3 requirements to achieve happiness

We all want to live better. We want to be happier and have fewer worries. The problem is that we don’t know how to do it. We have a goal, but the path to happiness seems tortuous and confusing.

Even in the Hellenistic period some philosophers wondered how to achieve happiness and balance. Their answers gave birth to one of the most important philosophical movements of all time: Stoicism.

Epictetus was one of its main exponents. His ideas are centuries old, but they are so timely that they can help pave the way for happiness in the modern world.

1. To be happy, you must first be free

The Stoics did not conceive of happiness without freedom. Epictetus even stated that “happiness does not consist in desiring things but in being free”. He was convinced that this freedom is obtained by reducing desires to the minimum expression.

“Wealth does not consist in having many possessions, but few desires”, stated the philosopher. Attachment to things generates a feverish state that takes us away from happiness and emotional balance. The more things we want, the more we will have to strive to get them, forgetting to enjoy the here and now. This condemns us to a cycle of permanent dissatisfaction. Attachment to material things also breeds fear of their loss, which takes us further and further from the path of happiness.

Therefore, for Epictetus the first step in the pursuit of happiness is to obtain the freedom that comes from detachment from material things, from the awareness that we don’t need many things. This insight breaks many chains, frees us from many conditionings and social pressures that can become oppressive and distressing, allowing us to carry on with a lighter baggage.

2. Get rid of worries, once and for all

Epictetus was the philosopher of carelessness. He understood that to achieve happiness we must not only detach ourselves from matter but also from our thoughts. He said that “the only way to achieve happiness is to stop worrying about things that are beyond our control and our will.”

He also warns us that “man is not so much worried about real problems, but about the anxiety he imagines that these problems generate […] Man is not disturbed by things, but by the opinion he has of them […] ] The events don’t hurt him, but the perception of them does”.

According to Epictetus, we must learn to get rid of worries that only add unnecessary burden to our lives. To do this, we must realize that often anxiety, fear or frustration does not come from the events themselves, but from the way we interpret them.

If we consider that something bad has happened, we will react with anger, frustration, or sadness. If we think something bad might happen, we react with anxiety, tension and fear. But those emotions are more the product of our judgments than of the events themselves.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you assume it. Pain and suffering come from what we tell ourselves about the consequences, about the future, about what will happen as a result of what has happened”, said Epictetus referring to the narrative we build around events. How to get rid of that trend?

Understanding that there is a gap between reality and our response allows us to intervene at the very stage over which we have some control: our thoughts about what happened. Indeed Epictetus said that “circumstances do not make a man, they only reveal what is in him”. It all depends on the lenses through which we look. Our attitude and ultimately our happiness will depend on those lenses.

 

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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