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Eudaimonic Happiness: Why We May be Chasing the Wrong Goals

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Eudaimonic happiness

Updated Sept 22/22

The Etymology of Eudaimonic: A greek legacy

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.

Greek sculpturesPavel Nekoranec

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.

Bacchus, the master of hedonic pleasure

Birmingham Museums Trust


Life Satisfaction VS Pleasure

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.

Happiness is derived from "virtuous activity in accordance with reason”

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.

A coach can help you life the right type of happiness

A coach can help you life the right type of happiness

The Orientation to Happiness Scale and the Full Life vs Empty Life Scale are two tools counselors use to measure three routes to happiness: pleasure (hedonia), meaning (eudaimonia) and engagement (flow).

Many studies indicate that eudaimonia is central to a person's well-being and is a crucial building block to life enjoyment. Hedonia and engagement build on personal joy. The degree to which each adds joy is dependent on individual personality. Thus, the Orientation to Happiness Scale and the Full Life vs Empty Life Scale may be useful in determining congruence between an individual's current lifestyle and their optimal life.

Are you only experiencing half of happiness?

Many studies surrounding these scales indicate life joy is frequently hierarchal in nature, with the base comprising meaning, followed by engagement with hedonic pleasure last serving as icing on the proverbial cake; yet many people are living lives inverting the pyramid, or corrupting the pyramid or nearly deleting a layer in its entirety, wondering why they feel unfulfilled.

Life coaching experts are an excellent resource to find out what your current pyramid looks like and how to build a personal pyramid that works best for you.


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