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Are you happy?

Updated: May 3, 2023

Is a growth mindset a foundation for happiness?

It depends on how you define happiness. Happiness is a universal goal that we all strive for in our lives. But what does happiness really mean? Is it just a fleeting emotion or a state of mind that can be cultivated?

According to Victor J. Strecher, (professor and director for innovation and social entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.), in his book “Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything”, there are two distinct sources of happiness: Hedonistic and Eudaimonic.

In this blog post, we will explore these two different types of happiness: hedonic and eudaimonic, and consider how personal growth coaching may help you achieve a more balanced and sustainable form of happiness.

Hedonistic happiness, is the happiness derived from the pleasure we derive from the “good things in life” – beauty, good food, drink etc. This source of happiness, rewarding ourselves with a burst of dopamine, is short-lived. If we consider our "thinking brain"(neo-cortex) vs our "feeling brain" (limbic brain), then hedonistic happiness is where our feeling brain may run wild.

Hedonic happiness is derived from the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. It is the type of happiness that comes from immediate gratification, such as eating a delicious meal, watching a favourite TV show, or having sex. Hedonic happiness is often fleeting and short-lived, as the pleasure fades away quickly, and we are left wanting more. For example, eating a whole pizza may bring immediate pleasure, but it may also result in negative consequences such as weight gain or indigestion, leading to long-term unhappiness.

There is some evidence to support the idea that hedonic happiness can contribute to well-being. Studies have shown that engaging in pleasurable activities, such as spending time with loved ones or participating in hobbies, can increase feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Additionally, some researchers suggest that hedonic happiness can positively affect physical health, including reducing the risk of heart disease and other health problems.

However, there are also limitations to the hedonic approach. Research suggests that pursuing pleasure for its own sake can lead to diminishing returns, as people become habituated to positive experiences and require increasingly intense stimuli to achieve the same level of pleasure. Furthermore, a focus on pleasure-seeking can lead to behaviours that are ultimately detrimental to well-being, such as overeating or substance abuse. In the words of Aristotle “The many, the most vulgar, would seem to conceive the good and happiness as pleasure. . . . Here they appear completely slavish since the life they decide on is a life for grazing animals.”

Eudaimonic happiness, on the other hand, is the happiness one finds when they have developed a deep understanding of themselves and are living in harmony with that understanding. Returning to the "thinking brain"(neo-cortex) vs "feeling brain" (limbic brain) comparison, eudaimonic happiness is where we use our thinking brain to reflect on who we truly are. This word, “eudaimonia” was coined by Aristotle and includes the word “daimon” which means “true” or “most divine” – so, in this context, eudaimonia refers to one’s true self.

Eudaimonic happiness is rooted in the idea that happiness is achieved by living a life that is in line with one's values and purpose. According to this view, the key to happiness is to engage in activities that promote personal growth and contribute to a sense of meaning and purpose.

Numerous studies have shown that eudaimonic happiness is more beneficial to our overall well-being than hedonic happiness. For instance, a study conducted by Ryan and Deci (2001) found that people who pursued eudaimonic goals, such as personal growth, autonomy, and relatedness, reported higher levels of well-being and life satisfaction than those who pursued hedonic goals, such as pleasure, wealth, and status.

Research also suggests that eudaimonic happiness can have numerous benefits for well-being. For example, studies have shown that people who report higher levels of eudaimonic happiness have better mental health outcomes, including lower rates of depression and anxiety. Additionally, eudaimonic happiness is associated with greater resilience in the face of adversity, as people living in line with their values and purpose can better cope with stress and setbacks.

However, the pursuit of eudaimonic happiness can also be challenging. It requires a deep level of self-reflection and a willingness to confront difficult questions about one's values and priorities. Additionally, the path to eudaimonic happiness can be less clear-cut than the pursuit of pleasure, as it often involves engaging in activities that are challenging or uncomfortable in the short term but ultimately contribute to long-term well-being.

Personal growth coaching can help you better understand yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and your values and beliefs. It is a collaborative process that involves setting goals and developing strategies to achieve them and can help you cultivate eudaimonic happiness by focusing on personal growth, purpose, and meaning.

Personal growth coaching can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and a greater sense of purpose and direction, essential for achieving eudaimonic happiness. Personal growth coaching can also help you develop a growth mindset essential for overcoming challenges and setbacks.

Finally, personal growth coaching may help you understand and manage your "feeling brain". You can learn to manage your emotional responses and avoid impulsive behaviour by developing greater self-awareness and emotional regulation skills. This can help you achieve a more balanced and sustainable form of happiness.

In conclusion, happiness is a complex and multifaceted concept that can be achieved in different ways. While hedonic happiness can provide temporary feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, eudaimonic happiness is a more sustainable and fulfilling form of happiness that comes from personal growth, purpose, and meaning.

Personal growth coaching can be a valuable tool for individuals looking to cultivate eudaimonic happiness by developing greater self-awareness, a growth mindset, and a sense of purpose and direction. Personal growth coaching may also be a valuable tool for individuals looking to cultivate a more balanced and sustainable form of happiness through greater self-awareness, a growth mindset, and a sense of purpose and direction. By acknowledging both hedonistic and eudaimonic happiness, individuals can achieve a more balanced life that allows them to experience positive emotions and pleasure while also making informed and long-term decisions.

So, now consider your life. Make two lists. Firstly, list the activities that bring hedonistic happiness to you and then secondly the activities that bring eudaimonic happiness.

When you look at these two lists, are they in balance?

Want to learn more? Book a free coaching conversation with me now!


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