Eudaimonia | Want to be happy?

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.

Words attributed to Frederick Keonig which speaks to a truth behind human happiness – a healthy practice of Gratitude is essential to happiness.

In Book X of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says that happiness (eudaimonia) is the end of human nature.  Now when he says ‘end’ he doesn’t mean it in any temporal sense, but in the sense of completion or perfection.  In other words, he says that happiness is to be fully human.  What does that mean, “to be fully human”? 

We frequently say to ourselves that if we might have just this one thing that is beyond our grasp (money, car, house, property, cellphone, etc) we’ll be happy; or perhaps if this person or that person would admire us or love us, we’d be happy. Or if we could just have that other job? But when has that ever been the case?  Sure those things bring temporary contentment, but sooner or later something or someone new comes along and our attention and passions are turned to it. Therefore, it is abundantly clear that we are neither fulfilled nor completed by our possessions, our friendships, relations, or duties. For Aristotle, balance is the key to achieving this end. Fulfillment doesn’t come from any one thing.  Happiness is a final end that encompasses the totality of our life.

In the end, happiness is this, to achieve through the course of a lifetime all things that are innately good: health, knowledge, friends, adequate wealth to allow some leisure, etc., which lead to the perfection of our nature and the enrichment of human life.

I’m reminded of the story of the mayonnaise jar.

A young man, tired and continuously unhappy, went to visit his grandmother.  She could see that her grandson was terribly distraught.  She asked him, “What’s wrong?”  He replied, “I’m tired; I feel as though I have too many responsibilities and not enough time.”  Looking her in the eyes with tears flowing down his cheeks, “How did you manage?” he asked. “Manage what?” she replied.  “To always have time for everyone and still do all the things you had to do?” he said.  She stood up and walked over to her cupboard and pulled from its lower cabinet an empty mayonnaise jar; to the fridge, a dozen eggs; to the pantry, a cup of beans and a cup of rice.

Having placed all these things on the table, she asked her grandson to fill the jar.  He began by pouring in the rice then the beans.  Placing the eggs in one at a time he got to nine and turned to his grandmother and said, “There’s no more room.”

Taking a quiet tone, she looked him tenderly in the eyes and said, “Baby, this is what you’ve been doing in your life.”  “What do you mean?” he replied.  “You’ve been taking on the small things first and leaving the big things for later.  You see, you’ve been doing it all wrong.” she said.  She took the jar and emptied it.  She began by placing the eggs, all twelve, then the rice and beans, both cups.  He was awed.  There was still room.  She looked at him and said.  Take care of the big things first and the little things will take care of themselves.”

To all these things I will add: take time each day to relax and make a conscious attempt to be grateful even when things don’t go your way.

I’ve decided to try something new and  to close this post with a TED Talk.  Please enjoy Matt Killingsworth present his talk “Want to be happier? Stay in the moment”.

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