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The Complementary Roles of Eudaimonia and Hedonia and How They Can Be Pursued in Practice



Many of us have asked ourselves: What is a good life? What makes a life worth living? This is one of the great existential questions. The answers we develop shape our priorities, choices, and goals, and the very way we decide what is desirable. In conceptions of a good life, the two perspectives that have figured most prominently are the hedonic view and the eudaimonic view (Ryan & Deci 2001). Briefly, a hedonic orientation involves seeking happiness, positive affect, life satisfaction, and reduced negative affect; a eudaimonic orientation includes seeking authenticity, meaning, excellence, and personal growth (Huta & Waterman, 2013). These two perspectives have been discussed for over 2,000 years by philosophers, including Aristotle and Aristippus in ancient Greece, and more recently by early psychologists and psychiatrists, such as Maslow, Jung, and Freud. Much of the current psychology research on well-being similarly addresses hedonia and/or eudaimonia, making the hedonic–eudaimonic distinction a central concept in positive psychology, as evidenced by its frequent appearance in the first edition of this volume. It is time for us to consider more systematically how these concepts might be applied in practice. First, I discuss existing definitions and research. I then venture into more uncharted territory. I will pull together a characterization of the complementary natures of hedonia and eudaimonia, to clarify why the two concepts are so central to discussions of well-being, and then propose specific strategies for pursuing hedonia and eudaimonia in practice.
Chapter 10
The Complementary Roles of
Eudaimonia and Hedonia and
How They Can Be Pursued in
Veronika Huta
Many of us have asked ourselves: What is a good life? What makes a life
worth living? This is one of the great existential questions. The answers we
develop shape our priorities, choices, and goals, and the very way we decide what
is desirable. In conceptions of a good life, the two perspectives that have figured
most prominently are the hedonic view and the eudaimonic view (Ryan & Deci
2001). Briefly, a hedonic orientation involves seeking happiness, positive affect,
life satisfaction, and reduced negative affect; a eudaimonic orientation includes
seeking authenticity, meaning, excellence, and personal growth (Huta &
Waterman, 2013). These two perspectives have been discussed for over 2,000
years by philosophers, including Aristotle and Aristippus in ancient Greece, and
more recently by early psychologists and psychiatrists, such as Maslow, Jung, and
Freud. Much of the current psychology research on well-being similarly addresses
hedonia and/or eudaimonia, making the hedoniceudaimonic distinction a central
concept in positive psychology, as evidenced by its frequent appearance in the first
edition of this volume. It is time for us to consider more systematically how these
concepts might be applied in practice. First, I discuss existing definitions and
research. I then venture into more uncharted territory. I will pull together a
characterization of the complementary natures of hedonia and eudaimonia, to
clarify why the two concepts are so central to discussions of well-being, and then
propose specific strategies for pursuing hedonia and eudaimonia in practice.
Different Categories of Definitions,
and Common Elements Across
Following this section, I use one specific approach to defining hedonia and
eudaimonia, but before I do, I would like to outline the full range of approaches.
In a systematic review of psychology definitions of eudaimonia and
hedonia (Huta & Waterman, 2013), we found that the definitions fall into four
different categories of analysis. The categories are orientations, behaviors,
experiences, and functioning, as detailed below.
Definitions of eudaimonia have been as follows:
Orientations: Orientations, values, motives, and goals, that is, the
“why” of behaviorfor example, valuing growth; seeking
challenge; seeking personal excellence; wanting to serve a higher
and meaningful purpose; having autonomous motivation and
intrinsic goals; having goals that are valuable in themselves and
part of one’s identity (Bauer, McAdams, & Sakaeda, 2005; Delle
Fave, Massimini, & Bassi, 2011; Fowers, Mollica, & Procacci,
2010; Huta & Ryan, 2010; Peterson, Park, & Seligman, 2005;
Ryan, Huta, & Deci, 2008; Vittersø, Oelmann, & Wang, 2009).
Behaviors: Behavioral content and activity characteristics, that is,
the “what” of behaviorfor example, volunteering; giving
money to those in need; expressing gratitude; mindfulness;
engaging in challenging activities to which one brings
commensurate skill (Delle Fave & Massimini, 1988; Ryan et al.,
2008; Steger, Kashdan, & Oishi, 2007).
Experiences: Subjective experiences, emotions, and cognitive
appraisalsfor example, feelings of meaning and value; personal
expressiveness; interest and engagement (Delle Fave, Brdar,
Freire, Vella-Brodrick, & Wissing, 2011; Vittersø, Dyrdal,
Røysamb, 2005; Waterman, 1993).
Functioning: Indices of a person’s overall positive psychological
functioning, mental health, and flourishing, that is, how well a
person is doingfor example, autonomy; competence;
relatedness; purpose in life; personal growth; self-acceptance;
social well-being; self-discovery; self-actualization; development
of one’s best potentials; habitual intense involvement and effort
(Keyes, 2002; Ryan et al., 2008; Ryff, 1989; Waterman, 1993).
Definitions of hedonia have fallen into three of the categories of analysis:
Orientations: For example, seeking pleasure, enjoyment, comfort,
or relaxation, whether or not these aims are achieved; seeking
homeostasis; having a mindset in which one evaluates things as
good and bad (Huta & Ryan, 2010; Peterson et al., 2005;
Vittersø, Søholt, Hetland, Thoresen, & Røysamb, 2010).
Behaviors: For example, going to a big party; attending a sporting
event or concert; going on a long walk; listening to music (Steger
et al., 2007).
Experiences: For example, positive affect; life satisfaction;
happiness; low negative affect; low depression (Bauer,
McAdams, & Pals, 2008; Delle Fave, Brdar, et al., 2011; Fowers
et al., 2010; Keyes, 2002; Ryan et al., 2008; Ryff, 1989; Vittersø
et al., 2005; Waterman, 1993).
Although there are certainly differences between the definitions that various
psychologists have used, I will not dwell on the differences here. Instead, I will
distill the concepts that emerge most consistently across definitions, regardless of
the category of analysis, to anchor the reader’s understanding of hedonia and
eudaimonia. (See also Huta, 2013b, for an earlier summary of common elements
across eudaimonia definitions.)
As shown in Huta and Waterman (2013), there is clear agreement that
hedonia involves pleasure, enjoyment, and satisfaction, whether it is construed as
the experience of these variables or as an orientation or behavior aimed at seeking
these experiences. The majority of researchers have also associated hedonia with
an absence of distress (which can be rephrased as a presence of comfort), or with
an affective balance such that positive experiences outweigh negative experiences.
In this chapter, I will assume that hedonia does include the concept of reduced
distress. (See Vittersø, 2013, for an additional discussion of hedonia.)
Conceptions of eudaimonia have varied more widely than those of hedonia.
Nevertheless, Huta and Waterman (2013) found that four core definitional
elements appeared across most or all definitions: (1) authenticity: clarifying one’s
true self and deep values, staying connected with them, and acting in accord with
them; (2) meaning: understanding a bigger picture, relating to it, and contributing
to it(the bigger picture may include broader aspects of your own life or identity, a
purpose, the long term, your community, society, the ecosystem; or even a
conception of how the entire world works or is meant to work); (3) excellence:
striving for higher quality and higher standards in one’s behavior, performance,
accomplishments, and ethics; and (4) growth: actualizing what one feels is right
for oneself, fulfilling one’s potential, and pursuing personal goals; personal
growth, learning, improving, and seeking challenges; and maturing as a human
Although hedonia and eudaimonia are distinct concepts, both theoretically
and empirically (e.g., Huta & Ryan, 2010; Peterson et al., 2005), I should add that
they are by no means mutually exclusive, and that they often co-occur. Indeed,
some of the most fulfilling pursuits are the ones where eudaimonia and hedonia
are so seamlessly blended that they become one.
