What Makes You Happy?

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Aristotle believed that virtues led to happiness. He said that knowing and choosing what was right while avoiding what was wrong, essentially being good, would bring about a joyful emotional state.

The ancient Greeks had a slightly different perspective. They believed that happiness was more about activity than emotion; that it was by being all that you could be, by reaching your full potential, and by consistently striving to achieve a high standard that you would find happiness.

If you are one of the modern-day majority who are tired, busy, and completely stressed out most of the time, happiness may be something you hardly have time to think about, never mind pursue. But for those who do have opportunity to find their bliss, or to think about what makes them smile, many would agree that joy can often be explained by a combination of both Aristotle’s and the ancient Greeks’ theories on happiness.

Specifically, as the ancient Greeks suggested, happy is something you do – choices you make, goals you achieve, or consistent acts of kindness that you extend to yourself or others, even attitudes you exhibit. At the same time, Aristotle’s idea that being happy is something you feel also applies: happiness happens when your actions suit your conscience, when you stick to your personal standards and when you do what’s right even though it’s dif cult, and especially when your thoughts are of others rather than of yourself. These are most often the moments of true happiness.

And so, in your pursuit of happiness, consider the moments when you have felt the most joy, measure the impact of those moments, and then think about how you can combine action, high standards and emotion with virtue and then plan to re-create that happiness.

For example, if accumulating things such as a new car or another handbag makes you happy, just imagine how good it might feel to gather things to pass along to someone who has fewer of them than you. If unexpected gifts make you happy, think how much joy could come from giving spontaneously to others. Or, if achieving your personal goals is cause for joyful celebration, make an effort to encourage others to achieve their goals and then share in their joy when they celebrate.

Keeping a promise, overcoming a challenge, a few quiet moments with a hot cup of coffee, defending a friend, helping a stranger, smelling the roses, spending time with a loved one... whatever it is that brings you joy – pursue it, do it, feel it, and call it happiness!