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3 Lessons from “The Good Place” to Improve the Way We Live

3 Lessons from “The Good Place” to Improve the Way We Live

*Yes, there will be some spoilers. Watch it on Netflix if you haven’t yet!

Reality check: we’ve spent most of the year under quarantine. At this point, it’s starting to feel like “The Good Place” circa season 1. Like when Eleanor and the gang lived in an isolated community with the nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right.

But whereas our four favorite humans — Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason — weren’t initially aware of their actual situation, sadly, we can’t say the same for us. It’s not easy to turn a blind eye to the current sociopolitical climate of the Philippines.

We’re still fighting COVID-19 along with many other issues.

Fast forward to season 2 where Eleanor and friends kept trying to get out of the Bad Place, but it seemed like an endless loop. It feels like that in real life, too. Except, instead of trying to crawl out of hell, we’re just trying to survive amidst a pandemic and many other political-social-economic concerns.

But hey, as BTS said in their recent speech at the 75th UN General Assembly, life goes on.

“The Good Place” protagonists embraced the rigorous challenge of being better human beings to get out of the situation they’re in. And while we’re going to need more than determination and hard work to survive the pandemic (like social distancing and a vaccine), there’s still a lot we can learn from the show.

It’s Never Too Late for You to Turn Over a New Leaf

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Eleanor was always caught in the middle of self-serving decisions and good actions. Michael, a literal demon, discovers there’s more to humans than he assumes. Chidi learns that being on the moral high ground doesn’t always make one a good person. Tahani comes face-to-face with the fact that looking good, literally and figuratively, won’t earn her any points in heaven. And Jason, well, we saw how being surrounded by the right company has turned him into a much better version of himself.

It took four seasons, hundreds of afterlives, and a few second chances on earth for four humans and a demon to turn their life around. But they eventually learned the consequences of their actions and behaviors. So it’s never too late for you, too.

Whether it’s making amends with someone or trying to live healthier or simply being a better version of yourself, you can do it. Heck, you’re already halfway there by wanting to do it. Now, the difficult half is actually doing it. But you have to be patient with yourself. Nothing changes in the blink of an eye. You’ll be making slow and steady progress, and before you know it, you’ve reached your goal.

But remember that to move forward, you have to learn from your mistakes, too.

Don’t Expect Anything in Return for Your Good Deeds

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One of the first ethical concepts “The Good Place” introduces to viewers is moral imperative.

When Eleanor first asks Chidi for help to be a good person, his main questions was, “Is there a moral imperative to help you? We’ve asked ourselves this same question many times, in many different ways like “Am I doing the right thing by helping this person?” and “How does this decision affect my system of ethics?”

Further down the line, Eleanor and Michael open up the concept of moral desert — what’s the point of being good if you don’t gain anything from it? It also opened a greater discussion of Scanlon’s What We Owe to Each Other. This is a reminder to all viewers that doing good things doesn’t equate to being good.

Even Tahani ended up where she was despite raising billions of dollars for charity because her actions weren’t from the goodness of her heart. Rather, her intentions were one-upping her sister. It was all about ego and a misplaced sense of entitlement and self-righteousness.

So next time you do someone a favor, don’t do it to boost your image or to hold something above their heads. Don’t force yourself to do it because you think you’re socially obliged to. Do it simply because you want to. That’s what makes you a good person.

Simplicity is the Key to a Peaceful State of Mind

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In season 3 of “The Good Place,” the protagonists realize that no matter how pure one’s initial intentions are, there will always be unfavorable consequences. And that makes being good more complicated.

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For example, the fictional character Douglas Ewing bought his mom a dozen roses and still lost moral points. Why? Because the flowers were grown using toxic pesticides, picked by exploited migrant workers, ordered through a phone made in a sweatshop, and delivered by a company whose processes emit excessive greenhouse gases and whose CEO is a racist sexual harasser. Yeah. It’s a lot.

But as the gang pointed out, these indirect and oftentimes unintended consequences are what make decision-making general more difficult. It goes back to the Trolley Problem introduced in season 2 — would you save five incapacitated people by switching tracks and running over a single person instead?

At the end of the day, even the purest intentions might not have the most ethical consequences. It’s time to get over your decision paralysis and pay attention to your priorities.

That being said, get rid of the mind clutter. Just focus on making informed decisions and doing what you know is right. The simpler your decision-making process is, the clearer our state of mind will be.

Build Your Own Good Place Today!

Image from The Good Place Facebook page

There are so many things wrong with the world that it’s easier to just go on Netflix and watch the next show on your list. Rewatch “The Good Place,” too, if you want. Catch the things you overlooked, then digest the philosophy and ethics lessons more clearly.

But will simply watching this high concept comedy make you a better person? Well, not really. But it will show you how to live a better and happier life. It will make you more aware of your own “Good Place.” And hey, you’ll get a few good laughs out of it, too.

Now it’s up to you to apply those lessons in your life.

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