Hedonic and Eudaimonic
OrientationsThe Category of
Analysis Focused on Here
The study of all four categories of analysisorientations, behaviors,
experiences, and functioningcan give us a well-rounded understanding of the
whole process of eudaimonia or hedonia. However, I would argue that one
category is most directly at the heart of what is meant by eudaimonia and hedonia:
orientations. I believe that Aristotle was mainly talking about orientations, and that
it is primarily about orientationsthe attitudes, values, motives, and goals a
person can choose. All we have control over in life is our choices and aimswe
cannot ensure the success of our aims (i.e., functioning, experiences), or the
feelings of well-being that may result (i.e., experiences). Thus, choices are more
fruitful targets for intervention than are outcomes. It also seems most fair to
describe the nature of a person’s life in terms of their efforts rather than their
successes. And a conceptualization in terms of choices brings the focus of
eudaimonia and hedonia inward rather than outward to external criteria and on the
process of life rather than the outcomesa focus that seems more intrinsic, more
engaged, and richer. Even when choosing among orientations and behaviors, I
would treat orientations as more fundamental, since two people can engage in the
same surface behavior for very different reasons (Huta, 2013a; Huta & Ryan,
Thus, I would conclude that eudaimonia and hedonia are most
fundamentally orientations. For the remainder of this chapter, this is the category
of analysis that I will focus on, and the review of research findings in the next
section will focus on the measures that clearly assess both eudaimonia and hedonia
as orientationsthe Hedonic and Eudaimonic Motives for Activities (HEMA)
scale that I developed (Huta & Ryan, 2010), and the Orientations To Happiness
Questionnaire (OTHQ) based on Seligman’s conceptualization (Peterson et al.,
The HEMA scale inquires, “To what degree [do you typically approach
your activities]/[did you approach your activities today/this week/etc.] with each
of the following intentions, whether or not you actually [achieve]/[achieved] your
aim?” The eudaimonic motives are “Seeking to pursue excellence or a personal
ideal,” “Seeking to use the best in yourself,” “Seeking to develop a skill, learn, or
gain insight into something,” and “Seeking to do what you believe in.” The
hedonic motives are “Seeking enjoyment,” “Seeking pleasure,” “Seeking fun,”
“Seeking relaxation,” and “Seeking to take it easy.Participants give ratings of 1
(not at all) to 7 (very much). The OTHQ states, “Please indicate the degree to
which each of the following statements applies to you from 1 (very much unlike
me) to 5 (very much like me).” Sample items assessing eudaimonia (which
Seligman, 2002, calls the life of meaning) are “My life serves a higher purpose,
and “I have a responsibility to make the world a better place.” Sample hedonic
items (the life of pleasure) are “Life is too short to postpone the pleasures it can
provide,” and “In choosing what to do, I always take into account whether it will
be pleasurable.” Overall, the HEMA focuses on the excellence, authenticity, and
growth elements of eudaimonia, and the pleasure and comfort elements of
hedonia; the OTHQ focuses on the meaning element of eudaimonia, and the
pleasure element of hedonia. Nevertheless, I have found (in unpublished data) that
the subscales of the HEMA and OTHQ show convergent and discriminant
validity. Furthermore, the research reviewed in the next section has often produced
similar patterns of results for the two scales.
Empirical Findings
Below, I summarize research on hedonic and eudaimonic orientations, to
give the reader a sense of how hedonia and eudaimonia differ, and how they
behave in combination. Where I say “hedonia relates more,” I imply a comparison
with eudaimonia, and vice versa. Results refer to the trait level unless otherwise
specifiedthe trait level focuses on a person’s life as a whole, linking their typical
or average degree of eudaimonia or hedonia with their typical or average score on
another variable; the state level, by contrast, focuses on a given moment or time
period, linking a person’s hedonia or eudaimonia at that time with another variable
at that time.
Hedonia and eudaimonia relate to somewhat different experiences, so that
people who pursue both hedonia and eudaimonia have a more well-rounded
picture of well-being than people who pursue only one or the other: hedonia
relates more to carefreeness (at trait and state levels), positive affect (only at the
state level), and low negative affect (only at the state level); eudaimonia relates
more to meaning (at trait and state levels), elevation (at the trait level), self-
connectedness (at trait and state levels), work satisfaction, and low depression
(Huta, 2013a; Huta & Ryan, 2010; Proyer, Annen, Eggimann, Schneider, & Ruch,
2012; Schueller & Seligman, 2010).
Hedonia and eudaimonia relate equally to vitality (at both trait and state
levels) (Huta, 2013a; Huta & Ryan, 2010).
Hedonia and eudaimonia relate equally to life satisfaction in studies with
the HEMA scale (Huta, 2013a; Huta & Ryan, 2010) and some studies with the
OTHQ (Chan, 2009; Chen, 2010; Proyer et al., 2012; Peterson, Ruch, Beerman,
Park, & Seligman, 2007; Ruch, Harzer, Proyer, Park, & Peterson, 2010), but
eudaimonia relates more to life satisfaction (and to happiness) in other studies with
the OTHQ (Anić & Tončić, 2013; Kumano, 2011; Park, Peterson, & Ruch, 2009;
Peterson et al., 2005; Peterson et al., 2007; Schueller & Seligman, 2010; Vella-
Brodrick, Park, & Peterson, 2009).
With the HEMA scale, hedonia and eudaimonia relate equally to positive
affect (Huta, 2013a; Huta & Ryan, 2010), but with the OTHQ, eudaimonia relates
more to positive affect (Anić & Tončić, 2013; Chan, 2009; Park et al., 2009;
Peterson et al., 2005; Schueller & Seligman, 2010; Vella-Brodrick et al., 2009).
People who pursue both hedonia and eudaimonia have higher degrees of
various well-being outcomes than people who pursue only one or the other (Anić
& Tončić, 2013; Huta & Ryan, 2010; Peterson et al., 2005).
Hedonic activity may be associated with greater immediate well-being,
whereas eudaimonic activity may be associated with greater long-term well-being
(Huta, 2013a; Huta & Ryan, 2010).
Eudaimonic pursuits are associated with a more positive impact on the
surrounding world, including close friends and relatives (Huta, 2012; Huta,
Pelletier, Baxter, & Thompson, 2012), the broader community (Huta, 2013a; Huta,
Pearce, & Voloaca, 2013), and the environment (Huta et al., 2013); generally,
eudaimonia is more related to indices of long-term perspective, caring about the
bigger picture, and abstract rather than concrete thinking (Huta et al., 2013).
Hedonically oriented and eudaimonically oriented individuals have
somewhat different profiles on other individual differences, giving us a sense of
how their natures differ: Of the Values in Action character strengths and virtues
(Peterson & Seligman, 2004), hedonia relates more to playfulness, whereas
eudaimonia relates more to judgment, wisdom, and religiousness ; hedonia relates
negatively to humility (Buschor, Proyer, & Ruch, 2013; Huta, 2013a; Peterson et
al., 2007; Ruch, Proyer, & Weber, 2010b). Hedonia relates more to the
excitement-seeking and gregariousness components of extraversion, whereas
eudaimonia relates more to characteristics reflecting introversion, including
introspectiveness, subjectivity/nonconformism, enjoyment of solitude, enjoyment
of peace and quiet, and a focus on thoughts and ideas (Huta, 2013a). Eudaimonia
relates more to integrated motivation and to a composite of intrinsic goals,
whereas hedonia relates more to a composite of extrinsic goals (Anić & Tončić,
2013; Huta, 2013a). In terms of demographics, hedonia decreases with age,
education, skill required in one’s profession, religiousness, and being married, and
eudaimonia increases with skill required in one’s profession and religiousness
(Peterson et al., 2005; Ruch et al., 2010; Schueller & Seligman, 2010). Additional
findings show that eudaimonia relates more to self-control (Anić & Tončić, 2013),
vocational identity achievement (Hirschi, 2011), and career success (Proyer et al.,
2012), whereas hedonia relates more to materialism (Huta, 2013a).
Research on predictors of eudaimonia and hedonia shows the role of
several parenting variables: Parental demandingness (expecting maturity, setting
limits, giving challenges and enrichment) and parental responsiveness (being
nurturing, taking the time to explain, listening, encouraging self-expression) both
relate to the adult child’s eudaimonia but not his or her hedonia, suggesting that
rearing a child to be eudaimonic requires greater investment (Huta, 2012). Adult
children pursue eudaimonia (or hedonia) whether their parents merely verbally
endorsed eudaimonia (or hedonia) or actually role-modeled it; adult children also
derive increased well-being from eudaimonia (or hedonia) if their parents role
modeled it, but derive little or no well-being if their parents only verbally endorsed
eudaimonia (or hedonia) (Huta, 2012).
The Complementary Natures of
Hedonia and Eudaimonia
The above review of definitions and findings gives us an outline of what is
meant by hedonia and eudaimonia. I would like, now, to go even deeper, toward
the very heart of the hedoniceudaimonic distinction. I do not think the distinction
is some artefact of a tradition hailing from ancient Greece. I think it speaks to two
very real psychological functions.
