In a world where change and personal growth are constant desires, there exists a single word that has the potential to transform lives: Eudaimonia. As I reflect on my own journey, I can't help but share the profound impact this concept has had on my life. In this article, I’m going to share some of my experiences that helped me learn about this concept and how I used it to transform my own life. The story begins with my college experience, the downward spiral that followed, and the incredible transformation I underwent upon discovering Eudaimonia.
My goal is to share this story with you so that you can apply some of these ideas in your own life. Maybe you’re going through exactly what I went through. Or maybe you’d like to prevent yourself from living my experience. Either way, I think there’s some value to be gained regardless of where you are in your life.
PLUNGE INTO DARKNESS
The College Experience for me was unique. To be honest, I imagine everyone has their own trials that they face during this period of their lives whether they’re a college student, someone venturing on their own in the world while taking a temporary break from academics, someone that decided to dive head first into the Real World as an employee, or anyone that falls anywhere in between. College, for me, was not like the American movies (at least, not at first). My story and plot progression was not linear and predictable. There weren’t grand events of excitement mixed with sprinkles of character growth. College was a constant hurricane of emotions…at least, this is how my college experience began. As a wide-eyed freshman, I entered college with high hopes and grand expectations. I envisioned a fulfilling journey of self-discovery and intellectual growth. However, as the years went by, I found myself grappling with depression, financial struggles, and insecurities that tainted my college experience. It was in the depths of these challenges that I realized something needed to change.
I want to dive into every hurdle that I had to leap over. However, I must begin with the moment I found myself slowly sinking in quicksand, metaphorically speaking. Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever struggled to find romance in your life? Once you have it, the lack of it seems almost unthinkable. It becomes difficult to recall or envision that feeling of being single. But as a young man that never had a girlfriend, it felt like literally, everyone was in a loving relationship. I’d walk through campus. Couples holding hands swarmed the fields like zombies outnumbering me in some kind of episode of The Walking Dead. Loneliness and feeling like you lack control warps your mind. You can’t shut off your desires. You desperately want to experience the love of a woman. But it’s absent. And it feels like everyone else finds what you lack effortlessly. To a degree, it’s almost insulting how easy it is for them.
In college, it seems like people hook up, get together, and break up every other week. You get used to watching that show. At some point, you crave the experience of starring in an episode yourself. I’d find myself being a third wheel often. And a fifth wheel.
And a seventh wheel. No vehicle can function with this arrangement of wheels. And similarly, my personal relationships would always fall apart. Many of my male friends would opt to hang out with their girlfriends. To their defense, I couldn’t blame them. I’d imagine that having a partner was a great feeling. So warm. So cozy. A place where all stress and anxiety fade to nothingness. At the time, I couldn’t even imagine what it was like. And as social media began to dominate our lives, my feelings of unhappiness and inadequacy grew. Being around the herds of couples grew more and more difficult.
As a young man that couldn’t seem to make things click with a girl, you often find yourself questioning your value. Why couldn’t I get a date? Why don’t girls ever text me back? What does she see in him? He’s not even that funny. He’s such a dick, why would she like a guy like that? I’d be a way better boyfriend than him!
Every aspect of yourself is under scrutiny. Your identity is dissected and analyzed with no answers. You eventually lose hope. Constantly putting yourself down exposes you to understanding that you lack anything worthwhile.
No muscles. No money. No charisma. What a fucking loser. Inevitably, the negative thoughts begin to consume you. And so begins the downward spiral.
INTO THE PIT OF DESPAIR
The mounting dissatisfaction and constant comparison to others took a toll on my mental well-being. My academic performance suffered. It became hard to care about my grades and future career. No one goes to college to study for their dream job, right?
As the months went on, my sense of self-worth began to decline one degree at a time. I’d find myself craving distraction from my loneliness by constantly trying to be around people. Partying. Video games. Late-night food binges. Anything was better than being alone.
Because being alone unlocked the door to the intrusive thoughts. During the days no one was available (usually because they were hanging out with their girlfriends or going to parties I wasn’t invited to), I’d find myself crying alone in my room.
These bouts of tears came at random. Unprompted. And I’d often question why I was feeling so sad. At this point, I had officially reached a low. At this point, I was depressed.
