Eudaimonia is an Ancient Greek word,
particularly emphasized by the philosophers Plato and Aristotle,
that deserves for wider currency it has
because it corrects the shortfalls in one of the most central, governing
but insufficient words inner are contemporary language
When we nowadays try to articulate the purpose of our lives,
it’s to the word “happiness” that we commonly have recourse.
We tell ourselves and others
that the ultimate rationale for our jobs, our relationships
and the conduct of our day to day lives
is the pursuit of happiness.
It sounds like an innocent enough idea,
but excessive reliance on the term
means that we are frequently unfairly tempted to exit
or at least heavily question
a great many testing but worthwhile situations.
The Ancient Greeks resolutely did not believe
that the purpose of life was to be happy
they proposed that it was to achieve Eudaimonia,
a word which has been best translated as ‘fulfilment’.
What distinguishes happiness from fulfilment is pain.
It is eminently possible to be fulfilled
and, at the same time, under pressure,
suffering physically or mentally,
and quite frequently, in a tetchy mood.
This is a psychological nuance that the word “happiness” makes it hard to capture;
for it is tricky to speak of being happy yet unhappy or happy yet suffering.
However, such a combination is readily accommodated within the dignified and noble-sounding letters of
The word encourages us to trust that
many of life’s most worthwhile projects will at points be quite at odds with contentment
and yet will be worth pursuing nevertheless.
Properly exploring our professional talents,
managing a household,
keeping a relationship going,
creating a new business venture
or engaging in politics…
none of these goals are likely to leave us cheerful and grinning on a daily basis.
They will, in fact, involve us in all manner of challenges
that will deeply exhaust and enervate us, provoke and wound us.
And yet we will perhaps, at the end of our lives,
still feel that the tasks were worth undertaking.
Through them, we’ll have accessed something grander
and more interesting than happiness:
we’ll have made a difference.
With the word Eudaimonia in mind, we can stop imagining
that we are aiming for a pain-free existence
and then berating ourselves unfairly for being in a bad mood.
We’ll know that we are trying to do something far more important than smile all the time
we’re striving to do justice to our full human potential
and to work in some small but key way
towards the improvement of our species.
At The School of Life we believe in developing emotional intelligence,
to that end we’ve also created a whole range of products to support that growth.
Find out more at the link on the screen now.