There are certainly concepts other than hedonia and eudaimonia (as I define
them) that have been associated with a good life, including relationships,
engagement, accomplishment, harmony, physical health, and attitudes like
optimism; extrinsic values such as material wealth, image, status, power, and
popularity; and basic circumstances such as safety, health, freedom, and essential
material resources (Delle Fave, Brdar, et al., 2011; Grouzet et al., 2005; Kasser &
Ryan, 1993; Schwartz & Bilsky, 1987; Seligman, 2011; Tafarodi et al., 2012).
Eudaimonia and hedonia are not sufficient for an optimal existence, and some of
the above variables are needed as well (including relationships, which play a
major role in well-being; Diener & Seligman, 2002).
Yet there is something fundamental about the distinction between
eudaimonia and hedonia, they play major complementary roles in life. Clarifying
these roles can help us to explain why the hedoniceudaimonic distinction so often
appears center stage, and to appreciate the importance of having a balance of both
Below, I outline several complementary functions. They are not clear-cut,
because hedonia includes eudaimonic functions to some degree, and vice versa.
And they are rough generalizations that sometimes oversimplify the picture.
Nevertheless, they are useful for developing a deeper feel for hedonia and
eudaimonia, especially when pursuing them in practice.
Hedonia is about taking, for me, now; eudaimonia is about building,
something broader, for the long-term. This is perhaps the most fundamental
distinction. Hedonia is a self-nourishing and self-care functiontaking care of
one’s own needs and desires, typically in the present or near future; reaching
personal release and peace, to replenish, heal, and find a fresh perspective; and
“drinking in” nutriments of energy and joy. Eudaimonia is a cultivating function
giving of oneself, and investing in a larger aspect of the self, a long-term project,
or the surrounding world. Thus, it is roughly about taking versus giving, narrow
versus broad perspective, and short-term versus long-term perspective. The
mindsets associated with these orientations might be summarized as desire versus
care. Hedonic desire need not be seen as vulgarI am referring to that healthy
ability to feel and flow with what one needs and wants and relishes. The
prerequisite for eudaimonia is caring in a very general sense, such as
thoughtfulness, and caring about quality, rightness, context, or the welfare of
others. Deeper still, hedonia and eudaimonia are based on distinct assumptions
about oneself: that one has rights versus responsibilities. If one does not feel
entitled to happiness, self-nourishment, and taking up space, it is difficult to
pursue hedonia in the first place. Eudaimonia, on the other hand, begins when a
person takes some responsibility for his or her life and for the implications of his
or her actions (Frankl, 1946/1997).
Hedonia is the pursuit of what feels good; eudaimonia is the pursuit of
what one believes to be right. Implied in the previous sentence are several
distinctions (see also Steger & Shin, 2012, for similar distinctions). First, there is
the affective and biological versus cognitive distinctionthe desirability of
pursuits is gauged in terms of more emotional and physical experiences in
hedonia, but in terms of more abstract values and ideals in eudaimonia. We might
approximate this by speaking of pleasure versus value. There is an automatic
versus effortful distinction. Hedonia proceeds more directly and automatically
from our hard wiring. Eudaimonia is a natural inclination as well (Maslow,
1968)it is fulfilling to use what we have and become all that we can be.
However, eudaimonic ideals must first be developed, and then actively kept in
mind to some degree, if they are to be pursued; as such, eudaimonia is more
effortful and more easily disrupted (Huta, 2013b). To some degree, there is also a
subjective versus objective distinction (Diener, Sapyta, & Suh, 1998). Hedonia
aims at activities that are pleasant for the individual in question. Eudaimonia is
also largely guided by subjective inner processes and gut feelings, but some
eudaimonic aims, such as ethical behavior and maturity, are informed by
conceptions of what is universally of high quality in all human beings.
Overall, hedonia is more fundamental, whereas eudaimonia is more
elevated. We cannot consider one pursuit better” than the other, each is important
in its own way. Hedonia is more fundamental in the sense that it often takes care
of immediate needs and desires, and is based on older brain systems that we share
with other species. Eudaimonia is a “higher pleasure” (Seligman, 2002) in the
sense that it allows people to develop their potential, and it exercises the higher
cognitive capacities which are particularly well-developed in humans, such as
values, morality, and vision (Huta 2013b; Steger & Shin, 2012). The actual
proportions of hedonia and eudaimonia that best suit a person probably vary
widely from individual to individual. But if a person does not have at least some
hedonia and some eudaimonia, they may feel flat and unfulfilled, be more
vulnerable to unhappiness, or develop psychopathology. To achieve optimal well-
being, we need to have some degree of both complementary functions, and they
probably keep each other in check.
Steps Toward Eudaimonia and
The definitions, findings, and complementary functions discussed above
clearly indicate the importance of pursuing both hedonia and eudaimonia. This, of
course, raises the question of how exactly a person goes about pursuing these. I
dedicate the remainder of this chapter to a description of what eudaimonia and
hedonia might look like in practice.
I will first note, however, that hedonia and eudaimonia are present in
various interventions already. For example, prescribing psychotropic medication is
a hedonic intervention to the degree that it is treated as a means to alleviate
suffering. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (Beck, 2011) includes the hedonic aim of
relieving distress and the eudaimonic aim of reducing dysfunction. More strongly
in the eudaimonic direction, we find therapies which also aim to reduce distress,
but which place more emphasis on taking suffering as a flag, even an opportunity,
indicating the need to move toward greater authenticity, meaning, excellence, or
growth. Examples of such interventions are humanistic therapies (e.g., Frankl,
1946/1997; Maslow, 1968; Rogers, 1961), acceptance commitment therapy
(Hayes, Luoma, Bond, Masuda, & Lillis, 2006), and well-being therapy (Fava &
Tomba, 2009). Some interventions explicitly target the enhancement of both
hedonia and eudaimonia, such as quality of life therapy and coaching (Frisch, in
press). And a variety of positive psychology interventions are aimed less at
alleviating suffering and more at enhancing hedonic and/or eudaimonic aspects of
life (Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009).
My aim here is to bring together some key concepts in the pursuit of
hedonia and eudaimonia (which will be italicized) that could form the basis of
interventions and of research on those interventions. (The Appendix also lists
some measures that could be used by researchers and practitioners.) Applied
settings might include coaching, education, organizations, clinical practice, and
self-help. In writing this chapter, I sacrificed much depth, illustration, and nuance
for the sake of at least touching on many concepts and authors that are relevant
the topic could easily fill a book of its own. I will also say that I consider the
proposal below to be a draft, which will undoubtedly be revised and expanded as
our field gains insight into well-being.
From here on in, I will be using more colloquial language, and speaking to
the reader as “you.” This is in the spirit of more direct and intimate
communication, as I will be addressing the reader as someone who may be
personally interested in the pursuit of hedonia or eudaimonia.
Steps Toward Eudaimonia
The four common elements across most definitions of eudaimonia
authenticity, meaning, excellence, and growth (Huta & Waterman, 2013)form
an excellent framework for the pursuit of eudaimonia. These terms therefore make
up the headings of the outline below. The elements are intertwined to some
degree, and what I say about one may also apply to others.
Do you have to do all of the things below? Certainly not. Only one or two
ideas may connect with a need or interest that you currently have.
As noted earlier, authenticity involves clarifying your true self and deep
values, staying connected with them, and acting in accord with them. Authenticity
can be very personally fulfilling and is experienced as meaningful (Schlegel,
Hicks, King, & Ardnt, 2011). At the same time, like the other elements of
eudaimonia, it is largely pursued for a subtler reasonas an end in itself,
something that simply feels right. The concept of authenticity is directly embedded
in the term “eudaimonia” from ancient Greecethe term is made up of two words,
eu,” meaning good or healthy, and daimon, meaning the spirit or true self
(Norton, 1976).
Facing yourself, warts and all, takes a good dose of humility. Soul-
searching to establish, re-evaluate, and evolve your identity brings uncertainty,
and may be a time of crisis (Marcia, 1967). And it is not always easy to make your
persona, profession, and relationships congruent with your true selfit may take
courage, there may be limitations, and you may have to compromise. Yet finding
paths toward authenticity is liberating, brings clarity, makes life feel more real,
and sets a firmer foundation to build upon.
