There are many people who ask themselves how to be happy. It is not strange, as we are overwhelmed by the culture of doing and of the full occupation of time until there is only one free minute left. The great philosophers, however, wondered: "What kind of person should I be?"
The secret is in balance
Many great thinkers used to resort to the ethics of virtue in the search for answers. Aristotle, one of the most influential philosophers of all time, developed an integral system with respect to virtue that we can perfectly put into practice even today to achieve emotional balance and inner peace in which happiness naturally blossoms.
In fact, his virtue ethics system is specially designed to help us achieve eudaemony (from the Greek eudaimonia, eu-good and daimon, demon or good spirit), a very interesting word that is usually translated as "happiness" or "Well-being" but rather means having full awareness of one's purpose in life and pursuing it with a positive attitude and spirit.
This means that Artistotle thought that happiness is the result of a way of living and being, which comes when we are able to develop our full potential as a person and build a solid self. What does this way of life consist of?
Aristotle thought that the secret lies in balance, an idea related to other philosophical systems such as Buddhism. This philosopher thought that a life of abstinence, deprivation and repression does not lead to happiness or a full self. But the same happens with a hedonistic life, since excesses usually lead to a form of bondage to pleasure, generating existential emptiness.
"Virtue is an intermediate position between two vices, one by excess and one by defect," he wrote. And to develop virtue, we should simply take advantage of all the opportunities that present themselves since it is not about theoretical concepts but about the attitudes, decisions and behaviors that should guide our lives.
The 10 Aristotelian virtues to achieve eudaemony
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle's best-known book written in the XNUMXth century BC, he lists the virtues we should develop to achieve eudaemony:
- Meekness. It is the ability to control our temperament and first reactions. The patient person does not get too angry, but neither does he avoid getting angry when he has the reasons.
- Power. It is the midpoint between cowardice and recklessness. The strong person is the one who faces danger by being aware of the risks and taking the necessary precautions. It is a question of not taking unnecessary risks but not avoiding the risks necessary to grow.
- Tolerance. It is the balance between excessive indulgence and intransigence. Aristotle thought that it is important to forgive, but without falling into the extreme of tolerating everything by letting others trample our rights or deliberately hurt us without responding. It is as bad to be extremely tolerant as it is extremely intolerant.
- Generosity. It is the central point between meanness and prodigality, it is about helping others but not allowing ourselves to the point that our selves are diluted.
- Modesty. It is the intermediate virtue between not recognizing enough credit for achievements due to low self-esteem and excessive ego that makes us think we are the center of the universe. It is a question of recognizing our mistakes and our virtues, assuming the responsibilities that correspond to us, no more, no less.
- Truthfulness. It is the virtue of honesty, which Aristotle places exactly halfway between the habitual lie and the tactlessness in telling the truth, when the person turns into a kamikaze of the truth. It is about evaluating the purpose of our words and saying what is needed, no more, no less.
- Grace. It's the middle point between being a fool and being so obnoxious as to be rude. It consists of knowing how to be, so that others can simply enjoy our company.
- Sociability. Long before neuroscientists discovered that we have to choose our friends carefully because our brains will eventually resemble theirs, Aristotle warned us of the danger of being too sociable with too many people, as well as of the inability to make friends. The philosopher believed that we should choose our friends carefully but we should also cultivate these relationships.
- Decency. It's the middle point between being too shy and being shameless. A decent person respects himself and is not afraid of making mistakes, but he does not fall into insolence or impertinence in an attempt to overcome others. He is aware that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and asks for the same respect for himself.
- Equity. It is the virtue of treating others fairly, halfway between altruism and total disinterest. It consists of taking into account both the needs of others and your own, to find a middle ground that allows us to make decisions that are more just for everyone.
The most interesting thing about Aristotle's proposal is that there is room to make mistakes, learn and improve without feeling that we are bad people or that we will not succeed. What do you think?