How the ideas of an ancient Greek philosopher could help you find true inner joy today
For the vast majority of people, the desire to be happy is one of the core motivators in this life.
Whether we consciously realise it or not, the reason why we work towards certain financial, career, or personal goals, is generally because we believe that achieving these things will help us to become happier than we are now.
And it is the same story with our relationships, social activities, hobbies, interests – and even for when we might decide to just sit around the house all day long, doing nothing.
Yes, we may sometimes seem to make decisions that are not necessarily good for us at all in the long-term. But, even here, the core reason is often because we are simply pining for an as yet unrealised form of happiness.
But this is the problem: the more we pursue happiness in any of its forms, the more we realise just how difficult it is to really hold on to.
I’m sure we have all experienced times when that success we worked so hard for turns out to be, somehow, not as good as we always imagined it to be. Or when a short-term pleasure never quite gives us that lasting happiness that we really need.
So, with that being the case, it is really no surprise that many of us may feel completely lost when faced with the question: “How can I be happy?”
The truth is, happiness means different things to different people – and (sadly) there is no universal key to finding it.
However, we can still give ourselves the best possible chance of finding real happiness by approaching our life in a more philosophical way. And, this is the main purpose of this article. To dive a little deeper into the real ‘art of happiness’ via the insights of an ancient Greek philosopher known as Epicurus.
Now, just as a quick side note, if you have heard the name “Epicurus” or “Epicurean” before, then it may well have been in the context of describing someone who is hedonistic, or living a life of excess.
And, in fact, even since the very earliest days of Epicurean philosophy – which started in a modest garden academy around 300 BC – this has been one of its most common misrepresentations. Because, of course, if we live our life only with the goal of being as happy as we possibly can, then there is a good chance we might stray increasingly towards a life of endless partying, overindulgence, and pleasure-seeking, forgoing all other personal responsibilities.
However, when it comes to Epicurus’ real thoughts on living a happy life, the message could not be more different. Yes, he advocated for happiness being our ultimate goal in life. But he also insisted that the best way to actually approach this “pursuit of happiness” is always with a philosopher’s mindset.
In other words, this is not about living with total abandonment. Rather, it is encouraging us to approach every situation – and every temptation – with a discerning mind. Asking: “Will this particular pleasure really bring me lasting happiness? Or will it only bring temporary pleasure, which might lead to negative outcomes in the long run?”
As an example, let’s consider someone who enjoys playing video games in their spare time. If they use this hobby as a way to connect