Eudaimonia is a Greek word often translated as happiness, Aristotle thought that true happiness was found by leading a virtuous life and doing what was worth doing. He argued that realising human potential was the ultimate goal, existing in every individual only awaiting the proper conditions to be released and expressed. He saw these conditions as working hard, cultivating virtues and excelling at tasks that nature and circumstance brought to you. Happiness is an emotion, whereas eudaimonia is a comprehensive state of being. Happiness is created and lost in a moment, but eudaimonia takes effort to build and has staying power.
Eudaimonia doesn’t come from pleasure but hopefully leads towards it. Eudaimonic acts are generally harder to practice in the moment, benefits arrive later. They exact a cost in effort and discipline, but enhance long term excellence. Eudaimonic desires are about giving to the world and in doing that becoming a better more virtuous individual.
Eudaimonic acts must largely be cultivated intentionally going against our natural inclinations. Carving out a new mindset where our desires are lined up with eudaimonic acts most of the time. Looking for a shift of emphasis, rather than complete abstinence. What matters is that we start where we are and move in the right direction, this can be applied immediately. For each action taken throughout the day, ask yourself if your moving towards eudaimonia or towards hedonistic acts. Wants and desires naturally shift as we go through life and it’s important to except these tendencies.
Our desire for food keeps us from starving its the desire for food after we have eaten enough that causes us problems. The same applies to money when we have very little there is a need to want more. But when we have enough and keep pursuing more this can cause problems. As I’m getting older my wants are naturally less, but with entrenched habits being harder to deal with, intention is being alive to the reality I have and not denying it.
Working with unadulterated focus, to develop body, mind and spirit to their fullest potential can reap many rewards. Especially when undertaken in ones youth, it can act as a foundation that sets the rest of life on the right course. Even if we are older we can and should find ways to periodically escape from the noise and distractions of the world to find solitude and “sharpen our saw.” Whether it’s a morning hike, an evening meditation, or a solo camping trip. These solitary acts clear the mind, rejuvenate the body and leave us better prepared for life’s challenges. This helps to develop a moral compass, guided by the virtues of courage, fairness, consistency, selflessness and respect. A personal code of honor that keeps the mind pure and sharp.
“I wish to preach not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life. The life of toil and effort, of labor and strife. To preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph” Theodore Roosevelt
How do we find a worthwhile struggle, in a culture that doesn’t seem to have much to push against? Deciding to work hard and exercise is relatively easy to do. It could be finding the less obvious challenges. Trying to solve a problem that may not have an answer. Building something that nobody cares about yet. Or saying out loud what you believe in when your not on the side of the majority. Or doing something for no other reason than you want to, because you have trust in yourself that it’s a good idea. In our strongest moments we assume we can resist what others couldn’t, if we can get past the BS we are often fed there will be more of a chance.