Moving toward a clearer identity involves a dialogue between life
experiences and the inner self (Waterman & Schwartz, 2013). You can cultivate a
habit of noticing moments when something captures your interest, imagination, or
curiosity (Kashdan & Silvia, 2009). Trust that there is a voice inside you, however
vague at first, that can sort out what is “you.” Humanistic psychologists called this
voice the organismic valuing process (Rogers, 1964), and much of positive
psychology implicitly assumes that we all have this ability (Joseph & Linley,
2004). You can learn to hear this inner voice, and to gauge when your mind is
speaking authentically and when it is biased. One trick to bypass your biases is to
ask yourself, What would someone who knows me well have to say?
An important part of who you are is your character strengths. To identify
these, you can take the Values in Action (VIA) Inventory of Strengths (Peterson &
Seligman, 2004). The VIA includes strengths of the head (love of learning,
curiosity, good judgment, creativity, appreciation of beauty) and strengths of the
heart (fairness, forgiveness, gratitude, honesty, hope, humor, kindness, leadership,
love, modesty, persistence, prudence, spirituality, teamwork, zest, bravery,
perspective, self-regulation, social intelligence) (Park & Peterson, 2010).
More generally, you might write an essay or have a discussion (Staudinger,
2001) on questions such as: How do I act when I’m allowed to be vulnerable?
Who inspires me? What did I love as a child? If money or time were not an issue,
what would I do? What do I believe in? To move toward generalizations, you can
start with something specific (e.g., I love cooking, I love sitting by rivers), and
apply a downward arrow technique (Szymanska, 2008), which is a chain of “why”
questions for reaching deeper into yourself, for example, “What is my reason for
liking it? Why does that reason fit with me? What does my last answer say about
me in general?
Perhaps most importantly, take the time to mull things over. Instead of
escaping into a TV show or videogame or Facebook, try shifting some time toward
being with yourself or having a meaningful conversation. The human mind
naturally reviews the past, highlights what was meaningful, brings up what was
discrepant, and connects the dots, if we just give it the time.
To stay connected with that inner “pilot light” at any given time, it helps to
practice mindfulnessfocusing on your experiences in the present, and clearing
away judgments and reactions in an effort to see the experiences for what they are
(Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer, & Tonry, 2006).
Regular meditation is also very helpful. It need not take long, follow
someone else’s prescribed technique, or be in a physically uncomfortable position.
It is a regular time for encountering yourself, possibly celebrating what you are
grateful for, reciting a self-made summary of what you stand for, setting the tone
for the upcoming day, or anything else that helps keep you grounded.
And when you surround yourself with things that resonate with yousuch
as pictures, plants, music, or memorabiliathey provide daily reminders of your
spirit. You could make some of them yourself, or personalize them by building
stories around them. It’s about breathing your own spirit into your world.
Finally, aligning your lived life with your true self partly involves shaping
your activities, and partly involves shaping your psychological approach. Despite
the constraints of life, there is usually something you can do to feel that life is
more on your terms. You might live your passion through a hobby, show more of
your character in your persona, steer conversations to meaningful topics, or
incorporate signature strengths into your work (Seligman, 2002). Sometimes, you
may do major housecleaning, such as ending a meaningless relationship or
switching your work toward more of a calling (Wrzesniewski, McCaulay, Rozin,
& Schwartz, 1997). It isn’t easy, but it helps to think of how much the change will
energize you, and how much less energy will be leeched out of you in the form of
To shift psychologically toward taking the helm, much can be learned from
research on self-determination theory, which points to the following autonomy-
supportive principles (Deci & Ryan, 1987). Listen to your own perspective, and
seek out others who respect your perspective. Use non-coercive language with
yourselfconsider replacing “should,” “ought to,” and “have to,” with phrases
like “it makes sense to,” “now is a good time to,” or “let’s go for it.” It is
liberating to give yourself the freedom to choose how you will act (the core aim of
existential interventions; Warnock, 1970). And think through the rationale for an
activity, to see whether and how it aligns with your interests, values, and meaning
framework, even if it means lumping it in with “daily unexciting chores I
graciously accept as a normal part of life.” Perhaps find someone who embraces
the activity and ask them how they see ittheir perspective can often be boiled
down to a single effective phrase (consider Nike’s brilliant “Just do it!”).
Meaning involves understanding a bigger picture, relating to it, and
contributing to itthe bigger picture may include broader aspects of your life or
identity, a purpose, the long term, your community, society, the ecosystem, or
even a conception of how the entire world works or is meant to work. There is
more to the concept of meaning (Wong & Fry, 2012), but the self-transcendent
aspect is especially relevant to eudaimonia.
Developing an understanding of the bigger picture may involve perplexing
existential questions, and contributing to the surrounding world may involve
personal sacrifice. Yet relating to a broader context gives a role to your actions,
and an opportunity to make a difference (Huta & Zuroff, 2007).
Seeking to understand a bigger framework means being guided by big
questions: How does this bigger picture operate? What is its purpose? What
matters in this bigger context? Such questions raise the likelihood of doubting our
existing worldview, sometimes threatening our sense of stability. I therefore
believe in “nibbling” at them, tackling only as much as we are ready for. I also
believe in being comfortable with half-baked hypotheses—it’s a life-long process
and nobody has the final answers. You can be somewhat systematic in building
your understanding by labeling your hypotheses; for example, “half-baked
hypothesis,” “quarter-baked hypothesis,” or “no hypothesis but interesting
question!” And just assigning such labels directs your unconscious toward seeking
We often develop our life philosophies through exposure to others’
theoriesthrough our parents and local culture, religion, travel, philosophical
texts, discussions with friends, immersion in biography or fiction. But it is not
enough to gather material from others. You need to attend to your own
experiences, and then process it allthrough partly unconscious mulling, or
through intentional use of metaphor or narrative (McAdams, 1993), or through an
intuitive process in which you align yourself with a bigger picture “simply by
doing.” Meaning is based on connections, contrasts, and hierarchiesyou need to
connect the dots somehow, otherwise you simply have a pile of ideas. Perhaps that
is why Aristotle placed contemplation as the highest of the virtues (Aristotle, 350
B.C.E., Oxford translation 1912-1954, republished 2001).
Contributions to a bigger picture have value in some broader, deeper, or
longer-term sense. People can contribute in many different ways, such as random
acts of kindness (Otake, Shimai, Tanaka-Matsumi, Otsui, & Fredrickson, 2006),
service, building, creating, activism, teaching, childrearing, guiding the next
generation, or investing in a worthwhile personal goal. Much of what is meant by
a broader contribution is captured by the concept of generativity, identified by
Erikson (1950) as the central task of adulthood (McAdams & de St. Aubin, 1998).
Contributing also includes refraining from harm, which is a large part of activities
like proenvironmental behavior (Kasser, 2011; Pelletier, Baxter, & Huta, 2011).
Excellence involves striving for higher quality and higher standards in your
behavior, performance, accomplishments, and ethics. I would add that the
standards need to fit with your true self, your means, and your stage in life. And
it’s about the effort and process, whether or not the goal is achieved.
Excellence takes work, long-term commitment, and sometimes risk. Yet it
can be deeply gratifying to know that you have done your best, done the right
thing, or done a good job. It fills you and simultaneously brings a feeling of
release, like something has culminated because you’ve given it your all. It builds
feelings of quality and healthy pride. You appreciate things more profoundly,
knowing how much work it takes to earn them. And it elevates you, inspires you,
and brings you to a higher level of functioning.
To differentiate up from down in the pursuit of excellence, you need some
conception of when a choice is good, right, of higher quality, true, noble, sacred,
or beautiful. We absorb such conceptions from our parents and culture, and
sometimes from character education in school (Berkowitz & Bier, 2004). You can
build a vision of your standard or ideal by imagining how you would behave and
feel, and what you would be capable of, perhaps by writing an essay on your “best
possible self” (King, 2001). You can look to role models, people who inspire you.
It’s worth learning about them in detail, to immerse yourself in their way of
thinking and behaving, and get a realistic sense of the time invested in their
excellence, the costs, and how much of their life is quite ordinary. All that being
said, the development of judgment and ideals needs to be balanced by tolerance,
lest it turn into being judgmental toward others or yourself.
Various concepts in psychology fall under the umbrella of excellence. For
example, Seligman (2002) speaks of regularly exercising your five greatest
signature strengths, and serving a higher purpose. He also describes how you can
turn many jobs into callings, going beyond what is asked of you to create
something special (see also Duffy & Sedlacek, 2007; Wrzesniewsky et al., 1997).
