It’s About Flourishing Not Happiness

Becoming fully human is about living a full existence, not one that is continually happy. – Scott Barry Kaufman

Happy is a greatly misunderstood and misused word. As the Online Etymology Dictionary explains, happy is from hap meaning “chance, fortune,” and -y meaning “full of or characterized by.” So it originally meant “lucky, favored by fortune, being in advantageous circumstances, prosperous.”

The meaning “greatly pleased and content” is from the 1520s. And now it means “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment” (Lexico.com).

Feeling pleasure is not and should never be the aim of humans. The Stoics said that the aim should be eudaimonia. This Greek word is commonly mistranslated as “happiness.” A more accurate translation would be “flourishing.”

In Bodhidaoism, there are three goals, a moral life, a spiritual life, and a flourishing life. Flourishing means “marked by vigorous and healthy growth” (Merriam-Webster.com), and “developing rapidly and successfully; thriving” (Lexico.com).

Let us seek to live a full existence.

It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts.
– Adlai Stevenson

Published by

Jay N. Forrest

Zen Humanist Teacher.