“Goods are divided, then, into three types: some called external, some goods of the soul, others goods of the body…. Our account is also correct in saying that some sort of actions and activities are the end; for then the end turns out to be a good of the soul, not an external good.” – Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
“Since happiness is an activity of the soul expressing complete virtue, we must examine virtue; for that will perhaps also be a way to study happiness better.” – Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
Aristotle got me thinking about happiness this year in a new way and I wanted to share it with you as we move into the new year.
While I focus on setting goals to take better care of myself by going to the gym or eating healthier foods, and of course doing my emotional workouts to feel better, I wonder if happiness comes from feeling better physically or emotionally or both. I wonder how much time to spend on each area to feel amazing.
Aristotle explains that happiness comes from doing what is good for the soul. That’s it. The outcome – more money, fame, better health or any other external good isn’t the path to happiness. True lasting happiness comes from doing what is good for the soul.
For example, if you are a painter, than happiness comes from painting. Simple enough…Right? But wait, there’s more.
He goes on to explain that you cannot be a painter if you cannot afford paint. External goods are also important because if we don’t have the means to paint, we cannot do what is good for our souls.
And happiness is taking action that is good for our individual souls. So for each of us happiness is found walking down different paths. The painter has to paint and the doctor has to heal.
So if happiness is found by doing what is good for the soul and if what is good for my soul is not the same as what is good for your soul, why do we try to find a universal answer to happiness – a one-size-fits-all approach? Be Happy.
For many of us our lives look amazing, yet we desire a deeper level of happiness. Our solution is to add in pleasure: more shopping, a vacation, a new puppy, even ripped abs at the beach. Sadly what may feel like a solution to feel better only results in a temporary bump in happiness. And after that moment or even week of pleasure subsides, we are like hamsters on a wheel looking for our next fix of pleasure.
Because here’s the truth – happiness is not found in puppies, shopping, even hitting the gym and getting in amazing shape. Happiness is a long lasting sense of peace in our lives that only comes from finding activities that express our soul.
If you want to feel better, I mean really feel amazing, let go of the idea that happiness comes from external goods or pleasure from our bodies. Real happiness, the kind that still resides within even when we are faced with terrible external situations, only occurs when we follow our soul’s silent stir and act in accordance.
Want to feel better than ever in 2016? Take out a piece of paper and write down everything that makes your soul come alive – everything that lights you up and that you would do even if you were not paid to. And remember there is no right or wrong list because each of us finds happiness in different, unique, and beautiful ways.
Take that list and place a 1 next to the thing that is most enjoyable, careful – I do not mean enjoyable like eating an ice cream sundae. I mean enjoyable in a deep, internal, rewarding way that sustains you and makes you feel as if you were put on earth to do that very thing. Keep numbering your list 1-10 (only use each number one time).
Take the first thing on your list and think about how many ways you can put that into action! This is the first step to finding out how you can express your soul’s virtue.