Over two thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks believed the source of happiness was in a spirit living within us called a daimon. This deity—each of us had within from birth—could not be seen, only felt, and represented the essence of a human being.
For all those who lived in alignment with it, the daimon would drive them forward. But those who ignored it would be doomed to failure.
Aristotle coined the term eudaimonia to express that living according to one’s daimon is the source of purpose and virtue—the only way leading to well-being and a happy life. A life of eudaimonia is a life of striving and pushing yourself to your limits to finding success. A eudaimonic life is full of the satisfaction that goes from achieving something challenging rather than just having handed it to you.
However, Aristotelians were not the only ones spreading the word about happiness.
Hedonists, on the other hand, held that pleasure and desires are essential to wellbeing. They argued that happiness is the polar opposite of suffering—only by maximizing pleasure and avoiding pain could one achieve a happy life. Unfortunately, over the years, a shadow has been cast over hedonism, propagating the idea its focus is about achieving pleasure through any means available, which is not the case.
One philosopher defending this idea was Epicurus, for whom pleasure was the supreme good. His thoughts were so appealing that we use the word epicurean to describe someone devoted to a sensuous living even today.
Pleasure or virtue?
Deep inside, we all want to enhance pleasant experiences—we want hedonic happiness, one way or another. We all want good food, good wine, good sex, and good sleep. And this is all good, but the world is pushing us with a constant craving for more—if we don’t follow, we run at the risk of feeling left behind.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking pleasure. But beneath our craving for novelty, there’s something else we are trying to get at — we want to have peace of mind and feel motivated. Deep down inside, we wish to live a purposeful life in coherence with our inner self and connect with others.
The mandatory quarantine imposed by the pandemic brought part of that hidden aspect to the surface. The eudaimonic happiness—living in coherence with our inner self and our core values while caring for others—thrived under our new post-pandemic everyday life. Relationships, family, and friends came to the forefront. But it can be too much at times.
How can we do the right thing at the right time, in the right way, and in the right amount?
The seven rules
#1 – Decide: It’s simple. You can decide or choose not to decide. But if you don’t do it, others will do it for you, and you may not like the results. Be the protagonist of your own story. Decide!
#2 – Connect: Connect to others, yes—but also, fundamentally, to yourself. Imagine you want to travel to Peru. It’s good to aim for a destination, but where is your beginning point? The journey will not be the same departing from Siberia as from India. Knowing your standpoint and trusting your gut feeling will give you a clear direction and infuse you with passion.
#3 – Listen: The future begins with listening. That’s true for all the things you want to achieve and all the decisions you want to make. Practice silence to listen to the context, but never override your inner voice—the quality of your actions depends on the internal balance with which you operate.
#4 – Have fun: Don’t take everything so seriously. Most likely, you will not remember most of the challenges that trouble you today in thirty years. Using the lens of time is an excellent way to have another view.
#5 – Enjoy Pleasure: Like the circadian rhythms, there are moments for sensuous pleasure and moments for virtue. The secret to balancing them out is understanding how much your desire is your own crave and how much is an external push and decide which one you will follow.
#6 – You are entitled: Years ago, during a seminar in England, the trainer listened carefully to my story and told me: ‘You are entitled to live in this world.’ That realization struck me like a bolt — the shift in perspective impacted all my decisions ever since that moment.
#7 – Reach out: Share, collaborate, give. Help others and ask for support if you need it. Lonely heroes are outdated. We are strong, not because we can tackle every single challenge on our own. We are strong because we can function within a system of relationships that makes us diverse and resilient.
The final and most underestimated rule is to take action. Everybody has the right to achieve wellbeing. You have more potential to achieve it than you realize — enjoy your journey!