Thursday, June 04, 2015

Eudaimonic versus hedonic well-being

I have been holding on to this one for a while, but it is just too good not to share.  One of my favorite thought leaders in the areas of creativity and well-being posted this article on Scientific American’s Beautiful Minds blog just before he left to start his own. 

He outlines two kinds of well-being. And neither of them is the experience of positive emotions or the lack of negative emotions. We all feel both of these, and they can be either deep or shallow, real or imagined. 

No, the secret to well-being and true happiness depends on knowing the difference between hedonic pleasure and eudaimonic pleasure.  Hedonic pleasure you probably already know about. It is the experience of physical pleasure and indulgence.  “Go ahead, treat yourself well.  You deserve it.”  The Greeks made hedonism famous, but there have been hedonists in every culture in every generation.  But that is not the ticket.

The ticket to true happiness and well-being is eudaimonic well-being.  This is a deeper kind of pleasure.  It is more related to a virtuous and meaningful life rather than an indulgent one.  He cites six dimensions of eudaimonia:

·         Autonomy: I believe in my opinions, even if they run counter to the general consensus.
·         Mastery: I have the ability to manage the responsibilities in my life.
·         Personal Growth: I engage in challenging new experiences and ideas.
·         Positive Social Relations: I share time with and care about others.
·         Purpose: I have some sense of what I want to get out of life.
·         Self-acceptance: I like most aspects of my life.

This really resonates with me and I hope to focus more on these dimensions than the hedonic ones.  I think I have autonomy, self-acceptance, and some purpose.  I am good at telling myself I have positive social relations, but have my doubts.  I used to engage in personal growth all the time, but lately have lagged.  And I totally lost mastery about 10-15 years ago.  But at least I know where to concentrate now.