer society – money, possessions, image and status – are argued to have a better more meaningful and satisfying life.

We have found asking people and teams to reflect on ‘when they are their best’ can give clues as to what a good life could be.

We love the work of John O’Brien one of the creators of person centred planning processes:

He has always emphasised contribution, choice and control, belonging, identity – being someone and sharing ordinary spaces as crucial for a good life for any disabled or non disabled person. He captured the essence of a good life in his 5 service accomplishments.

So when planning for a good life we have found a full exploration of places where the person will find themselves, activities they will engage in and people who will be with them  all help to elaborate what that uniquely good life might be for the individual. In the last few months we have planned with would-be hedge witches, farriers, garage owners, family and world changers.

We must always embrace life in its fullest, from the spiritual to the concrete, from the abstract to the practical and from the random to the sequential. 

Relationships including friends and family will likely always be key.

What makes a good life for you?


Colin Newton

Feb 2020



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