Originally written and published on Medium, Feb 11 2019
People don’t know what the meaning of life is, and they almost don’t even get a chance to think about it. You’re too busy trying to get grades that are “good enough” so that you could get a job that’s “good enough”, and have a family + house that’s also… “good enough”.
So, we simply don’t think about this. Instead, our education institutions indirectly define this for us from a very young age. Success to achieve Happiness is the meaning of life.
Happiness = work (so that you can retire) + have a family (that ends up putting you into a nursing home) + nice house (so that you can pay mortgage your entire life) + a self-driving super-car.
The equation literally makes happiness impossible to achieve 🙄. (Toronto’s real estate prices are insane)!
Jokes aside, striving for Happiness doesn’t make sense.
Most people who are retired are lost with what they should be doing with their free time. Almost everyone that’s in a nursing home ends up feeling lonely. The person with the nice house and car soon gets tired of them and then strives to buy even more materialistic things that they can’t afford. The implication? Happiness isn’t sustainable. It’s short term, and has a lot more to do with your external environment than internal.
But, eudaimonia is sustainable. It’s also realistic.
After reading and understanding how *Aristotle defined our individualistic purpose in life, I realized that I don’t want to be happy, I want to be eudaemonic.
There literally isn’t a word in English that describes what eudaemonia is, so this next bit sounds contradictory, but it’s the only way I can explain this: Eudaemonia is the equivalent to a higher state of personal “happiness” achieved when you feel fulfilled, and as if you’re “flourishing”.
Striving for happiness: a hole people fall into that ironically makes them unhappy.
Striving for eudaimonia: a higher order of feeling super freaking awesome that you get by doing what I’ve outlined below.
*Aristotle = Greek philosopher who came up with an alternative way to live life through eudaimonia. He’s also done some other really awesome great things. He’s a cool guy. You can learn more about him here.
Here are two first steps you can take to try achieving eudaimonia:
1) Develop authentic and genuine relationships with the people you’d like to surround yourself with.
It’s shocking to me the number of people who know their friends SUCK but still hang out with them 23/7 (to literally complain about them for the entirety of the one hour they don’t spend time together).
Why this is important is pretty simple. Suck-y friends make you feel suck-y. Good friends make you feel good.
Life before knowing about eudaimonia:
I used to have suck-y friends in high school. They were nice people, but they weren’t genuine relationships. They didn’t care about me, and they didn’t want to. I didn’t feel good.
Life after knowing about eudaimonia:
I made friends with people who cared about my growth. We share similar value systems. We’re like-minded and we want each other do well. I feel GREAT: More purposeful, more driven, more energetic, and like I belong somewhere.
The feeling of belonging is SO undervalued in our society. We’re humans — we’re evolutionarily programmed to get dopamine snacks from being a part of communities. You’re denying yourself of this by staying with friends who are popular or fit into some sort of agenda of yours. Seriously, I know you know this. I promise there’s a community out there for you. You just have to stop settling for mediocre.
I don’t think I need to deep-dive into how you figure this one out. You probably already know who you need to let go of, and who to keep. Do it. I can’t see why you would regret letting go of toxic people. And if you can’t, rethink your priorities.
2) Have a clear ambition that *you* have chosen for *yourself*.
Understand what you want. Set goals for yourself, and prioritize these goals.
Not to be cheesy or cliche, but after I set realistic and defined goals for myself — even short-term ones (3 year, 3 months, and 3-week goals) — my happiness levels directly correlated to whether or not I was working towards achieving these. Eudaimonia is found in the journey, not the reward. But don’t take it from me, the world’s most known philosopher (who spent his entire life thinking about this, knows it too).
I’m not completely sure what this looks like for me right now. I know it’s somewhere along the lines of wanting to impact billions of people through solving some of the world’s hardest problems. But otherwise, I’m still trying this figure it out by answering the following questions:
- What makes me feel happy? What allows me to experience constant states of contentment?
- What doesn’t make me happy?
- How do I see myself in 10 years? Not only as what am I doing, but who am I, and who am I with? (This question yielded really important results. I realized I wanted to be friends with some of the world’s wisest and smartest people).
- Where do I not want to see myself in 10 years? What don’t I want to be doing? Who don’t I want to be with?
Would you rather define your life, or blindly let others do it for you?
Really think about what it is that you’re working towards right now, or the people you surround yourself with. If you were to live your life one more time, would this the life you would want to live? The people you would want to spend your time with?
To really start stimulating your mind on how to think outside of the societal frameworks set in your mind, listen to the Philosophize This podcast. (NO, not a shameless plug. Not an #ad. It’s just a great resource I use to learn more about topics like these in an interesting way. Listen to the podcast on 1.5x speed).
I don’t completely know what my future will look like, but I will never work at a job that I don’t find fulfilling, or spend time with people who I can’t seem to develop a genuine relationship with. I refuse to strive for happiness, it’s mediocre and it makes people miserable. What about you?