Every human lives on this earth with a purpose. The nature of the purpose does not matter mostly and it is false to assume that only certain aspects of life can be acknowledged as meaningful. It rather depends on the person defining his/her purpose of life. The President of the country as well as the petty shop owner surviving in this business for the last 20 or so years have their own purpose of life which is extremely important for carrying out their day-to-day activities. When I say that human existence is meaningful only when there is a purpose to live, what am I meaning here? Is it only about developing a strong value-based family, rearing children, studying well or going for a white-collar job? Definitely not! So, are all people who have lost their spouse, children, uneducated or unemployed just leading a worthless life? That is also not the case. The purpose can be anything from living for the sake of a pet to fulfilling chores in orphanages leading a life of service. With all this comes the next question, “Are all these people happy in life or are they defining a purpose only because they need to live?”
Hedonic & Eudaimonic Well-being
Happiness has been a debated and discussed topic for many centuries right from the Ancient Greek philosophy, Utilitarianism and the current research done on well-being. Happiness was a concept looked only from the monetary perspective a few decades back, but now gladly, this concept is sought-after and valued more than just minting money or earning goodwill. Well-being of a person also affects his/her stress levels and anxiety. Stress can lead to a number of health problems that can derail a person’s health and for a complete insight on the stress-related health problems, please visit the website www.firsteatright.com.
Also, theories on well-being impose the view of hedonism-maximize pleasure and minimize pain-which can be rooted to the beliefs of Aristippus, a Greek philosopher, who strongly trusted happiness to be the ultimate goal in life.
Eudaimonia is a Greek word that gets translated as ‘happiness’ and this can be often misleading. It comes as no surprise when one questions now how exactly is eudaimonic well-being different from hedonic when both have their roots as happiness. The goal might be similar, but the means are completely different.
Eudaimonia was the brainchild of Aristotle who believed happiness to be a vulgar idea and objected against taking action for all desires in life as even though some of them may give us pleasure, they would surely not produce wellness. Aristotle believes happiness is measurable in terms of how well you have led your life as in how well you have used your complete potential as a human being in leading your life. According to Aristotle, "for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy." We cannot predict a movie to be fantastic only after seeing the first half as there is quite a many chance that the second half turns out to be boring! Similarly, one cannot tell that he/she has lived a happy life until almost it is over! Sadly, most people define themselves to be happy after having a gala time with friends or chilling out with a bottle of wine. These are small episodes in life that surely make you happy, but these small pleasures are only short-lived and actual happiness depends on the quality of life you lead. Aristotle believes happiness to be a combination of health, wealth, knowledge, friends, career and many such things that help to enrich human life.
Purpose of life is closely connected to eudaimonic well-being and inversely related to hedonic well-being. The first has a deeper sense and strong meaning while the second is superficial and temporary. For example, playing with their child/talking to them might not give many parents happiness as they feel happier watching a movie but raising a family gives a deeper meaning to life and makes it complete.
Self or Service
Personal development involves understanding ones plus and minus, working out methods to capitalize on the positives and minimize the negatives, striving hard to succeed and grow in life. Love/affection, family, career and success are four things that every human being wishes for. Once he/she achieves these, the next step is well-being. We begin to look out for pleasure in life, partying, socializing, becoming better financially and having good time.
Some people commit their lives for the sake of others. For example, we might come across someone who has given up marriage to take care of his/her ailing parent, a mom who has given up her career for the sake of raising (not simply looking after them) her children to grow into better citizens. Note that, these people have only given up their personal development for the development/existence of people they feel more important in their life. They do this without losing themselves in the process.
Finding a purpose in life is not a one-time decision, it can keep changing as you lead life. Its not as hard as an invention nor can you simply get it by using Google search. You need to think, communicate and finally commit to your purpose of life! Instead of finding the meaning of life, try to build meaning into your life. Hedonic or eudaimonic, live your life with a purpose in the ethical way. During this process comes your career, money, children, family, friends, wine, fun, food, travel and all other things. Its up to you to balance all these in equal proportions and achieve well-being, both physical and mental.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.