Suddenly, I received a letter. This was the end of the fall semester of the year 2013. After a stressful period of finals (which I did not study much for), I received a letter. It politely and formally suggested that I owed money for my tuition. I think it was around $2000 dollars or so. Regardless, it was enough to prevent me from remaining enrolled as a student. And since I lived on campus, I was told that I’d need to forfeit my dorm. Within seconds, I lost my college enrollment and my dorm room. Needless to say, things were not going favorably for me.
I very quickly faced the harsh reality that continuing college was no longer viable. This realization sent me into a downward spiral of emotional devastation and self-doubt, leaving me yearning for a way out.
AN ERA OF GROWTH
Deep down, I always considered myself someone with an inextinguishable fire. Regardless of how bad things seemed, I struggled to completely give up. Perhaps it was naivete on my part. Or maybe it was a subconscious belief in my ability to succeed that I wasn’t fully aware of. I can’t say for sure what that exact feeling was and still is, but either way, I’m glad I possess it.
At this point in my life, I was confronted with a choice. I could’ve stayed home with my parents for a little while. This might have caused me to transfer. Maybe take time away from school for a while. Work a generic job while facing the comforts of home. Maybe save a little money? Maybe not. But then there was the other choice. Return to State College, where my college was located, and try my best to live on my own as an adult. Meanwhile, I’d try to figure out how to become a student again.
I chose the latter. I couldn’t see myself going from free as a college student to being demoted to being a child in my parent’s home. This period of my life was depressing yet simultaneously rewarding. One of the main things I found fascinating while steeping in my self-loathing was how little I appreciated about life. As a student, just months ago, I hated almost everything about school. I thought learning new things was pointless. I had a fixed mindset and believed that you were either born smart and fortunate or you weren’t.
At the time I never even really considered the idea of graduating and finding a job or beginning a career. My goal was simply to enjoy life and have fun by engaging in hedonistic activities like sex, binge drinking, and partying. Being unable to take classes made me appreciate the concept of self-improvement and learning. And during this period of my life, whenever I had a free moment, I’d try to learn new things.
At one point, I dedicated myself to learning at least one new idea or concept a day. This mindset shift transferred into every Pillar of my life. I began to study the components of charisma and communication since I was an introvert that struggled to talk to strangers and make new friends. I took courses and listened to podcasts while walking to get groceries or going to the gym on the dynamics of dating and tactics of players and pickup artists since I was a virgin and wanted to break my curse of being eternally single.
I snuck in pages here and there, trying to commit myself to discovering a new tip or tactic. Sometimes, in between helping customers order their cigarettes at the gas station I worked at. Other times when my tray only had cups and silverware to clean when I worked as a dishwasher at a bar right off campus. I shared an apartment with 3 other students and worked several jobs to (barely) pay the rent. But this opportunity forced me to learn more about personal finances and budgeting. As I read more and watched more YouTube videos on this topic, I began to learn more about stocks, bonds, IRAs, how banks function, investing as a concept, and even Real Estate. One thing led to another and I found my entire worldview being turned upside down. Fairly quickly, I began to challenge myself by approaching attractive girls and trying my best to seem appealing to them. I tried to save money and invest it. I took better care of my health and fitness and began to make a routine of exercising more frequently. I read a book a week at the time on anything I could get my hands on. Despite the tragedy that was getting kicked out of school, I found a light in the darkness. This bad circumstance gave me an opportunity to grow and develop myself. Transform myself. My habits involved spending endless time in the library to pick out new books, reading them, and trying to implement what I’d learned. Eventually, I stumbled upon a concept that truly changed my life. Eudaimonia.
THE FRAMEWORK OF EXCELLENCE
I read book after book in the Schlow Library. Whatever I could get my hands on. I’d take out multiple books at a time, intent to read them as quickly as I could. I wanted to squeeze the life out of each book and wring the contents of the pages into my brain.
Philosophy quickly became a personal favorite of mine. It allowed me to view my circumstances and see the occurrences of the world around me through a different lens.
No longer did I see a bad situation as simply Bad. Good situations were not merely Good. Every event, despite my perception of it, was as good or bad as I interpreted. This gave me massive control over my life. Who knew you could choose how to interpret something? (As a brief side note, I recently discovered a Chinese Proverb that sums this mindset up. You can find it here-- We'll See - A Chinese Proverb )
One day, I came across a single word that proved to be enlightening to learn. This single word clicked on a switch in my brain and helped me truly unlock new levels of structure and ambition in my life. The word--Eudaimonia.
