Four Ancient Pillars of Happiness

How does your best version look like?

Close your eyes for a second and imagine the best version of yourself.

What do you see?

Keep that picture in mind because we will get back to it.

The ancient Greeks called this ideal self your daimon. It is a guiding spirit that exists in all of us. Nowadays, we might call it our conscience. For the stoic philosophers, the relationship with your daimon was central to living a happy life.

Concept 1: Eudaimonia

The ancient Greek word for happiness or well-being is called eudaimonia (“eu” and “daimon”) which literally means good soul. Your relationship with this inner soul is the most important one in your life. You need to be living in sync with your inner spirit to be happy. When you are on good terms with your daimon, you live up to be your best self.

Need an example? Your ideal self might be a version of you that is a painter. To reach happiness, you want to indulge in the creative process and draw a beautiful painting.

This means that the Greek idea of happiness is not only about feeling good. Instead the focus is on flourishing and being alive.

If you embrace every little detail while doing something you love - like painting - you can reach eudaimonia

Concept 2: Areté

To achieve this higher level of happiness you have to live with areté. Areté directly translates to virtue or excellence. But it has a second, deeper meaning of “being your highest self.” While eudaimonia is the feeling of being in sync with our ideal self, areté is the way to get there.

Nevertheless, areté is not something that we achieve. Instead, it fills our life from moment to moment. We are focused on the quality of everything we do and experience. We do what we are capable of at any given moment. There is no room for regret. We flourish.

Let’s get back to our painting example:
If you ask yourself "What would the best version of me do?", you will come up with your areté. In this case, your way of being your highest self in what you do is your way of painting. You focus on the little details in your picture and are careful with every small movement of the brush. Your
skills meet your capabilities, and you are flourishing.

 

Concept 3: Euthymia

With areté and eudaimonia we can get to our last idea of the Greek philosophers: euthymia. Seneca used this word to describe a feeling of calm confidence we have when we are living an authentic, meaningful life. We are in accordance with our deepest sense of who we are. Euthymia is the feeling you get when you follow your true path. You know what you need to do and what you have to kick out of your life.

You have the clarity, courage, and consistency to live your authentic life instead of constantly being distracted by other people. That is why euthymia is translated as “tranquility” in English. Tranquil people are the ones who are centered on themselves. They don’t look at other people but instead run their own race.

Ask yourself: Why do you do what you do?

If you know yourself and have the courage to walk your authentic path, you will feel the calm confidence that is euthymia.

You trust yourself because you know you are heading in the right direction. You can quit comparing yourself to everyone else and second-guessing every move.

In our example of the painting, you will reach euthymia once you stop comparing your drawing style to the ones of others. You don’t have to paint like Picasso or Monet. As long as you found your reason to why you do what you do, you will feel confident and calm. This is your painting and only you can draw it like this.

Concept 4: Philosophy

We talked a lot about philosophers in this text. But what does philosophy mean? Directly translated it is the “love of wisdom.” Nowadays, we understand philosophers as people who write books about ideas, criticising or analysing them and maybe having a public discussion on TV or in the newspapers.

Greek philosophers wouldn’t recognize these modern-day philosophers. An ancient philosopher was not only preaching their ideas, but they were committed to living optimally. They embraced their ideas and brought them to life. They were not librarians of the mind; they were warriors of the mind.

Discover Your Ideal Self

Try to remember that ideal self I asked you to envision at the beginning of the text.

Can you see it?

Good.

If you want to get closer to your ideal self, you can use the concepts we discussed in this text.

Pick one of the ideas that are mentioned. One that made you feel inspired or maybe even uncomfortable. Embrace this idea and actually use them in your life.

Because you can also be a warrior of the mind

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