Wong (2010) speaks of responsible actionfinding the right solution and doing
what is morally right. Kohlberg (1984) developed a theory of moral development,
identifying reasoning that ranged from entirely selfish and short-sighted to
prosocial, universally valid, and based on a personal ability to judge what is
appropriate. Orlick (1990) speaks of achieving a high level of excellence in the
performance of your specific profession or sport. In pursuing excellence, try not to
compare yourself with others unless it inspires you or teaches you something you
need. That is, adopt a mastery orientation (focusing on the learning and
improvement itself, and using your past self as a reference point) rather than a
performance orientation (wanting to appear competent compared to others)
(Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Eudaimonia is first and foremost a private dialogue
it’s about your relationship with yourself.
Growth involves actualizing what you feel is right for you, fulfilling your
potential, and pursuing personal goals; personal growth, learning, improving, and
seeking challenges; and maturing as a human being.
Like excellence, growth requires commitment and effort, and brings the
uncertainty and instability of change. Yet people naturally seek out activities
slightly beyond their current ability (e.g., Abuhamdeh & Csikszentmihalyi, 2012;
Deci, 1971). Advertisers do us a disservice by implying that we want everything to
be easy. Growth builds feelings of progress, accomplishment, and competence,
and the fulfillment of bringing a personal project to fruition.
Some theories of growth have proposed universal milestones, whereas
others have focused on person-specific aims (Waterman & Schwartz, 2013).
Maturity is more aimed at universal goals, actualization is more person-specific,
and personal growth is somewhere in between.
Several theories are relevant to the concept of maturity. Erikson (1950)
stated that we pass through stages of psychosocial development, the sequence in
adulthood being: identitydetermining your true character; intimacyconnecting
deeply with others; generativitymaking a difference; and ego integritycoming
to terms with life. Loevinger (1966) proposed stages of ego development, such that
people are initially conformist, then a blend of conscientious and conformist, then
conscientious (rules are internalized), individualistic (autonomy of self and others
is respected), and autonomous (multiple facets are integrated and limitations are
tolerated), and finally integrated (inner conflicts are reconciled). Maslow (1964)
described highly self-actualized people as having realism, tolerance, a non-hostile
sense of humor, autonomy, spontaneity, comfort with solitude, strong ethics and
responsibility, a sense of fellowship with the human condition, purpose, profound
relationships, continual fresh appreciation, and peak experiences.
Personal growth includes processes such as learning information and skills,
gaining experience, improving, deepening insight, overcoming obstacles,
transcending suffering, and setting challenges for yourself. The mind, like any
muscle, wants to be used and developed.
To be open to growth, it is important to believe that it is possible and that
success is based on learning and hard work (a growth mindset), rather than
believing that people cannot change and that success depends on innate ability (a
fixed mindset) (Dweck, 2006).
The somewhat mysterious process of inner transformation will not take
place if you are not engaged, truly interacting with life, as flow theory shows.
Flow is that state of immersion during an activity that you can’t yet do
automatically, but that you find challenging and are able to face with just enough
skill to meet the challenge (too little skill leads to anxiety, too much skill leads to
boredom) (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). People seem wired to seek flow
(Csikszentmihalyi & Nakamura, 2010), and since flow activities extend our
abilities, they lead to personal growth (Csikszentmihalyi & Massimini, 1985).
Personal growth is further facilitated by openness to experience and by curiosity
(Vittersø, 2004; Vittersø et al., 2009).
Actualization involves developing what you feel you are meant to do, what
fits with you, perhaps even what feels like a personal destiny (Norton, 1976). It
need not look prestigious, it need not be understood by others. It’s about coming
into your own. People I have met who lived their passion range from a visionary
department head, to a memorable grocery store employee who just shone with a
zest for helping people, to a retiree who created a giant spreadsheet of historical
milestones simply for personal interest.
Follow your passion first, without worrying about where it will take you,
whether it will succeed, whether it will make money. The logistics come later.
Yes, you may need to adjust your vision in the face of limiting circumstances, but
you’ll be further along than if you never started, and you will keep the flame alive.
It’s like artthe primary mindset needs to be experiential, to feel your way
through an idea, while practical and analytical considerations play an essential but
supporting role. Interestingly, things then start to fall into place, as Joseph
Campbell describes:
Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of
track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you
ought to be living is the one you are living. …. If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldnt have opened for anyone else.
(Campbell & Moyers, 1988, p. 120).
Finally, growth requires some self-management. It helps to be aware of
your stage of change with respect to a project, and to only move forward when
you are ready. When you rush into a project and have to back out later, it’s
discouraging and makes it harder to try again. Prochaska and Velicer (1997)
identified the following stages of change:
Precontemplation: You are not ready and may not be aware of the
importance of the goal.
Contemplation: You are considering the advantages and disadvantages.
Preparation: You are ready and planning your goals.
Action: You begin.
Maintenance: You continue.
Termination: The pursuit has become a part of you and there is little
temptation to drop it.
The preparation stage is aided by implementation intentions, very specific
plans for intermediate steps (Gollwitzer, 1999). Maintenance is aided by grit,
including sustained interest, resistance to distraction, perseverance through
setbacks, and simply sticking with it. Grit is partly based on the understanding that
frustration, confusion, and some failure are normal parts of learning, and do not
mean that you should quit (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007).
Maintenance is also based on self-regulationcontrolling your feelings, thoughts,
and behaviors, through clear standards, self-monitoring, and willpower. Self-
regulation is a better predictor of reaching your potential than is your intelligence
(Duckworth & Seligman, 2005; Maddux, 2009). When you encounter fatigue or
amotivation, it helps to remind yourself of the value of your goalthinking of
values is a more cognitive process and achievable even when your feelings are
down. And I have observed that accomplished individuals often have a means of
periodically organizing their thoughts and gaining perspective on their goals, be it
a diary, pensive walks, or discussions with a confidant. Overall, the stages from
contemplation and onward are fueled by that remarkable class of human abilities
that might be called faithbelieving in something even before it has happened!
such as self-efficacy or believing you can do it, hope, optimism, trust in the
process, and positive vision (Carver & Scheier, 2002; Prochaska & DiClemente,
1984; Snyder, 1995). With such tools in hand, you can see the possibilities, run
with the gifts.
Steps Toward Hedonia
Through hedonic pursuits, we seek to experience pleasure and enjoyment,
relieve distress and strain, and reach satisfaction. Hedonic pursuits cover the full
range from physical to emotional, from crude to sublime, from transient to
profound. Each part of these ranges can be beneficial, if done in the right context
and in the right way.
Hedonia can have undesirable consequences when taken to excess or when
not balanced by eudaimoniafor example, destructive impulsivity, chronic
escapism, addiction, selfishness, antisocial behavior, greed, and unbridled
consumerism. (Eudaimonia can certainly be excessive as well.) But when pursued
in a healthy way, hedonia not only leads to joy and comfort, but also “fills your
tanksand fuels motivation, inspiration, broadened attention, and a desire to build
(Fredrickson, 2004). It also gives you a break so you can find a fresh perspective.
Below, I focus only on healthful approaches to hedonia. In its optimal form,
hedonia brings out those beautiful primal, sensual, and creature-comfort parts of
ourselves that emerge spontaneously when we are fulfilled to our heart’s content,
well-rested, and free of preoccupations.
It is worth looking at Fordyce’s (1983) 14 fundamentals of happiness,
which he tested in several interventions. They provide some good advice for
pursuing hedonia (focusing on the present, not expecting too much, making
happiness a high priority, not worrying needlessly, taking care of yourself), as
well as more eudaimonic recommendations (meaningful work, authenticity,
planning and organizing, solving rather than ignoring problems), and principles
relevant to both eudaimonia and hedonia (engagement, relatedness, positive and
optimistic thinking). More recently, Lyubomirsky (2008) identified a partly
overlapping list of validated positive psychology interventions: savouring, caring
for your body, gratitude, optimism, engagement, avoiding overthinking and
comparing yourself with others, relationships, kindness, forgiveness, good coping
strategies, goal commitment, and religion and spirituality.
Let me add some comments to these recommendations. So much of well-
being is in your perspective, and adopting a positive perspective is something you
can learn (Seligman, 1998). It truly is about seeing the cup as half full rather than
half empty. You can practice selective attention, focusing on what you have rather
than what you don’tthere is usually enough bad material in life to justify misery,
and enough good material to justify happiness, so you can make choices about
your focus (Mather & Carstensen, 2003). Be wary of setting expectations too high
(or having expectations at all), as it undermines enjoyment (Mauss, Tamir,
Anderson, & Savino, 2011; Schooler, Ariely, & Loewenstein, 2003). If you have
the attitude that nothing is ever good enough, nothing ever will be. Appreciate
how much luckier you are than some people, an attitude called downward social
comparison (Wills, 1981). And when things are difficult, balance entitlement with
grace, acceptance, and equanimity (processes aided by eudaimonia, to be sure).
