A story of the journey from hedonistic to the eudaimonic concept of happiness and finally — systems well-being as the capacity for pure joy.
I have not always been focused on the subject of happiness and well-being. I grew in times when magazines and Internet did not flood me with questions about happiness and opportunities to pursue hedonistic pleasures. I remember in my childhood four types of cars, three types of breads, two TV programs and one type of phone. Listening today to Columbia Business School Professor Sheena Iyengar about her famous jam-study, I realised why many people lived better in those times. As it turns out, having more choice does not necessarily contribute to a better living. Neither does looking at other people’s travel experiences and festive moments.
My journey to understanding better the concept of wellbeing started on the brink of exchanging my corporate identity with the identity of a solopreneur — not an easy transition as it turned out. On my last corporate job, I was leading a cultural transformation project focused on customer loyalty and client centricity when I started reading that no customer will ever be happy with the services unless people in the company were indeed happy.
So, what makes people happy? And was I happy?
What I found confusing at the time was that I was on one side very happy with my life but on the other- I looked and felt unhappy as well. Somehow I was functioning at the intersection of these two states. How could that be?
The journey that I embraced taught me the difference between pursuing a life of hedonistic pleasures as opposed to eudaimonic wellbeing. The hedonic approach focuses on pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain. Needless to say, pleasures (and actually also pain) are an important part of life. However, when we live a life focused only on maximising pleasures, they soon lose any sense and any further pursuit turns us into an ever-running puppet in a hedonistic treadmill.
The eudaimonic approach focuses on living a meaningful and purposeful life and achieving realisation of what we came here for. The concept of eudaimonia (initially of Aristotle) was an eye opener for me helping me understand why I loved my life even if sometimes lacking what others perceived to be a good living. That is when I also started bringing attention to the mistake in the concept of work-life balance because it is all one and it is called life. (More on the latter can be found in another article of mine called “the end of work-life balance”.)
It was not until later that I truly understood why I was functioning at the intersection of happiness and unhappiness. True full-spectrum wellbeing involves physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects, and neither of those are less or more important. It is only by mastering all four of them that we can find true happiness, flourish and prosper. What was causing my moments of unhappiness was neglect of the physical aspects of wellbeing and still unresolved aspects of my emotional wellbeing. Other people could be very focused on their physical wellbeing but neglect their spiritual one. At a given moment, each of one of us is could be somewhat or very unbalanced. In the moments when we are in true balance, we experience moments of pure joy.
A Few More Quotes
Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. — Aristotle
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. — Denis Waitley
Eudaimonia is the type of happiness people experience when they continuously develop, lead an authentic and purpose-driven life, realise their full potential and feel the gratitude and joy which results from making a positive difference in the life of others. This in itself is the sheer joy one feels when they master their (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) well-being which we also call mastering self-leadership. It’s like all of a sudden you can fly and the sky's the limit. — Natalia Blagoeva
Almost all our suffering is the product of our thoughts. We spend nearly every moment of our lives lost in thought, and hostage to the character of those thoughts. You can break this spell, but it takes training just like it takes training to defend yourself against a physical assault. — Sam Harris
Human well-being is not a random phenomenon. It depends on many factors — ranging from genetics and neurobiology to sociology and economics. But, clearly, there are scientific truths to be known about how we can flourish in this world. — Sam Harris
My interest in well-being evolved from my interest in decision making — from raising the question of whether people know what they will want in the future and whether the things that people want for themselves will make them happy. — Daniel Kahneman
There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts. — Richard Bach
Mood evidently affects the operation of System 1: when we are uncomfortable and unhappy, we lose touch with our intuition. — Daniel Kahneman
The easiest way to increase happiness is to control your use of time. Can you find more time to do the things you enjoy doing? — Daniel Kahneman
Each of us has a finite reservoir of energy in any given day. Whatever amount of energy we spend obsessing about missteps we have made, decisions that do not go our way or the belief we have been treated unfairly is energy no longer available to add value in the world. — Tony Schwartz
It’s not possible to move from one activity to the next at blinding speed and be reflective at the same time. The more complex and demanding the work we do, the wider, deeper and longer the perspective we require to do it well. It’s almost impossible to do that when we create no white space in our lives. — Tony Schwartz
To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest. — Jim Loehr