“Nothing can bring you happiness but yourself.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Authentic success and happiness are the results of who you are being while you live your life. As a coach, most people ask me, “What do I do to get what I want?” The better question to ask is, “Who do I have to be to get what I want?”
Which brings us to a more profound question, “What do I really want?” The practical aspect of what we want can be quantified. I want X number of dollars in my bank account. I want to feed a million hungry people. I want to become the president of the United States.
What is underneath all these wants? The desire to be truly happy. Why else would you want to put the time and effort into any of these pursuits? If we say we want to serve others or make the world a better place, the fundamental truth below these magnanimous thoughts is that we, as individuals want to be happy with ourselves due to how we are living our lives.
Let’s jump in a time machine and go back more than 2300 years ago to 350 BC. That’s when Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, wrote Nicomachean Ethics, a system of virtues for human beings to live a happy life. He called this state of happiness, eudaimonia (yude- monea), translated to mean living well or flourishing.
Of course, the details of how each person would create eudaimonia is as varied as there are people on the planet. However, the goal of happiness in some form or another is the same for all people. I call it authentic success and happiness.
Authentic success and happiness begin by living the truth of your best self, defined by your character strengths. As you grow more confident in these, you can develop the weaker parts of your character. In this process of becoming, the journey toward eudaimonia, not the actual attainment, is the goal.
On this journey, you will experience happiness but not in an indulgent, strictly pleasure-seeking way. You will relish the day to day improvement in your character, enabling you to break out of black and white living to thrive in a 3-D technicolor world.
Balance is key.
According to Aristotle, virtues are character strengths that guide you to act in a particular way. They are developed through practice and copying others. It’s important to note that virtues are at the mid-point between being deficient or excessive in any singular character trait. To be happy, you want to get a character trait just right without indulging too much or too little.
Think of it as a balancing act. Once you find that equilibrium, these virtues keep you stable and resilient. For optimal outcomes, you mindfully navigate situations, demonstrating passion and restraint as needed. Virtues are about moderation, self-control and self-discipline. If you want to cross the desert with the least amount of stress, a tame horse is better than a wild one.
The beauty of virtues is that when practiced, they become habitual. Once they do, life becomes more manageable. You don’t have to spend so much time thinking about the right or best course of action. You simply “know” it. We spend so much of our lives deliberating and analyzing. Think of how much mental and emotional energy you could free up if you had your character strengths just right?
Virtues in the modern area.
Aristotle’s virtues were created for the upper class, educated Greek men of his time. However, they still are relevant today because they ask us to pay attention to common areas of human experience that can make or break our ability to succeed and be happy in life. Read through them and see if you agree.
Courage. The midpoint between being a coward and being reckless. The courageous person runs into the fire to save someone but not without a towel to cover their nose and mouth to prevent smoke inhalation.
Temperance: Also known as self-restraint, a balance between excess and austerity. A temperate person can enjoy sweets now and then without becoming addicted to sugary foods.
Generosity: To give without being extravagant or stingy. A generous person gives within their means of money, time, energy and attention.
Magnificence: Think of charisma, the midpoint between being petty and a loudmouth. Magnificence is the quality of owning your value without forcing everyone to acknowledge it.
Pride: This virtue often gets a bad rap. The virtuous side of pride is a balance between low self-worth and delusions of grandeur. Pride is acting on your self-worth by consistently striving for greatness.
Patience: Tolerance and serenity moderate your temper. A patient person doesn’t jump to conclusions and isn’t quick to anger. At the same time, they stand up and speak out when it’s wise to.
Truthfulness: Honesty lies between being self-deprecating and boastful. A truthful person intends to share what they think and feel without trying to distort or manipulate.
Wittiness: Being witty is the midpoint between being a clown and being crude. A witty person has a great and appropriate sense of humor.
Friendliness: Social intelligence is the right amount of goodwill. A friendly person is aware of themselves and others’ thoughts and feelings and uses them to create a sense of ease and comfort wherever they are.
Modesty: A balance between being shy and shameless. A modest person realizes when they’ve made a mistake but isn’t fearful of risking them.
Justice: Fairness is the sweet spot between being selfish and selfless. A just person balances individual needs and rights with the group’s needs and rights.
…So, who do you need to be to create the authentic success and happiness you truly want?
Action tips to work your Inner Genius:
- What virtues are already strong in your character?
- How do you demonstrate them throughout the course of the day?
- What virtues could you work on to create more authentic success and happiness? Do you err on the side of too little or too much for each of these virtues?
Thanks for reading. Until next week,