Human dignity, Justice, Motivation, Personal Development, Personal meaning, Perspective

Cultivation three – Eudaimonia

The last three days we’ve looked at Happiness. We started out by looking at Jefferson’s famous phrase, “The pursuit of happiness.”  The right to determine and pursue what each of us considers to be the good life. We looked at the importance of cultivating thankfulness. Then yesterday we looked at the Dalai Lama’s call to express more compassion which he defines as Fairness, Accountability and Transparency.


Today we’ll take a trip back to ancient Greece and then travel forward to the modern day field of Positive Psychology.

Aristotle, among others, discussed the good life. He used the term eudaimonia which has often been translated, happiness, but perhaps the terms well-being or flourishing are more in line with what he meant. Aristotle said that eudaimonia is about virtuous activity in accordance with reason. Virtue here could also be understood in terms of performing or doing something with excellence; in other words Accomplishment or Mastery. For Aristotle, Eudaimonia is about living a virtuous (excellent) life, it requires activity.

Fast forward 2400 years. Positive Psychology begins to come to the fore in psychological circles. Rather than focusing on pathologies and mental illness, positive psychology concentrates on what makes us mental well, resilient and robust; what contributes to human happiness. Psychologists have identified two types of happiness; hedonic (from which we get the word hedonistic)and eudaimonic.

Hedonic happiness has to do with maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. It is:

  • About Self-gratification
  • Simple
  • About fulfilling immediate desire.
  • Passive

Too much hedonic happiness is like consuming emotional empty calories.

Eudaenomic happiness, psychologists tell us, is about, in keeping with Aristotle, human well-being or flourishing. It is:

  • About Self-realization
  • Noble
  • At times about suppressing immediate desire for a greater good.
  • Active

Positive psychology indicates that both types of happiness, hedonic and eudaimonic are important for living the good life, but that those who engage in activities geared toward eudaimonic happiness tend to flourish more than those who pursue more hedonic happiness.

So, how do we create a culture of eudaimonic happiness (well-being or flourishing)? By engaging in activities that promote:

  • Purpose – Feelings of taking part in something larger than oneself/Transcendence
  • Autonomy – A sense of independence
  • Mastery – Feelings of accomplishment and proficiency.
  • Positive Relationships – Being part of a community.

Yesterday I suggested cultivating FAT (Fairness, Accountability and Transparency).Today I recommend cultivating PAMP (Purpose, Autonomy, Mastery and Positive Relationships).


To sum up our little excursion into the domain of happiness: To live a good life, a life of flourishing and well-being it is important to plant our own gardens; cultivating the virtues of pursuit (the journey, not the goal, is most important), thankfulness (an attitude of gratitude), compassion (FAT) and eudaimonia (PAMP). And along the way, a little hedonic happiness can be nice, as well J.



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