Believing in yourself and knowing your goals is paramount to your success and happiness. However, as TV shows and our social media feeds become awash with big houses, flashy cars and people seemingly earning thousands of dollars a day, it’s easy to become disheartened and distracted and start questioning your life decisions.
A word I remember every day is euthymia. In Seneca’s essays on tranquillity, he defines euthymia as:
“Believing in yourself and trusting you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction.”
This old Greek word has an incredibly powerful and important application for modern living.
To me, in practice, euthymia is the difference between calm and frantic, patience and rushing, present and expectant. It’s what allows me to be solid rather than malleable, content rather than envious.
Diogenes Laërtuis describes euthymia as:
“Cheerfulness, a condition according to which the soul lives calmly and steadily, being disturbed by no fear, or superstition, or other passion.”
Here’s why I believe the word euthymia and its application to work and life has never been more relevant and important:
Social media and comparison
Whilst we’re scrolling a stranger’s Instagram feed and gathering a snapshot of how they spend their time, it’s easy to feel pangs of envy and begin to compare our own reality with their feed. Over time it can wear away at our self-esteem and self worth and contribute to mental health problems regarding identity and purpose. More importantly, someone’s social media portrays their version of success, not necessarily ours. Will this lead to us thinking we want what they have, when we actually don’t?
I believe that keeping the concept of euthymia at the forefront of your mind helps avoid those pitfalls. If you clearly know your own path and purpose, you simply won’t have feelings of envy towards anyone else’s life. Even beyond that; if you know what you’re trying to achieve you probably aren’t spending that much time scrolling the social media profiles of other people; you’re working on your own game.
How do you avoid following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction? You know your own path and you stick to it.
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don't much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
~ Alice in Wonderland
Internet and opportunity
Thanks to internet access and online platforms such as eBay, Amazon, Shopify and Wordpress, it’s straightforward for nearly anyone to pick up a laptop, watch a few tutorials and start a business. Anyone who has done it knows that starting is easy; it’s turning that start into a long-term success that’s not.
Marketing campaigns aimed at business owners or startups don’t want you to think it’s going to be demanding, or hard work. The rhetoric is instant gratification and quick wins; mistaking years of hard work for an overnight success, perhaps because it’s more accessible and will more likely lead to sales of their product. As professionals, of course we want to believe that we are only days away from success. From winning the lottery or someone finally discovering us. The internet makes that all possible… right?
Actually, promises of quick wins, lottery mind-sets, and opportunities that seem too good to be true are exactly that. A distraction and a detour designed to benefit someone else by misleading you.
If you’re not sure of your own path or where you’re going, you could be fooled into thinking that success via an alternative method is easier, or that there’s a quick-win to be seized. There are no quick wins. There is no silver bullet. You make it easier by putting the work in and laying solid foundations to build on, not by flitting about believing every sales video advertised to you.
Remember Tom from MySpace? He could have raised millions in investment and turned MySpace into today’s Facebook. He could be attending conferences with world leaders and giving keynote speeches. He could be ploughing the profits into space travel and working out how to colonise other planets. But Tom from MySpace didn’t want to do that. He knew his own path and nothing could deter him from that. Tom sold MySpace in 2009 for $580 million and has since been travelling the world taking photographs.
Perspective and opinions
In 2014 Oprah Winfrey published a book called What I Know For Sure. It follows her journey, her experience and how she finds the truths she can believe in. Then she lives according to these truths. For everything you believe to be true, there will be someone who believes it to be untrue. Euthymia says this doesn’t matter. As long as you have defined your own beliefs about the world around you and your place within it, you can hear other perspectives and opinions, take them on board, but let them slide off you rather than infiltrate your core.
Once you have defined what you do and don’t believe to be true, and set your own goals for life and work, be careful about sharing them. In the 2010 TED talk by Derek Sivers, he urges you to “Keep your goals to yourself”. According to the talk, sharing your goals makes you feel like you’ve already achieved them.
I believe that sharing your goals allows others to tell you why you might not achieve them; which might deter you from your path. Euthymia says be sure of your own goals and how you’ll get there, but focus on quietly working away instead of shouting loudly.
“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
~ Winnie the Pooh
In Ichiro Kishimi’s book, The Courage To Be Happy, he says, “Don’t be afraid of other people looking at you, don’t pay attention to other people’s judgment and don’t seek recognition from other people. Just choose the path that is best for you and that you believe in.” Euthymia reminds me to choose the advice I take on board and the opinions I value.
Define your happy, your goals and your truth and stay on your own path. Euthymia.