Engagement is critical (Seligman, 2011). Get immersed in what you do,
rather than having an evaluative mindset. Evaluation is useful when change is
desired, but otherwise, when you’re judging from outsideyourself, it blocks
personal enjoyment (Vittersø et al., 2009)imagine someone constantly asking
“Am I happy yet?” Also, intentional activities (e.g., exercise, hobbies, quality time
with family and friends) account for much more of happiness than circumstances
(e.g., getting a raise, getting married, moving to California); intentional activities
are sustained and provide variety, and thus counteract hedonic adaptation, the
process of getting used to your situation and reverting to previous levels of
happiness (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005). Easiness is not always a
gauge of whether a hedonic activity is worthwhilesometimes activities are more
hedonically satisfying when they require effort, be it physical activity or emotional
or cognitive investment (. . . sometimes). Furthermore, seeing an activity as just a
vehicle to happiness, rather than truly engaging in the activity itself, is an extrinsic
mindset (Schooler et al., 2003). Extrinsic motives reduce the genuine connection
with an activity that is needed for enjoyment (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Though I’ve
been speaking of hedonia as the “pursuit” of happiness, it’s important to interpret
this phrase correctly. Happiness cannot be directly commanded or bought.
Hedonia is about engaging in joyful and relaxing activities and attitudes, and then
somehow happiness comes in its own due time (Martin, 2008). To quote Eleanor
Roosevelt, “Happiness is not a goal . . . it’s a by-product of a life well-lived.”
Although happiness cannot be guaranteed, there is nevertheless a way to
very much enhance the likelihood of hedonic experience: savoring. It’s the process
of actively opening your senses, emotions, and cognitive appreciation to indulge in
something longer and more fully. Even the little things, especially the little things,
can be relished—a great tune, a friend’s laughter, or the smell of the flowers.
People can savor the present moment, or the past, by reminiscing and reliving, or
the future, by anticipating and imagining (Bryant & Veroff, 2007). Savoring
processes include physically luxuriating, marveling, basking and self-
congratulation, and gratitude (Bryant & Veroff, 2007). Gratitude is a particularly
powerful predictor of well-being (Emmons & McCullough, 2003), and it is worth
making a habit of celebrating your blessings, perhaps as part of a daily meditation
(Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005; Seligman, Rashid, & Parks, 2006).
There is also an interpersonal form of savoringsharing a positive event with
others who then engage in active-constructive responding, that is, showing
genuine excitement, and capitalizing on the event by discussing it further,
celebrating, telling others, and so on (Gable, Reis, Impett, & Asher, 2004).
In order to take care of yourself, you need to take the time. Don’t hold back
on vacations (they are crucial for eudaimonic development, too), and take breaks
the rest of the year as well. Wells (2012) proposes a 1-3-2 principle, arguing that
people need to rest, take personal time, and completely unplug from work at least
1 hour a day, 3 days a month, and 2 weeks a year. That’s probably a bare
minimum. Furthermore, different people find different activities fulfilling
(Lyubomirsky et al., 2005), and thus it’s important to listen to yourself. Pay
attention to your (positive) fantasies, wishes, and impulses, and follow through
when you can, at least in some small way. You may have gotten into the habit of
ignoring these, but they do resurface here and there, and you can build on them.
Also, take note of how different activities actually make you feelwe are not
always good at predicting what will make us happy (Gilbert & Wilson, 2007).
Finally, I will say that hedonia need not always be a “pursuit.” Sometimes
it’s good to just be. On a cool day in the height of summer, with the cicadas going
and the sound of wind in the trees, who needs anything more than to simply sit? I
truly believe, on an existential level, that we are “meant to” enjoy and just be as
much as we are “meant to” pursue eudaimonia.
The long-standing theoretical literature on eudaimonia and hedonia, the
empirical findings, and the clarification of complementarities all point to the
importance of having both pursuits in life. Much research is still needed regarding
the outcomes, correlates, and predictors of these pursuits. Nevertheless, we do
have enough of a grounding to think about applications. For one thing, discussions
of how a person goes about pursuing hedonia and eudaimonia will deepen our
understanding of these concepts, and help with theoretical integration in more
basic research. It will generate hypotheses for research on interventionsthere is
adequate empirical support for some of the individual elements in my proposal,
but research has yet to be conducted on other elements or on combinations of
elements. Most importantly, I hope that this chapter will serve as a springboard for
discussions of how the vital concepts of eudaimonia and hedonia can concretely be
applied to improve peoples’ lives. When hedonia and eudaimonia are pursued
wisely, with a feel for their deeper natures and intricacies, they can make life full
and beautiful.
Summary Points
Psychology definitions of eudaimonia and/or hedonia fall into different
categories of analysis: orientations, behaviors, experiences, or
There is good reason to consider the orientations category—the “why”
of behaviorto be the most fundamental (though the other categories
provide valuable information as well).
The concepts appearing in most definitions of hedonia are
pleasure/enjoyment and low distress; the concepts in most definitions of
eudaimonia are authenticity, meaning, excellence, and growth. These
sets of concepts can be operationalized as orientations, and can be used
to anchor and organize well-being interventions.
Underlying the difference between the two sets of concepts is a
distinction between major complementary functions in life, roughly
summarized as “taking, for me, now” versus investing in something
broader for the longer-term.
Research on hedonic and eudaimonic orientations shows, among other
things, that they relate to somewhat different aspects of personal well-
being (e.g., carefreeness versus meaning), and that they together relate
to greater well-being than either pursuit alone.
Finally, the second half of the chapter identifies specific activities and
practices that a person can adopt to bring more hedonia and eudaimonia
into their life. I have tried to provide enough examples, caveats, and
principles to give the reader a feel for what these pursuits entail and
when they are truly fulfilling, so that he or she can craft their own path
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Measures for assessing the outcomes of practicing eudaimonia or hedonia
Below, I suggest some measures that might be used by researchers or practitioners when
they need to assess the outcomes of practicing eudaimonia or hedonia. The measures can also
sometimes be useful self-assessments in our private lives. We may choose to evaluate ourselves
when we experience a lack of well-being, or feel that a question needs to be answered. But, as
discussed earlier, excessive self-assessment can unnecessarily detract attention from engaging
with life, make us feel that the glass is half empty rather than half full, and create an evaluative
mindset which interferes with the experience of well-being. It’s a balance.
