Self-Realization: The Eudaimonic basis of happiness

Self-realization the process of striving toward full potential as fundamental yet obtainable only after the basic needs of physical survival, safety, love and belongingness, and esteem are fulfilled. Also called self-actualization.

Conception of SWB, like positive psychology as a whole, as works in progress. Though widely confirmed in research, some psychologists expanded three component view of SWB to include personal qualities and life activities believed to be the psychological underpinning of happiness.

These expanded conceptions express the eudaimonic view by defining happiness in terms of striving for self-realization.

Self-realization- The Eudaimonic basis of happiness.

  • Eudaimonic well-being is the type of happiness or contentment. We can achieve it through self-actualization and having meaningful purpose in one’s life.
  • Eudaimonic conceptions of happiness, given fullest expression in the writings of Aristotle, define happiness as self-realization, meaning the expression and fulfillment of inner potentials that include our talents, personalities, values.
  • From this perspective, the good life results from living in accordance with your daimon (in other words, your true self).
  • That is, happiness results from striving toward self-actualization—a process in which our talents, needs, and deeply held values direct the way we conduct our lives.
  • “Eudaimonia” (or happiness) results from realization of our potentials. We are happiest when we follow and achieve our goals and develop our unique potentials.
  • Eudaimonic happiness has much in common with humanistic psychology’s emphases on the concepts of self-actualization (Maslow, 1968) and the fully functioning person (Rogers, 1961) as criteria for healthy development and optimal functioning.
  • Following the hedonic view, measures of SWB ask people if they are happy and satisfied with their lives. Whereas, Eudaimonic measures of happiness also ask why people are happy.

What kinds of experiences lead to eudaimonic happiness?

  • Waterman (1993) argued that eudaimonic happiness results from experiences of personal expressiveness.
  • Such experiences occur when we engage ourself in life activities that fit and express our deeply held values and our sense of who we are.
  • Under these circumstances we experience a feeling of fulfillment, of meaningfulness, of being intensely alive. A feeling that this is who we really are and who we were meant to be
  • Waterman believes that there are many more activities that produce hedonic enjoyment than activities. That enjoyment provide eudaimonic happiness accordingly. on personal expression.
  • Everything from alcohol consumption and eating chocolate, to a warm bath can bring us pleasure. But there are fewer activities that engage significant aspects of our identity and give a deeper meaning to our lives.
  • Feelings of personal expressiveness (eudaimonic happiness) were more strongly related to activities. That activites created feelings of challenge, competence, and effort, and that offered the opportunity for personal growth and skill development.
  • However, “The good life,” from a eudaimonic perspective, suggests that the pursuit of pleasure may detract from a personally expressive and meaningful life.
  • Eudaimonic conceptions of happiness include consideration of the difference between healthy and unhealthy happiness.

Psychological Well-Being and Positive Functioning.

  • Carol Ryff (1989) argued that the three-component model of SWB: [life satisfaction (LS), positive affect (PA), and negative affect (NA)] fails to describe the features of a person’s life that provide the basis and meaning of well-being.
  • Well-being, in Ryff’s view, is more than happiness with life. Well-being should be a source of resilience in the face of adversity and should reflect positive functioning, personal strengths, and mental health.
  • Consider the following question: Are happy people also mentally healthy people? At first glance the answer would seem to be yes. It is hard to imagine people suffering from depression or anxiety disorders also being happy.
  • However, people with delusional belief systems or people who derive pleasure from hurting others might be happy and, at the same time, mentally ill; and in the latter case, considered so partly because of the pleasure they receive from hurting others.
  • Eudaimonic conceptions of happiness include consideration of the difference between healthy and unhealthy happiness.


Positive Psychology. Baumgardner and Crothers. 2015. Pearson India Education.

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