Eudaimonia is an historic Greek phrase that loosely translates as flourishing, living well or fulfilling your true nature. It is closely linked with the Greek philosopher Aristotle.

Summary by The World of Work Project

Eudaimonia

Aristotle wrote about eudaimonia in Nicomachean Ethics, perhaps his best know work on ethics. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to translate the term into English. The closest we get seems to be the range of concepts like flourishing, living well or fulfilling your true nature. It might be interesting to note that “daimon” translates as “true nature”.

Eudaimonia is an important concept to be aware of when thinking about happiness, and it’s a key concept in positive psychology. The pursuit of Eudaimonic happiness leads people to pursue finding their true purpose or calling. This is very different from the pursuit of Hedonic happiness, which is more focused on the pursuit of pleasure.

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Motivation Theory

There are clearly similarities between Aristotle’s concept and the idea of self-actualization. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places self-actualization as the highest order of motivating factors, as does Alderfer’s ERG model. These highest levels of motivating factors are perhaps the most aspirational. Clearly this concept of purpose, calling and greater meaning remains appealing to humans.

It’s possible to feel happy and fulfilled in your work…

Building Blocks of Eudamonia

There are many different things that contribute to creating a sense of fulfilling your true nature. There is a “Questionnaire for Eudaimonic Well-Being” which was developed as instrument for assessing eudaimonic well-being. It details six different dimensions which contribute to it:

  1. Self-discovery,
  2. Perceived development of one’s best potentials,
  3. A sense of purpose and meaning in life,
  4. Investment of significant effort in pursuit of excellence,
  5. Intense involvement in activities, and
  6. Enjoyment of activities as personally expressive.

Learning More

We’ve not written much on the subject of happiness, but our posts on the GREAT DREAM model and the power of positive thinking might be of some interest. The article “What is Eudaimonia? Aristotle and Eudaimonic Well-Being” by PositivePsychology.com is well worth a read and provides much more depth to this concept.

You might also enjoy our much more introductory podcast on happiness below:

The World of Work Project View

We love the concept of Eudaimonia. We can’t remember where, but several years ago we read someone describe it as something like being used for the purpose for which you were created. They used the analogy of a shape knife being used to slice a tomato. In that moment of being used to do so, the knife would be experiencing eudaimonia.

In some ways we think of eudamonic happiness as being related to flow. We believe that work should create moments of flow, and that these can help bring happiness and purpose to our lives. We know that pursuing self-actualization is a privilege that many people don’t have. However, we also think that good leaders and managers can help bring moments of it into the lives of their employees. Furthermore, we think that doing so increases performance, engagement and wellbeing.

In our own lives we’ve experienced it in moment of work, and in personal life. For example, if you run, you may have experienced moments where your whole body seems to be working together smoothly for the purpose for which it has evolved. It is these moments that we think of as eudaimonia.

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Alan S. Waterman, Seth J. Schwartz, Byron L. Zamboanga, Russell D. Ravert, Michelle K. Williams, V. Bede Agocha, Su Yeong Kim & M. Brent Donnellan (2010) The Questionnaire for Eudaimonic Well-Being: Psychometric properties, demographic comparisons, and evidence of validity, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5:1, 41-61, DOI: 10.1080/17439760903435208

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