Greek Happiness

I’m overly fond of talking about hubris, especially in regard to how well my fellow snowflakes and I embody the term. A while back, I came across the term Eudaimonia, so in my short tradition of relating Greek terminology to self-esteem, let’s talk about that for a bit.

Eudaimonia has traditionally been translated simply as ‘happiness’ but the term itself had a deeper meaning than that. The current translation is ‘human flourishing’ which is a pretty substantial change, while still conveying a similar concept. A person who is flourishing is probably happy, but a happy person is not necessarily flourishing. It’s not the sort of happiness that is derived from relaxing beach days and delicious foodstuff, its the joy you feel when striving toward your potential.

One of the things that I have noticed among my snowflake brothers and sisters is that we are often unhappy. Life is hard, we are underappreciated, underpaid, undervalued, overworked, and overstressed. We love to focus on what is wrong with our lives instead of what is going exceedingly well. And we love to tell those closest to us all about it.

Of course, it’s also important to keep up appearances for those outside of our closest confidants and consiglieres. We are all kinds of special and wonderful, and should at least appear to have an equally flawless life. Tremendous effort goes into looking like we have our proverbial shit together, which means that we are usually spending more time and energy trying to look happy instead of trying to be happy.

Because of this, many of us fall into the trap of materialism. We need to have the best so people can see how well we are doing and know how happy we are. Others should be able to immediately observe me flourishing from a distance. Keeping up with the snowflakes, as it were. We seek out frequent validation through possessions and things that are outward expressions of our status.

I’m more guilty of this than I’d like to admit. At one point I got caught up in the idea of needing a big house and nice things to prove that I’m happy and flourishing. Don’t get me wrong, I like my house and my stuff, but those things don’t make me happy. Not being stressed about money makes me happy. Spending time with my daughter makes me happy. Being a good parent makes me happy. Creating makes me happy. Those things make me happy because they make me a better person. I am flourishing when I am more engaged in those things than material bullshit.

We chase material success and spend most of our time focused on the parts of our life that aren’t exactly as we would like. A large part of the problem is that we were handed success and sheltered from failure as children. Our expectation is that we will succeed because we were never allowed to fail. When the road of life becomes rocky and full of potholes, as it sometimes will, we meet it with confusion and anger. An easy and successful life was the unspoken guarantee we were given in childhood.

All we can see on some of these days are the potholes, the imperfections in our life. And its not even like we are thinking about fixing the pothole – we just think about how much that pothole pisses us off and don’t do anything about it. Even if we can’t fix the metaphorical pothole, and there are some that we can’t, we would do well to focus what energy we have into things that are going well, or other positive endeavors.

When I am focused on the 90% of my life that is good, then the 10% that isn’t great doesn’t seem so large and terrible. Remembering the positive helps me stay happy because I’m not wasting time being miserable. Being happy frees up energy to engage in purposeful things, and that is when I can grow and flourish – as a parent, husband, writer, musician, and human.

As a generation, we aren’t living up to our potential or flourishing because we are too busy trying to appear happy. We are more concerned with how our feelings are perceived than how we feel, so we are unhappy and everything sucks. The negative consumes us and we waste energy focusing on it.

Everyone has something positive in their life or a reason to be happy, even if it’s small. It’s surprising how much power there is in choosing to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Choose to focus on the happy and put energy into those things – that’s where real validation and fulfillment come from.

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