Can Happiness Really Last?
You’ve heard the phrase “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” before, right? Of course you have. What if
I told you the key to happiness lies in the small stuff? And in fact, I would argue it’s the small stuff that matters most.
It’s the incremental changes that turn into the big changes later. And these big changes can lead to happiness, or rather, authentic joy. Aristotle believed happiness was 100% up to us and argued that it was the primary purpose in life.
…the function of man is to live a certain kind of life, and this activity implies a rational principle, and the function of a good man is the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed it is performed in accord with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, then happiness turns out to be an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue. (Nicomachean Ethics, 1098a13)
When we are searching for happiness, Aristotle argued, “What is the ultimate purpose of human existence?” He believed that happiness could be found only when one finds their true purpose.
What do you want most in life? Money, fame, fortune or honor? Something else? Why do you want it? Because it will make you happy, of course. If we could just make a little bit more money, we’d be happy. Or if we could just get that new car, that bigger house, go to that popular place on vacation, we’d be bursting with joy.
Maybe. Maybe not. But if it does make us happy, it won’t last. There will always be another car, a bigger house, a nicer place, more money to make, etc. The word “virtue” may seem archaic to most people today, but according to Aristotle, happiness could be found in the pursuit of a virtuous life.
These virtues fall into three categories, again according to Aristotle. (I know, I’m just about done
with the philosophy lesson, I promise)
If we believe that virtues are, as Aristotle believed, found in the means between extremes, then looking at a list of virtues could be a way to find happiness.
So how do we get what we want? It’s simple: Live a life of virtue. It’s simple, but I didn’t say it’s easy! Living a life of virtue is challenging, but we’re here to help! For starters, check out the list of virtues Aristotle believed in. Keep in mind, the “mean” is the virtue, and a deviation in either direction results in either deficiency or excess. It’s a fine balance, and we can’t tackle all of them at once!
Benjamin Franklin’s list contains 13 virtues that differ slightly from Aristotle’s. Now, there’s obviously some crossover, but we’ll get to deeper explanations later on. For this week, we want to challenge you to make one small change!
Challenge #2: Follow in the steps of Ben Franklin, who used to take one virtue each week, study it, learn it and use it to make a small change in his life. I’m doing the same! Which one will you choose? Which one do you feel is easiest to master? Hardest? Leave me a comment to let me know, and update me on how you’re doing on the virtue you’ve chosen! Did you find happiness?
Who is Doug? Doug Kisgen is an author, entrepreneur and personality expert. His primary work? Raising his five kids with his wife of 20+ years in the hill country of Texas.