“I want to be happy.”
Ask someone what they want, and that’s the answer ninety-nine times out of one hundred.
It was one of my answers, along with freedom.
It’s a solid-sounding response that’s hard to argue with; who doesn’t want to be happy?
Only one problem, it’s not a solid answer; it’s vague and empty.
We must understand that happiness comes in different flavors to answer the question meaningfully.
Understanding how to create harmony between the two forms of happiness below is critical to living a rich and meaningful life.
The two flavors of happiness we need to understand are:
Hedonic Happiness & Eudaimonic Happiness.
Hedonic happiness is achieved through experiences of pleasure and enjoyment.
It refers to the sort of pleasure or happiness that we derive from doing what we like or avoiding doing what we don’t like.
Two common examples of hedonic pleasure are sex and food.
Eudaimonic happiness is achieved through experiences of meaning and purpose.
- Time with family.
- Experiencing awe and wonder.
- Having a mission and taking consistent action.
- Being of service.
- Serving something more significant than yourself.
Both are wickedly important to the quality of our lives.
However, most of us tend to lean too heavily on hedonic happiness.
Because it’s easier and what we’ve been conditioned to do.
When we lean too heavily on hedonic happiness, we consistently seek out the next hit and the subsequent rush; our overall well-being is abdicated to externals.
Hedonic happiness is short-lived, and when that’s the only form of happiness we pursue, we become chasers.
We chase money, status, and dopamine highs from social media, porn, or binging on shows.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities.
There is, however, something wrong with them if we feel like our lives lack meaning and purpose.
Because when we feel as though our lives lack meaning and purpose, we feel empty inside, even if we have financial and materialistic success.
It’s like a success-sized hole in our lives, and the relentless chase of hedonic happiness will only widen the hole.
“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” —Aristotle
Hedonic happiness is like throwing sand in a sieve if we feel empty and our lives lack meaning and purpose.
This is why it’s so important to understand the forms of happiness and the importance of harmony.
Eudaimonic happiness is more challenging; it requires awareness, intention, and breaking free from a life set to autopilot.
It requires we ease off the pursuit of short-term pleasure seeking.
Eudaimonic happiness is a long game; it requires long-term thinking.
The cool thing about eudaimonic happiness is that it’s sticky.
Meaning after the experience is over, the feeling of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment sticks around.
It ripples out to all areas of life and makes life richer and more profound; it creates an extraordinary life story and is what creates a legacy.
Eudaimonic happiness leaves a mark on the soul.
Eudaimonic happiness isn’t chased; it’s created.
We create a life worth living by shifting the paradigm and introducing more actions that produce eudaimonic happiness.
So how do we shift toward eudaimonic well-being?
Here are 9 simple strategies to do just that.
- Seek flow states.
- Value your physical and mental health.
- Appreciate and cultivate your deep connections.
- Know your values and aspire to live a value-driven life.
- Reflect on classical virtues that speak to you and put them into action.
- Aim for harmony, don’t banish hedonic pleasure from your life completely.
- Be clear about your long-term goals and aim to take daily steps toward them.
- Experience beauty, awe, and wonder in nature, museums, or novel activities.
- Aspire to do good, to serve something bigger than yourself. Bonus: Feeling good will follow.
The goal is not to eliminate hedonic activities; that’s unrealistic and unhealthy.
There are two primary goals:
- Identify the hedonic activities that suck the energy out of you, that don’t serve your long-term vision for your life, and that when you’re done with them, you wish you had your time back.
- Replace those activities with eudaimonic activities so you can fill the success-sized hole in your life with mission, meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.
A great place to start the journey is by asking,
“When was the last time you felt fully alive?”
We must sit with this question in quiet reflection.
What exactly were you doing?
Where were you? Who were you with? Engage all the senses, sight, sound, touch, and smell.
When we experience this moment in exquisitely rich detail in our minds, we can analyze it precisely.
What was significant about that moment?
What can you learn from this experience?
Which core ingredients for flourishing can be extracted from that scene?
When we explore this question in a meaningful way, we reconnect with ourselves and open up a new way of thinking.
One that allows us to cultivate harmony in our happiness by letting go of the chase and instead creating our happiness.
Transforming our role from chaser to creator makes our lives meaningful again.