From Aristotle to Seligman. Positive psychology agrees with ancient wisdom; live with virtue.
Aristotle lived 384–322 BC. He was the student of Plato and the founder of the Lyceum, the Peripatetic school of philosophy. For Aristotle, the ultimate aim of life was eudaimonia. One translation of the word is happiness, but this misses the true sense of the word.
Eudaimonia literally means good soul. Eudaimonia goes above and beyond what we mean by happiness. It refers to a sense of deep fulfillment from living our best lives.
“To call a man eudaimōn is to say something about how he lives and what he does. The notion of eudaimonia is closely tied, in a way in which the notion of happiness is not, to success: the eudaimōn is someone who makes a success of his life and actions, who realizes his aims and ambitions as a man, who fulfills himself.” — Jonathan Barnes
Sounds cool! How do we get there?
Aristotle’s key to Eudaimonia is areté — expressing the best version of yourself. The literal translation is virtue or excellence.
To achieve deep fulfillment we must live a life of virtue.
2300 years later
Martin Seligman is the founder of positive psychology. He has written extensively on happiness, optimism, flourishing, well-being, and self-esteem. His message is similar to Aristotle’s. To flourish we must live with virtue.
Seligman depicted 6 universal virtues, common across various cultures and eras.
1. Wisdom and knowledge
3. Love and humanity
6. Spirituality and transcendence
Authentic Happiness — Martin Seligman
In addition to the universal virtues, Seligman believes in finding our signature strengths. He refers to signature strengths as your values in action. Viacharacter.org is a free resource that highlights your top 5.
Your virtuous life is unique. The building blocks are your top values. Incorporate these values into your life and taste eudaimonia.
My top values are curiosity, humor, humility, integrity, and a love of learning. These, alongside the top universal values, inform the way I operate and how I schedule my time.
2300 years and the message remains the same. The good life is achieved by living with virtue.
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