Sample items
Wood, Linley, Maltby,
Baliousis & Joseph, 2008
“I am in touch with ‘the real me’,” “I am true to myself in most situations,”
“I always feel I need to do what others expect me to do (R)”
Huta, 2012
“Connected with myself,” “Aware of what matters to me,” “Aware of how
I feel”
Questionnaire for
Eudaimonic Well-Being
Waterman et al., 2010
“I believe I know what I was meant to do in life,” “I believe I know what
my best potentials are and I try to develop them whenever possible,” “It is
more important that I really enjoy what I do than that other people are
impressed by it”
Personal Expressiveness
Waterman, 1993
“This activity gives me my strongest feelings that this is who I really am,”
“When I engage in this activity I feel that this is what I was meant to do,”
“I feel a special fit or meshing when engaging in this activity”
Vittersø, Overwien, &
Martinsen, 2009
“Interested,” “Engaged,” “Immersed”
Autonomous Motivation,
Controlled Motivation
Sheldon & Elliot, 1999
“I pursue this activity because of the fun and enjoyment it provides me,” “I
pursue this activity because I really believe it’s an important goal to have,”
“I pursue this activity because I would feel ashamed, guilty, or anxious if I
did not” “I pursue this activity because somebody else wants me to”
Subjective Vitality
Ryan & Frederick, 1997
“I feel energized,” “I feel alive and vital,” “I have energy and spirit”
Battista & Almond, 1973
“I have really come to terms with what’s important for me in my life,” “I
have a system or framework that allows me to truly understand my being
alive,” “I have a clear idea of what I’d like to do with my life”
Presence of Meaning
Steger, Frazier, Oishi, &
Kaler, 2006
“I understand my life’s meaning,” “I have a good sense of what makes my
life meaningful,” “I have discovered a satisfying life purpose”
Meaning Experience
Huta & Ryan, 2010
“My activities and experiences are meaningful,” “My activities and
experiences are valuable,” “My activities and experiences play an
important role in some broader picture”
Purpose in Life
Ryff, 1989
““I sometimes feel as if I’ve done all there is to do in life (R),” “Some
people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them,” “I live life
one day at a time and don’t really think about the future (R)”
Authentic Pride
Tracy & Robins, 2007
“Honor,” “Confidence,” “Achieving”
Huta & Ryan, 2010
“Enriched,” “Morally elevated,” “Part of something greater than myself”
Personal Growth
Ryff, 1989
“For me, life has been a continuous process of learning, changing, and
growth,” “I think it is important to have new experiences that challenge
how you think about yourself and the world,” “I gave up trying to make big
improvements or changes in my life a long time ago (R)”
Jones & Crandall, 1986
“I don’t accept my own weaknesses (R),” “I have no mission in life to
which I feel especially dedicated (R),” “I can express my feelings even
when they may result in undesirable consequences”
Sentence Completion
Test of Ego Development
Loevinger, 1979
“The thing I like about myself is ______,” “My main problem is ______,”
“If I can’t get what I want ______” (RESPONSES NEED TO BE CODED)
Positive Affect
Emmons & Diener, 1985
“Happy,” “Pleased,” “Enjoyment/fun”
Negative Affect
Emmons & Diener, 1985
“Unhappy,” “Frustrated,” “Worried/anxious”
Life Satisfaction
Diener, Emmons, Larsen,
& Griffin, 1985
“I am satisfied with my life,” “So far I have gotten the important things I
want in life,” “In most ways, my life is close to my ideal”
Lyubomirsky & Lepper,
“In general, I consider myself: 1not a very happy person . . . 7a very
happy person,” “Compared to most of my peers, I consider myself: 1less
happy . . . 7—more happy”
Huta & Ryan, 2010
“Carefree,” “Easygoing,” “Lighthearted”
Subjective Vitality
Ryan & Frederick, 1997
“I feel energized,” “I feel alive and vital,” “I have energy and spirit”
R = reverse coded.
... The latter can be defined as that psychological well-being that stems from an optimal and purposeful life, where a sense of vital fulfillment prevails, while maintaining the ethical sphere of the human being. It is worth remembering that both play a complementary role in the overall human happiness (Huta, 2015), so that they cannot be fully understood without each other. ...
... That is, going beyond mere hedonic entertainment and looking for more eudaimonic enjoyment, more rigorous information media, etc. We should remember once again that hedonia and eudaimonia need each other (Huta, 2015), that happiness and virtue nourish each other in a virtuous cycle (Kesebir and Diener, 2013), as Aristotle or Seneca (2018) argued hundreds of years ago. ...
... The latter can be defined as that psychological well-being that stems from an optimal and purposeful life, where a sense of vital fulfillment prevails, while maintaining the ethical sphere of the human being. It is worth remembering that both play a complementary role in the overall human happiness (Huta, 2015), so that they cannot be fully understood without each other. ...
... That is, going beyond mere hedonic entertainment and looking for more eudaimonic enjoyment, more rigorous information media, etc. We should remember once again that hedonia and eudaimonia need each other (Huta, 2015), that happiness and virtue nourish each other in a virtuous cycle (Kesebir and Diener, 2013), as Aristotle or Seneca (2018) argued hundreds of years ago. ...
Full-text available
The confinement of the population into their homes as a result of COVID-19 has entailed a notable increase in the consumption of diverse media. This exploratory study aimed to examine how the increase in media consumption was related to subjective happiness and psychological well-being. For this purpose, a questionnaire was administered to a sample of Spanish adults (n =249; 53.8% women; aged between 18-75, M age = 42.06, SD = 12.37) to assess their consumption of different media before and during confinement. Moreover, participants were evaluated for hedonic, eudaimonic, social and experienced happiness by using the Pemberton Happiness Index (PHI). The results underlined the great increase in the consumption of television for entertainment and social networking sites (SNS) during confinement. Furthermore, it was found that higher consumption was negatively correlated with the level of happiness, so that, people who reported greater well-being, both subjective and psychological, spent less time watching television and using SNS. In contrast, no association was found between the level of happiness and the consumption of news (regardless of the media) and radio. Therefore, it seems that far from cultivating greater happiness, those who engaged in heavy consumption of television entertainment and SNS during confinement were less happy than those who did so more moderately and spent more time using other media or performing other activities.
... Self-control is defined as the ability to override one's own inner responses or interrupt a course of action, especially when conflicting with ideals, values, and social expectations, and to support the fulfillment of long-term goals [9,10]. Huta [11] pointed out two crucial distinctions between hedonic and eudaimonic motives. First, hedonic motives are concerned with satiating one's own needs and desires in the present or near future; in contrast, eudaimonic motives are concerned with fulfilling long-term objectives. ...
... Recent studies have shown that hedonic motives include both enjoyment and comfort [38][39][40], but only enjoyment motives might promote well-being [38]. Similarly, Huta [11] has suggested that while healthful approaches to hedonia would bring pleasure and enjoyment, excessive or unbalanced hedonic motives can have undesirable consequences. Combining previous findings with the current results, it can be suggested that the effects of hedonic motives on well-being are twofold. ...
Full-text available
The pursuit of hedonia and eudaimonia are two ways to fulfill the goal of a “good life”. While some studies report that both hedonic and eudaimonic motives improve well-being, others suggest that hedonic motives are counterproductive, raising the question of whether and why eudaimonic motives are more positively associated with well-being. We aimed to identify the distinct associations of hedonic and eudaimonic motives with well-being and investigate whether they are partly mediated by self-control. A total of 2882 college freshmen (1835 females, 1047 males, mean age 18.16 years) completed measures assessing hedonic and eudaimonic motives, self-control, life satisfaction, positive and negative affect, and eudaimonic well-being. Eudaimonic motives were associated with higher life satisfaction, more positive affect, less negative affect, and better eudaimonic well-being. In contrast, hedonic motives were positively associated with life satisfaction, while also being correlated with a greater degree of negative affect and impaired eudaimonic well-being. Self-control mediated the relationships between hedonic and eudaimonic motives and well-being. Eudaimonic and hedonic motives were positively and negatively related to self-control, respectively. Further, high self-control was associated with greater life satisfaction, positive affect, and eudaimonic well-being and lower negative affect. Thus, eudaimonic motives can lead to a better life than hedonic motives because the former enhance self-control, while the latter lower it.
... 2000). This distinction between the pleasure-driven hedonia and the meaning-driven eudaimonia has been adopted in psychology and has been applied to highlight differences among theories on well-being and happiness (Ryan & Deci, 2001), although the exact definitions and understanding of the concepts vary among scholars and also depart in some ways from those of Aristotle (Huta, 2015;Waterman, 1990Waterman, , 1993Waterman, , 2008. The first actual theories and research on psychological well-being were mostly focusing on the presence of positive affect and satisfaction as well as the absence of negative affect (Wilson, 1967), and as such this work was closer to the concept of hedonia. ...
The present article reports a study conducted to develop and validate a Danish translation of the Purpose in Life test‐Short Form (PIL‐SF) and examine age effects on this eudemonic measure. The study examined the reliability, unidimensionality, and construct validity of the Danish PIL‐SF using a large and representative sample (N = 4,849). The results indicated that the Danish PIL‐SF is a reliable and valid measure of meaning and purpose in life, positively associated with but distinct from hedonic well‐being. The high degree of similarity between the measurement properties of the Danish PIL‐SF, as compared with the English‐language PIL‐SF, supports the validity of the Danish translation. Furthermore, the unidimensional structure of the Danish measure replicates the structure of the English‐language PIL‐SF. Given its large and representative sample, the present study provides the current best estimate of a normative population value for the PIL‐SF. Also, the present study is the first to our knowledge to explore potential relationships between age and the PIL‐SF, and a small positive effect of age on the Danish PIL‐SF was found. Limitations and suggestions for further research are discussed.
... Deci and Ryan (2000) in their self-determination theory (SDT) posited that happiness can be achieved by satisfying three specific types of human needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Huta (2015) has outlined four common core elements of eudaimonic well-being that appear across all theories: authenticity and being one's true self, meaning and purpose in the broader context of one's ecosystem, excellence and striving for higher standards in life, and growth and actualization of one's potential.The implication, as noted by Kashdan et al. (2008), is that eudaimonic well-being is morally superior as compared to hedonic well-being and that happiness is just "the product (or perhaps a by-product) of the pursuit of self-realization rather than the objective being sought" (Waterman, 2007, 612). ...