To summarize, Eudaimonia is a Greek word cited in classic philosophy (attributed to Socrates and Aristotle) known as The Flourishing Life or The Good Life. It provides a framework for humans to live by in order to have the highest possible quality of life. Essentially, the framework suggests that humans are not most content by having only good health, money, or good relationships. However, by having all 3 collectively, a human is capable of living his or her highest quality of life and ultimately finding fulfillment. It must be noted that fulfillment is not a state that one simply unlocks. It’s not like finding Nirvana and suddenly being at a higher frequency forever. It’s a state of being that must be earned by continuously building up these 3 pillars. It’s an infinite game that you’re always striving for. It’s almost like hunger. There’s a range. At some moments you’re extremely hungry. At others, you’re not hungry at all. Fulfillment is very similar. Now, while the thought of this may seem terrifying to people, I think it opens the door to a life of limitless potential and enjoyment. Imagine playing a video game that continues to throw new challenges at you and engage you. It never dulls. You never get bored. And you always have something new to try or learn. Imagine the game improves and evolves with you, algorithmically catering to your desires and weaknesses to provide the best challenges and rewards. How can one find a better game than this?
But such is the game of life.
While I was already doing some of what Eudaimonia posited, I lacked structure. Having this structure truly puts my life in perspective. And, to this day, I never really feel lost or lacking in goals as the framework always provides a goal for me. To break down this framework, one achieves Eudaimonia by building up the key Pillars of Life (Health, Wealth, and Relationships) in that order. You’re always strengthening, refining, and adjusting the pillars. But this framework gives you an idea of what you should be working on. For example, if you find yourself out of shape, lacking in money, and with no friends or a close-knit social circle (which is the position I was in), the framework would suggest you work on your health first. As you begin to work on your physical and mental health, you’ll notice a trickle down effect. A better body gives you a higher sense of self-worth. Suddenly, combined with more mental clarity and energy, you find yourself with higher ambitions. You crave more out of life. Your pessimism slowly dissipates and molds itself into an invigorating optimism. And likely, you’ve become validated by others. Whether you’re a man or a woman, a better body and a healthy mindset sucks in others to you like a vacuum. Your optimism and habits developed from a healthy lifestyle cause you to care more about your finances. You find yourself either wanting more money to use your energy to do much more exciting activities, or you simply see yourself as higher status and decide that you deserve nice things like better clothing, a better car, and a better house. So you make more money to build up your Wealth Pillar.
(Fun fact, there have been studies that indicate that the healthier one is and the better their physique, the more money they earn over their lifetime. There are also studies that indicate high-status and high-earning individuals engage in high-performance, athletic activities such as the Spartan Race. This seems to lend to the idea that building your Health Pillar has a trickle-down effect and contributes to you earning more money). Finally, with more money in hand and more energy, you now have the opportunity to have a better social circle. You can do more interesting activities. You can go to more interesting locations. You’re enabled the ability to pay for the chance to be at more exclusive events. All of these things create a positive feedback loop. And, of course, the reality is that each pillar will find something new to build upon. Perhaps you’re in great shape but you need dental work or your vision is impaired. This is a new piece of the pillar to build upon. Or perhaps you’ve been promoted in your job but you wish to start a side hustle or build your own company. This is you adding to the Wealth Pillar. As I mentioned, the framework of Eudaimonia allows you to play an infinite game in which you're always finding ways to improve as long as you keep the framework in mind.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE
Years later and my tragic tale of depression and misfortune has become a story of immense gratitude. At this current point in time, while I still have a long way to go in achieving my biggest goals, I enjoy my life literally every day. I currently have a great girlfriend, a great social circle, limitless motivation, amazing physical health, and healthy, constantly growing finances. As I look back on the “dark times” in life, I appreciate them completely. I truly believe that contrast is how we value things. By going through the darkness and coming out into the light on the other side, you get to see how great things truly are.
Realistically, I’ve come to understand that if I didn’t go through the difficult points in my life, I would have missed out on learning Eudaimonia.
There’s a chance that I would never have been motivated to find it on my own. Or perhaps no one like myself would be sharing it so consistently for me to stumble upon it. The dark times are what allowed me to learn about the concept and ultimately discover the framework to take control of my life. Hopefully, after reading this article, you take that first step into learning more about Eudaimonia and taking control of your life. Remember, build your Health, Wealth, and Relationships in order to live a life of excellence, true abundance, and fulfillment. Hope you kill it in life!