Thursday, July 7, 2016

Eudaimonia and Well-Being | How to Live a Good Life and Stay Motivated |

The set of your eyes upon the world, the perception you have, is something that cannot be reproduced. It is worth following Aristotle's lead and examining the lives we have lived and been given. It is often upon logical examination that we will come to a conclusion that will hand us the rope to lead us the way out of the labyrinth of tangled emotional living can whirl us through, often without our true consent and at an insult to our perception of 'free will'.

There is a concept in Ancient Greek philosophy that can help with this logical analysis of our lives. It is 'Eudaimonia'. This translates to 'the good demon' and I've often described it as a benevolent sense of knowing 1) who you want to be, and 2) an executive brain.

The idea of Eudaimonia is a positive state akin to either being like a benevolent deity, or being looked after by a benevolent deity. It also implies virtuosity, striving, happiness and above all: Using the gift of life you have been granted. It never ceases to amaze me, even through my struggles with mental illness where the light at the end of the tunnel is often invisible for so long, how many people don't live because they struggle with being alive.

Eudaimonia is an examination of the self by the self. The executive brain looks at what we are doing, how we are spending our time and talent and self-worth (pining, over-thinking silly things, wasting our days due to being unmotivated, etc) and shows us that we can do better when we re-connect with the self and the power of our two minds - the one that makes excuses and looks to be instantly gratified, and the one that understands the small everyday steps we must take in order to gain purchase toward our larger goals. In short, Eudaimonia, and acting upon the knowledge of that executive brain, is the key to self-sustained happiness.
The Eudaimonic concept and it's psychological benefits regarding well-being and self-sustained happiness has been utilized in positive psychology since the 1990's. Psychologist C.D. Ryff used Aristotelian ideas to illustrate what Eudaimonia wellbeing is. Using Aristotle's writings on belonging, benefiting others, flourishing and thriving she created a six-key structure of self-actualization that could be utilized to achieve a Eudaimonic mindset:
  1. Autonomy
  2. Personal growth
  3. Self-acceptance
  4. Purpose in life
  5. Environmental mastery
  6. Positive relations with others.

Ryff's model also ties in with what was found when researchers implemented the Huta & Ryan Scale: Four Eudaimonic Measurement Questionaire. This questionnaire was designed to study the motivations individuals had behind proposed achievements.

Huta & Ryan  described the four 'Eudaimonic' ideals prevalent in goal-oriented pursuits as: 1. “Seeking to pursue excellence or a personal ideal” 2. “Seeking to use the best in yourself” 3. “Seeking to develop a skill, learn, or gain insight into something” 4. “Seeking to do what you believe in".
The results of a competitive nature regarding working/achieving in order to make money for money, or progress for progress's sake without learning or remaining motivated for deeper reasons and feeding the mind are recalled in the results of a study conducted in the 1990's using the Ryff model. These results indicated that aspirations toward financial success as opposed to community-building oriented goals scored lower on the proposed measures of well-being.
In 2014 a study was again conducted regarding the psychological benefits of self-examination using the Ryff model of Eudaimonic self-examination and found these to be:

  • a heightened sense of freedom,
  • a decrease in fear of failure,
  • an increase in self-worth,
  • an increase in independence (autonomy),
  • an increase in self-esteem,
  • less desire to win the approval of others,
  • less self-critique and more self-kindness when mistakes occur,
  • more desire to live life for one’s self (and not others), and,
  • the ability to take more risks without worrying about the consequences

These Eudaimonic measures of well-being tie in with the work of psychologist Carol S Dweck who wrote the book 'Mindset' - a self-help guide designed to help the reader gain insight into the 'fixed' psychological habits they might possess and turn them into 'growth' based habits. In the Eudaimonic and 'growth' mindset, all experimenting is a learning process and an achievement because of this. Success should not be measured by how well something was received, but by how much the creator of the experiment learned, and how much effort they put in to what they created. In this way successes and validation are not measured by outside sources, but come from within. Creating a consistent flux of self-sustained happiness and motivation, as the core values and reasons for production are associated with learning new skills and striving as opposed to somewhat in controllable aspects of life, such as how much money goes into the bank, or how much critical acclaim is acquired for an idea.