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The objective of this study was to assess the psychometric properties of the Latvian version of the Flourishing Scale (FS), created by Diener et al. (2010). FS is a brief self-report measure of the respondent's well-being and success in areas of relationships, self-esteem, purpose, and optimism. The scale provides a single score across 8 items. The original FS was translated to Latvian and then back to English. The Satisfaction with Life Scale and Meaning in Life Questionnaire was applied for testing the convergent validity of the FS. Participants of the study were 191 people, ranged in age from 19 to 68 (159 women, mean age M = 30.62, SD = 9.50). Reliability analysis, exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis (EFA and CFA) of the scale were performed. EFA indicated a one-factor structure. Results showed that the Latvian version of FS has good psychometric properties and demonstrated convergent validity. Testing of the original model by CFA resulted in acceptable fit indices.
... While the experience of positive emotions represents a core aspect of hedonic wellbeing, there is empirical evidence to suggest that positive emotions forecast and induce increases in eudaimonic wellbeing, with both contributing to physical wellbeing (Fredrickson, 2013). Thus, hedonia and eudaimonia are interrelated and complementary facets of wellbeing, which together play a key role in human flourishing (Fredrickson, 2016;Huta, 2015). This is consistent with the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. ...
Hedonia and eudaimonia are motivating forces through which individuals pursue well-being. The latter is a multidimensional concept, while hedonia and eudaimonia, both of which are realized through the reward system of the brain, are known to influence each other. Researchers have shown that specific extrinsic values (e.g., material wealth, power over other people, etc.) are associated with a sense of "good life" and may influence both hedonia and eudaimonia. The HEEMA (Hedonic, Eudaimonic, and Extrinsic Motives for Activities) scale was developed to evaluate all three ways of seeking well-being, hedonia, eudaimonia, and extrinsic values, in both a healthy and unhealthy fashion. The purpose of this study was to assess the psychometric properties of the HEEMA scale in a sample of 225 Greek individuals. Participants filled the HEEMA, SWLS, MLQ, Self-Esteem questionnaire, DASS-21, MHC-SF, and Big Five Inventory, anonymously. Reliability and validity indices of the scales were satisfactory (Cronbach's α were 0.734, 0.811, and 0.843 for the hedonic, eudaimonic, and extrinsic motives subscales, respectively). Indicatively, the study showed a positive correlation between aspects of well-being and positive emotions, satisfaction with life, sense of meaning and purpose, as well as with specific personality traits, while negative correlations were found between eudaimonic orientation and depression.
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Executive functioning and happiness are each associated with successful learning and other desirable individual and societal outcomes; however, it is unclear whether a relation exists between them. Executive regulation of happiness pursuits in daily life, operationalized as hedonic (e.g., pursuing pleasure) and eudaimonic (e.g., pursuing personal growth) motives for action, may be a way the constructs relate to each other. In this initial investigation, we aimed to explore whether objectively measured executive functioning skills relate to happiness motives. A sample of 119 college students completed six objective neuropsychological measures of executive functioning and self-reported levels of hedonic and eudaimonic motives for action in daily life. Correlation and regression analyses examined the relations among temporal discounting and two latent executive functioning factors (inhibitory control and working memory) with hedonic and eudaimonic motives, as well as their interaction. Results suggested a possible association between higher levels of eudaimonic motives and preference for higher delayed rewards, as well as poorer working memory. Further analyses suggested that endorsing high levels of eudaimonic and hedonic motives simultaneously (i.e., the “full life”) was associated with poorer inhibitory control and working memory performance, whereas endorsing low levels of both simultaneously (i.e., the “empty life”) was associated with a preference for more immediate monetary rewards. Findings are discussed in the context of goal conflict and risk assessment among individuals who endorse the “full life”. Overall, these findings suggest that complex relations may exist between executive functioning and trait-level happiness pursuits, and have implications for possible interventions aimed at enhancing happiness-related motives and cognitive processes to facilitate learning. Given the exploratory nature of the present study, further investigations are necessary.
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This paper aims to understand the relationship between personality traits, work-life balance (WLB) and eudaimonic well-being (EWB) among individuals in education sector. It is hypothesized that big five personality traits are positively related to different components of WLB and further components of WLB are positively related to different components of EWB. Data were collected from 504 business school teachers through a structured questionnaire from national capital region (NCR) of India. Analysis is done using structural equation modeling. The result indicate that big five personality traits influence all the dimensions of WLB and, hence, are important predictor variables. Finding also suggests that work interference with personal life and health dimensions of WLB significantly impacts EWB. Whereas personal life interference with work and work personal life enhancement dimension of WLB were found to have significant impact on some dimensions of EWB, the outcomes have practical implication in dispositional job design, developing supportive policies, work-life culture and eudaimonia oriented interface for maximizing individual and organizational outcomes. The study reflects towards work-life balance in a novel socio-cultural context and promotes possibility of the mediating role of WLB to the relationships between personality traits and EWB.
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Human behavior is influenced by an array of psychological processes such as environmental values. Despite the importance of understanding the reasons why people engage in activities that minimize environmental degradation, empirical research rarely integrates different types of values simultaneously to provide more complete and multi-faceted insights on how values contribute to environmental sustainability. Drawing from on-site survey data collected in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska (n = 641), we used two-step structural equation modeling to test how variation in behavioral patterns was explained by the cultural, individual, and social values of visitors to a national park. We fused various disciplinary perspectives on the value concept to demonstrate how individual- and group-level dynamics were integral for predicting behavior and better understanding aggregated preferences for environmental conditions in the context of a U.S. protected area.
The effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being was examined. In Studies 1 and 2, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions (hassles, gratitude listing, and either neutral life events or social comparison); they then kept weekly (Study 1) or daily (Study 2) records of their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals. In a 3rd study, persons with neuromuscular disease were randomly assigned to either the gratitude condition or to a control condition. The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.
Optimism is expecting good things to occur in one's life. Such positive expectations are associated with higher subjective well-being, even under conditions of stress or adversity. In contrast, pessimists respond to adversity with more intense negative feelings. There are also differences in the manner in which optimists and pessimists try to cope with adversity. Optimists tend to put the best face on the adversity, but they acknowledge its existence and its importance, and they try to do as much as possible to resolve whatever problems can be resolved. Pessimists are more likely to distance themselves from the problem and put off doing anything about it as long as possible. They are also more likely to give up trying, if things remain difficult. Some kinds of problem solution is proactive, engaged in before the problem arises. Optimists also tend to engage in such proactive efforts, including taking actions to minimize various kinds of health risks. Perhaps, as a consequence of these preventive steps, optimists also tend to have better health than pessimists. They seem to heal faster from wounds, and there is some evidence that when they are seriously ill they experience slower disease progression. It has been suggested that optimists sometimes are no better off than pessimists, and sometimes are worse off: that their confidence can get them into situations where it is difficult to cope effectively. Evidence of such negative effects of optimism does exist, but it is relatively sparse.
This chapter focuses on the use of effortless attention in performing daily activities and tasks. It details a study developed by The University of Chicago and Claremont Graduate University, and named the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) to collect data from subjects of the study investigating the use of effortless attention in daily life. The findings are based on an ESM study of subjects consisting of middle and high school students from around the United States and the Sloan Study of Youth and Social Development. The Sloan study focuses on investigating both effortful and effortless attention experiences of the subjects. A large number of students reveal how effortless attention has helped them to focus better on several tasks without much effort.
This article distinguishes between hedonic and eudaimonic approaches to wellness, with the former focusing on the outcome of happiness or pleasure and the latter focusing not so much on outcomes as on the process of living well. We present a model of eudaimonia that is based in self-determination theory, arguing that eudaimonic living can be characterized in terms of four motivational concepts: (1) pursuing intrinsic goals and values for their own sake, including personal growth, relationships, community, and health, rather than extrinsic goals and values, such as wealth, fame, image, and power; (2) behaving in autonomous, volitional, or consensual ways, rather than heteronomous or controlled ways; (3) being mindful and acting with a sense of awareness; and (4) behaving in ways that satisfy basic psychological needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy. In fact, we theorize that the first three of these aspects of eudaimonic living have their positive effects of psychological and physical wellness because they facilitate satisfaction of these basic, universal psychological needs. Studies indicate that people high in eudaimonic living tend to behave in more prosocial ways, thus benefiting the collective as well as themselves, and that conditions both within the family and in society more generally contribute toward strengthening versus diminishing the degree to which people live eudaimonic lives.