Everyone asks themselves at some point in their lives questions like, what is the key to happiness? What is a successful life? Generation after generation has grappled with this question. Some find happiness while others look their whole lives and never find it. Take a look at some of the greatest philosophers in history and what their beliefs about happiness and success in life were.
Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, believed that living happily evolved around just treatment of others, avoid pain, do whatever is self pleasing, but not to overindulge in anything.
Confucius wrote about having a successful life with these sayings…”What you do not want done to yourself do not do to others”, “The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large”, “When anger arises think of the consequences”, “Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated”.
Aristotle believed that one should pursue happiness (not pleasure). He defined human happiness as being different from sensuous pleasures (vices). We should not live for sex, money, and rock and roll (that is the animal life). Instead, we should pursue knowledge, courage, and temperance (moderation/self restraint).
Paul of Tarsus may not officially have been a philosopher but he is responsible for helping spread Christianity. His message was that everyone and anyone could be saved from their sin through Jesus’ almighty power and being the greatest good the world will ever see. He had argued this point (successfully) against the original thought of Christ being available only to the Jews and after you were circumcised and followed the Mosaic law.
Solomon (sticking with the Bible theme) was considered the wisest man to ever walk the face of the earth. He wrote a whole list of philosophical quotes called Proverbs. Actually, Proverbs was intended to be a “how to” document for his sons. Here are a few, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance”. “Ponder the path of your feet then all your ways will be sure, do not swerve to the right or left; turn your foot away from evil”. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he shall not depart from it”.
We know that Epicurus started a school that inspired other thinkers and was the only one who admitted women. He died at the age of 72 from kidney stones. He had no heirs and never married.
Confucius married at the age of 19 and had three children. He was governor of a town in his 40’s, he had success and increased his position in politics. He tried to establish a centralized government in his state and achieved a lot but never could completely reform it. He died at the age of 73 after losing 2 of his children and being divorced.
Aristotle worked alongside Plato for many years and wrote over 200 transcripts in his life. When he died at the age of 62 he was in hiding due to persecution from being charged with impiety (lack of respect for sacred things). He had lost a son but had a daughter who survived him.
Paul of Tarsus was considered the first missionary and traveled all over the middle east preaching about Jesus. His life was not easy and was full of ups and downs. He spoke in front of kings, leaders, and large groups of people. Was invited to lavish parties and feasts but also knew what it was like to go hungry. He faced ridicule, imprisonment, and beatings. Paul was eventually believed to be beheaded and died a martyr. He never married and lived a transient life.
Solomon was literally the king and the most influential person of his time. He had money, power, and women. People came from all of the world just to talk with him. Yet he ended up not following his own advice and lost his way and his notoriety. In addition, his sons didn’t listen to his advice and eventually the kingdom Solomon had built to an empire was destroyed.
Happy and Successful?
If you look at the men described above were they Happy and successful? I would suggest that at some point in their lives each man would have considered himself happy. However, happiness is fading just like most of the things in this world. It’s not something you can posses like a car or a shirt but it’s a state of mind.
Look at people today who are millionaires, famous actors, or well known athletes. You often hear of them wrecking their lives by overindulgence through poor personal choices. Yet most of us would look at them and think that if we had their money or success we would be happy. So why aren’t they?
The answer is simply that fame and fortune aren’t what make us truly happy! Yes, they may give you some satisfaction for a short time but a long sustained happiness only comes from within.
Take a Look In The Mirror
One of the top myths about happiness is that it is determined by the number and nature of pleasurable events we experience in our lives. Happiness cannot be determined by external factors and circumstances. Rather, it is our innate factors and perceptions that make us happy. In other words our perspective…
How do I change my perspective? There are over 100,000 books at Amazon on the subject of happiness that are available for purchase. Maybe you could go to their Website and find a book that may help you on your journey to happiness. Maybe you could go to a physical place where you feel at peace and meditate on what makes you feel happy.
This may sound made up but there is an actual study at Harvard University called “The Harvard Happiness Study” where it has been tracking “happiness” for 75 years (and counting). It conclude’s that relationships are the biggest trigger for sustained happiness in people’s lives. How does relationships effect our happiness? It changes our perspective.
Look at the tragedy and suffering going on right now in the city of Houston. People have lost their homes, possessions, and lives from Hurricane Harvey. When the rest of the country sees what’s going on we do an amazing job of helping those in need. It is because our perspective has changed and we realize how fortunate we are to have running water, a dry home, or a change of clothes. Not to mention the fact that multiple studies conducted around happiness shows that when we help others our sense of happiness increases dramatically.
These are the basic things we need to know about happiness and success.
…..We will never be happier than we already are (there are not different levels of happiness)
…..We cannot be happy alone
…..We cannot be happy all of the time
…..Success comes from happiness which comes from within (our perspective)
Thanks so much for reading this post! Please feel free to leave a comment
I wish you much Happiness and Success!!