Eudemonia: Where is it, What is it, and How do we get there?

by Julie Canfield
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Eudemonia, based on the Aristotelian idea of happiness being the goal of life, is achieved by reaching one’s full potential, though not through the preferred way of chasing pleasure.  Thomas Jefferson, drawing on his knowledge of Aristotle, informed us the pursuit of happiness, or Eudemonia, was a God-given right.

To obtain this objective of a happy life, and who doesn’t want that, you must balance your self-interest with a sizable concern for others who share the planet with you. You seek fulfillment in your work while working to earn the respect of others in all activities in which you participate. In other words, you work doing what you love, (something we all want to do), equitably and honestly, no short cutting, no cheating.

 Sounds so easy, so natural, so too good to be true, does it not?

We all to want to live in Eudemonia whether we admit it or not. But life is not a journey we endeavor on willingly. It is a path we must walk however until our time is up. The reaching for a happiness goal makes the walk bearable, pleasurable especially when that dream comes true.

 Dr. Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor at the University of Herefordshire, is known worldwide for his research and debunking uncommon phenomena. His area of expertise made him realize the self-help industry offers little practical help to those seeking it. Instead of delivering on its promises to improve your world, it usually destroys it. Something we can all do without buying a book.

So how an we achieve this dream of happy living? We could try to find it material things but that often proves short lived. Things are a great distraction, but we are only large sized children and the toys we buy, like the ones of our childhood, lose their luster and the desire for something newer, bigger, better, tugs at us.

The best way to a happy fulfilling life is to discover your passion. What is it that makes you excited, creates an inner giddiness that bubbles over so much your friends either share in your happiness or scratch their heads in wonder?


If you are struggling to get to your place in the world of Eudemonia, and want to purchase a book to help you improve yourself, Dr. Wiseman’s 59 Seconds, Change Your Life In Under A Minute, may be the one to get. Using research supporting “rapid change” and ideas backed by science, Dr. Wiseman gives some quirky yet practical techniques to incorporate into your everyday life.  His advice, if applied, can help you gain a balance in your world and when you are in a balanced state of mind, contentment generally follows, at least according to science.


The following is a paraphrase of the ten happiness tips based on Dr. Wiseman’s research.

Adopt a Grateful Attitude: List three things you are most grateful for. By listing three things that went well in the past week, every week, you’ll get a sense of optimism about your future and improve your physical health.

Become a Giver: We’ve all heard, it’s better to give than receive. Small acts of kindness have a significant impact on those receiving and offer a happiness boost to those who do the giving.

Put a Mirror on Your Fridge: Hanging a mirror in a prominent place in your kitchen can lead to a 32 percent reduction in unhealthy food intake. Watching yourself opening the fridge or eating inspires you to make wise food choices.

Green the Office: According to Dr. Wiseman and science, a living plant boosts creativity which in turn inspires solutions to problems at work. Should we send some to our government representatives?

Give a Light Touch: Studies show lightly touching someone on the upper arm is likely to result in them agreeing with you or to a request you have. Do not share this with your children.

Put Your Relationship Into Words: Committing your thoughts and feelings regarding your partner to a piece of paper will boost your chances of having a successful, long-lasting relationship by 20 percent according to Dr. Wiseman. You’ll see each other in a more positive, objective light which will lead to a happier healthier union.

Think someone is lying to you, ask for a paper trail: Liars seldom use self-references but plenty of  “um’s” and “ah’s” in conversation. Ask them to commit their words to an email, and chances are you’ll see a 20 percent drop in their lies. Words on paper and the internet become a  documented liars nightmare looking to haunt them.

Praise Effort, not Ability: Although he discusses children, anyone can see the benefits of praising the efforts of people. Praising the attempt put into a project encourages a person to try harder to reach the goal. By denigrating all effort and praising only ability, you imply a person is a failure thereby ensuring they will be less likely to work hard for you in the future. Forget about giving them a challenging situation, like saving your life for example. This is one to do in your professional life and personal one.

See yourself as a Doer, not as an Achiever: By picturing yourself in the third person, taking active steps to reach a goal instead of dreaming about the result, you’re 20 percent more likely to be successful in achieving it.

Reflect On Your Legacy: Every so often, take a moment to visualize what your friends will say when you pass from this life. Will they remember you as reaching your goals or for failing to? Will they remember your kindness or your stubbornness? Looking objectively at ourselves helps us to balance our lives, keeping on task for the important things get done, like romancing a partner or making memories with family and friends.

Applying these quirky tips to your daily life, making them a habit, leads to bettering yourself and potentially reaching that elusive land of Eudemonia.

His studies prove we are capable of becoming more creative, more engaged, more imaginative and happier without expending much effort. As he likes to say, “Think a little, change a lot.”

Is it time for you to stop thinking and start changing?

Julie Canfield

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