“What does your perfect day look like?”
The question startled me because I had never meticulously imagined the perfect day from waking up in the morning to going to sleep at night. Sure, looking back we can often say ‘that was a perfect day!’. Often it wasn’t entirely planned but it somehow worked out beautifully when we look back on it.
When I started consciously imagining perfect days it turned out to be so helpful in making all sorts of decisions. After all, if your perfect day involves being outside all the time, an office job will not be giving you the joy you are looking for. If your perfect day is being surrounded by people and physically active you will not be happy as a lab researcher.
Work is, for most of us, a large part of our day to day life. A lack of (paid) work will therefore play a large role in it and the psychological difference between paid work and unpaid work is a tricky one. So are guilt and responsibility. We ‘need’ to work to pay the bills after all, we need to contribute to society, we need to be responsible in taking care of our family. We make choices in the strain work has on our private life, our relationships, the price we pay in being (time) away from home and our loved ones. The price we pay by not developing our artistic or musical skills. The price we pay in our health and the continuous stress we feel in our body and mind.
The topic fascinated me in such a way that I have researched our human needs and life decisions for years, even wrote a book on it. I looked at it from all the possible angles including (new age) spirituality, psychology, religion and yoga philosophy.
Although everything helped shape my vision it wasn’t until I came across the great philosophers that I felt I found true understanding. It turns out that these questions have been around as long as humans have been thinking. Eudaimonia is one of the words that not only has a magical ring to it but also has a deep, true meaning. Aristotles coined the word and it became a moral philosophy “that defines right action as that which leads to the "well-being" of the individual, thus holding "well-being" as having essential value.
The term "eudaimonia" is a classical Greek word, commonly translated as "happiness", but perhaps better described as "well-being" or "human flourishing" or "good life". More literally it means "having a good guardian spirit". Eudaimonia as the ultimate goal is an objective, not a subjective, state, and it characterises the well-lived life, irrespective of the emotional state of the person experiencing it”. (See link for more info on the matter.)
If we base our life goals on eudaimonia then our mission is to live life in well-being. There is no division between our private life and our working life. Our working life is an extension of who we are. No work-life balance needed, the balance is inherent in our daily choices. If we do the work that is in line with our eudaimonia we don’t have to work another day in our life because we love what we do, it helps us flourish and it never feels like work.
That’s “bull shit” my friend said the other day when we talked about this. “It’s bull shit because we need to do stuff and some of it simply sucks”, “no eudaimonia to be found in cleaning the bathrooms and doing tax returns, in dealing with irritating clients, in dealing with death and divorce!”. It startled me a bit, after all I had found the jackpot, I had discovered the manual to a truly happy life and I wasn’t about to give that up.
When we imagine our perfect day we may consider doing all day what we now do as a hobby or our passion. It may be painting, writing or gardening. What we don’t realise when we turn that into our ‘work’ is that the guilt and responsibility we have always associated with ‘work’ now end up weighing down the love of our passion because it no longer is just that; a passion. It now has to produce and deliver. It has to be made practical, it has to serve us in a pragmatic sense. We need to comply and adapt to outside requests. It’s weird what happens in our mind when, what we most love, needs to bring home the bacon. Compare it to sending your kids out to work double shifts to pay your rent.
My friend retaliated by saying that she discovered she really enjoyed her previous ‘work’ again, after hating it for years. because being good at something gives such satisfaction and actually, she kind of loved that about it.
And so do I. I love that by doing what we think we love we find out what we NEED to do. Discover the meaning behind what we want, who we want to be and what we need in this phase of our life. Discover the practical wisdom of our own everyday decisions and discover what we want to liberate. Which part of us will never be weighed down by outside expectations, by money or responsibility. It turns out that that aspect of our lives allows the flourishing of all the rest. Not everything that we do needs to make sense.
It’s a bit like writing this article. Whatever you may think when you read it… it’s fine. It’s my passion to spill my philosophical guts, no price attached. What it has become is a way to share ideas and inspiration that will help define the meaning of our contribution to Back to La Tierra. A way to think aloud, start meaningful conversations and discover that we each need to design our own life-manual. No generic model will do the trick.
Discover what you need and it will give all aspects of your life the meaning you require.
(In October 2018 we will be moving back to our finca in Mijas to create perfect days ... see www.backtolatierra.com)
Inspired by everything that matters and convinced that creative living is on top of the list.