The quest for happiness is not about idle pleasures.
Eudaimonic is not a term heard frequently. In fact, it isn't even heard infrequently. I would not be surprised if you have never heard of it at all. However, if you learn just one new word this year, let this be this word. Etymologically, Eudaimonia consists of the Greek "eu" ("well") and "daimon" ("spirit" or "inner self"). It is a central concept in Aristotelian ethics.
Hedonic is probably a term you are more familiar with. Hedonic is also derived from Greek and means, "delight." Hedonism contends that delight (or pleasure) is the ultimate pursuit. But hedonic happiness, amassing delight after delight, can leave one with a feeling of emptiness and confusion because delight is, by its very nature, fleeting and often times elusive. Sustained happiness cannot be found through amassing delight after delight alone.
Life satisfaction and delight are succinctly two separate animals, however, they are easily confused with one another. As such, Aristotle argued that not all desires are worth pursuing regardless of the pleasure they may yield if the desires and subsequent pleasure does not lead to well-being. In Aristotle's words, life satisfaction is derived by "virtuous activity in accordance with reason”
But what exactly did the Aristotle mean when he spoke of virtuous activity? Although the common understanding of virtue is simple, the Greek definition (arete) is more complex.
Arete encompasses not just moral ethics such as honesty benevolence and wisdom, but includes qualities of mind and spirit which can be cultivated into excellence though logos and action. According to Aristotle's concept of eudamonia, life satisfaction, personal well-being and life balance is achieved through a rational cultivated state of mind. This entails identifying one’s virtues (arete), cultivating them into states of excellence (self actualization), and living in accordance with them. Hedonia is the icing on the proverbial cake.
Much time has passed since Aristotle's supposition on sustainable happiness, but this truth remains the same: Despite the multitudes of pleasures and possessions a man might amass in a quest for happiness, those realizing self potential are ultimately and unequivocally experiencing more joy and contentment.
The first step, of course, is cultivating the mind.
Say tuned for Part 2 in this Series: Eudaimonic Happiness versus Hedonic Happiness: Why We May be Chasing the Wrong Goals. Part 2