I came across this word Eudaimonia, in a travel book, of all things and it intrigued me – as I’d not heard of it before. It stems from the Greeks, where philosophers held the space for our human flourishing under this rather beautiful phrase:-
Eudaimonia – to flourish
Which got me thinking… Do we ever stop to examine what it means for us to flourish and, more importantly, do we engage in that flourishing or are we simply too busy wilting? After 25 years in the Personal Development and Coaching industry, my conclusions is that sadly, we rarely take time to think about how to truly flourish and reach our full potential. So is this a time to stop and consider what this means to us?
If we are to fill Eudaimonia’s shoes, in the way that the philosophers intended, then we must really give some colour to, not just to the phrase, per se, more the opportunity that it presents to us.
Today’s modern world really does not really encourage Eudaimonia. We are caught up in a matrix of seemingly endless clock watching activities that have us rushing from one appointment or commitment to another, with little heed to our well-being, let alone our flourishing. Our entrapment in the materialistic world that our existence has morphed around, keeps us hostage to the relentless hamster-wheel of work, striving for success and earning money to pay for our insatiable demands. Little is really talked about how we might flourish and how we invest in our potential and happiness.
So whilst we’re at it, what does Eudaimonia infer with its rather elegant composition so alien to our vocabulary? What does it mean to flourish?
A seed has huge potential and expectation in its fledgling state. It instinctively has a programme that genetically kicks into action at the appropriate time and under the most perfect of conditions. And so its route to flourishing has begun. Underneath the surface at first, the seed begins to root itself downwards – paradoxically so that it can route itself upwards with strength and vitality. This is where its flourishing is conceived – not, strangely, in its final blossoming brilliance, which we see in all its regalia. Without strong roots the plant can not reach its potential.
As the sapling begins to branch out beyond the dark world, a whole new set of factors begin to set it on its path to Eudaimonia. Nutrients, hydration, sunlight, avoidance of pests; to name just a few. As it forges its way forward, the young plant begins to grow in strength and resilience as it battles with the elements. And inspite of it all, the youngster branches out with a core of character and a stem of determination that begins to shape its identity. Leaves unfurl, flower buds emerge and new shoots begin to give the plant’s shape essence and possibility.
As it stretches out towards its ultimate goal of fruitfulness, we start to see the plant’s purpose playing out right in front of us. Bees pollinate, winds carry the seeds of future generations and birds feast on its abundance to carry its genes far and wide. Whilst its flower, fruit or foliage may be a visual indicator of its magnificence, its blossom is only one small element of the natural world’s Eudaimonia.
Beneath the superficial glow of petals, stature or autumnal fruit, a plant’s flourishing, stems right back to its seed and having the right conditions from which it can start out on its journey. Only when all those conditions are met, can it reach its potential and flourish, not only as a unique and individual plant, also as a member of the community to which it belongs, contributing to the longevity and survival of its species.
This biological anecdote is all well and good, although how does it relate to us? What links can we draw from this to help us flourish in all our human-ness?
- Firstly, just like the seed, we need to make sure we have strong roots that give us a sense of grounding, so necessary in this crazy, superficial world. These roots mean understanding our values – the things that we hold as important in our lives and that shape the choices and decisions we make on a day to day basis. If we are taking action that doesn’t feel good to us deep within and that causes us anxiety or a general discomfort, then we are not honouring our roots and life really begins to suck and feel forced. When our inner most values are compromised, then how can we possibly flourish?
- Next our flourishing depends upon the conditions that we have around us that either feed and fuel us or strip us of our goodness. So the essential ingredients of nourishing food, oils, vitamins and water are core to our well-being. Without them we develop deficiencies and dis-ease that result in us under-performing and becoming ill. If not in the short-term perhaps, certainly in the long-run these deficiencies creep up on us. So creating a balance and ‘good soil’ in which we can thrive, much like the sprouting sapling, becomes essential to our growth, survival and potential. ‘What we put in, we will get out‘, as the old saying goes.
- As we grow and are inevitably challenged by life’s ups and downs, like the plant, we must not be defined by the weather, drought or be distracted from our purpose – to be happy and fulfilled. The minute our focus moves or we procrastinate, then our essence begins to whither and flourish we most certainly do not. Holding onto the bigger picture of being well and happiness – is what we must set our sights on.
- As we take on a positive and determined mindset, we begin to attract to us the people and events that help us to feel enriched and nourished. Whilst not all in the garden can ever be rosy each and every minute, if we hold the vision of positivity, believe in ourselves, hold our self-respect in the highest regard and are mindful of our behaviours, mindsets and needs, then we can truly flourish with the essence of well-being.
Do we not, after all, have the right to fulfil our destiny, our life purpose and allow our potential to flourish? Is not Eudaemonia our right? We have the opportunity to assert this right and not allow external conditions to adversely affect our lives, which seems to increasingly be the case. Governments try to control us, organisations drive us, society influences us, the media manipulates us. If we realise that beyond these constraints of The Matrix, there exists a space that allows us to flourish as human beings. When we harness our inner energy and desire for happiness, then our lives can begin to change and our ability to thrive emerges like the rising of the sun.
To this end, the energy and philosophy of Eudaimonia is available to each of us, we just need to tap into the resources that enable us to access happiness and thrive. So the bottom line to our flourishing is:
- Believe in our right to flourish and reach our full potential – this is not selfish – our future generations depend upon it.
- Acknowledge and honour our values and make choices based on those values so that we are in alignment.
- Adopt a positive mental attitude that allows us to filter out negativity.
- Fuel ourselves with the right nutrients that create a healthy soil in which we can be well and full of vitality.
- Hold a vision of our well-being and keep this as a high priority as we make our choices and decisions.