“The ultimate end of human acts is Eudaimonia, happiness in the sense of living well, which all men desire; all acts are but different means chosen to arrive at it.” ~ Hannah Arendt
Eudaimonia is a Greek word referring to healthy, happy and prosperous human flourishing, especially as a striving toward arête (virtue or excellence) and ethical wisdom. Morally, Eudaimonia refers to moral or amoral actions that result in the essential value of independent and interdependent well-being.
When used creatively, Eudaimonia can be breathtakingly effective at stretching comfort zones, shattering mental paradigms, flattening status-quo boxes, and propelling us into heightened states of awareness and compassion. But how to reach it, is the question. How do we tap into this most sacred state of being?
This article hypothesizes two possible concepts that, when combined, may give us an “answer:” Know thyself & Flow states. Let’s break it down.
“Nobody is an ‘I’ in any substantial sense without a ‘you’ and a ‘they,’ and our self-understanding is formed as much by others as by ourselves.” ~ Patrick Stokes, New Philosopher
To know thyself is no walk in the park. It takes ruthless introspection, questioning to the nth degree, and the willingness to admit when we’re wrong. Above all, it takes a particular type of courage to break down the very idea of the “Self” to begin with.
According to Jean-Paul Sartre, each of us has three constitutive dimensions: being-in-itself (what you are physically), being-for-itself (what you are consciously), and being-for-others (what you are to others). A huge part of knowing thyself is becoming intimate with these three aspects.
You are a mind-body-soul taking up perceptual space within a particular environment. Becoming more aware of this dimension is becoming more aware of how you fit into your particular environment in the healthiest way.
From the basics –air, water, food, shelter– to the understanding of how far you can push your physical limits. Everything, your very survival, is based upon the basic understanding of your health in regards to your physical self within a physical world.
Your mind-body-soul has an independent awareness of itself and its environment that goes beyond self and environment. This is conscious awareness. Consciousness of yourself, of others, and of the environment. Becoming more aware of this dimension is becoming more aware of free will, your interpretation of reality and its flexibility, and the complex choices you make in regards to your interpretation.
Your mind-body-soul is also interdependent upon how others see you. To a large extent, how others see you is out of your hands, but you can influence how others see you through your persona(s). Others may not see you how you see yourself, but with enough practice they might come close. Becoming more aware of this dimension is becoming more aware of yourself as a social being in relation with other social beings and how you manage your persona(s), your words, your actions, and ultimately your overall character.
Bonus round! This is my addition to Sartre’s ontological analysis on being (standing on the shoulder of a giant in an attempt to see further than the giant). Your mind-body-soul is also interdependent upon how you relate to and perceive your overall fate.
Amor fati, a Latin phrase that loosely translate to “love of fate,” is a way to interpret fate positively by having an attitude in which you see everything that happens to you, including suffering and loss, as necessary, in that it is all steppingstones that make up your existence.
Becoming more aware of this dimension is becoming more aware of how things play out on the broad spectrum of choice and chance. It’s being in touch with your own existential revolt, like Camus’ Sisyphus, who embraces fate and chooses to be happy despite the limits of the human condition. And in so doing, he discovers absolute freedom in amor fati.
If you can combine these four pieces of the puzzle of the self, and if you’re brave enough to question them to the nth degree, and if you can attempt to piece them together in unique and creative ways, and if you authentically regard everything that happens to you as being synchronous with fate and cosmic progression, and if you are prepared, most of all, to be present and vulnerable to some challenging truths about yourself, then knowledge of thyself, and perhaps even Eudaimonia, will not be withheld from you.
“A joyful life is an individual creation that cannot be copied from a recipe.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Achieving a flow state is colloquially referred to as “being in the zone.” Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is known for coining the flow state.
Csikszentmihalyi described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.
The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
When you “know thyself,” you add that to the set of “skills” in your arsenal when you show up to the canvas of your life. Then all you have to do is be present. Be engaged. Be in love with the moment. Let go of everything you think you know, and just feel your way through it. Simply be Creativity. It’s an active meditation. Breathe in, breathe out. Flow in, flow out.
Achieving a flow state is allowing yourself to be creative in the moment. The art that comes out does not have to be perfect; it just has to be authentic. Be present. Be genuine. Be creative. Creativity shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s perseverance. Keep drawing. Keep writing. Keep painting. Keep snapping pictures. Keep crafting.
Lose yourself in the process and the flow state will come. And even if it doesn’t, at least you’re doing something you love.
Like George Lois said, “Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.”
And when combined with the open-ended quest of knowing thyself, these flow states take the quest into entirely new realms of self-introspection. You become receptive to stimuli to which, in the time before, you were insensate.
Your independent search becomes an interdependent dance. Your “being-in-fate” melts the other three dimensions of yourself, sealing you together with amor fati into an interconnected, individuated, self-actualized being. And the sacred state of Eudaimonia washes over you.
In hindsight you see how knowing yourself and the creative drive to achieve flow states, were both profoundly critical in achieving Eudaimonia. Indeed. You see how your flourishing is due to knowing who you are in the here-and-now and loving yourself enough to produce fruit forthwith. Because of this, your quality of life is immeasurably improved, suffused with arête. Your health and happiness place each the other into proper perspective.
Through tragedy and comedy, ill fate and high humor, by knowing yourself through your creativity, you’re now able to make the most of the bad and appreciate more of the good. Your happiness is rounded out, not only by knowing who you are, but by relating to it and creating from it what you love – your own unique art.
Like Csikszentmihalyi said, “Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.”
And perhaps the best part of Eudaimonia is the existentially robust and spiritually profound ability to tap into higher wisdom in order to discern the best course to take toward living well. Over and above who you are in the moment, transcending what the creative process can or cannot do, your burgeoning moral compass subsumes right and wrong, light and shadow, pain and love.
Your courage becomes a courage of the most high. Your humor becomes a humor of the most high. Thereby you feel joy. Therefore are you happy. You are now ready to meet Rumi, who said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”