2300 Years On, the Key to the Goodlife Remains Unchanged

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.

Ancient Greek ruins in the sunset
Positive Psychology
Mental Health 
Martin Seligman
Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

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

2. Courage

3. Love and humanity

4. Justice

5. Temperance

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 actionViacharacter.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.

A artistic happy smiley face on the street. Two pairs of feet surround it.
Human Flourishing
Martin Seligman
Ancient Greek
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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One response to “2300 Years On, the Key to the Goodlife Remains Unchanged”

  1. […] Happiness transcends pleasure-seeking behavior. Aristotle informed us we experience it by living a virtuous life. […]

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