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Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life #8 - The Epicurean Way to Simple Happiness

Welcome back, wisdom seekers, to another edition of Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life, the series in which I share one piece of ancient wisdom and explain how you might apply it in your daily life.


This month, we delve into the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus and look at how we can live simpler, happier lives.


This Month's Wisdom:

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for." - Epicurus


About Epicurus

Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher who founded Epicureanism, a philosophy that emphasized the pursuit of happiness through simple pleasures, friendship, and a contemplative life.




Born in 341 BC on the island of Samos, Epicurus taught that the goal of life is to achieve a state of tranquility and freedom from fear, primarily through the knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of our desires.


Historical and Modern Context

Epicurus's philosophy is often misunderstood as hedonistic in a modern sense. Today, we use the term "epicurean" to describe someone who is concerned with luxuries and tends to over-value material possessions, foods, and other external goods.


However, the philosopher's actual teachings advocate for moderation, arguing that overindulgence often leads to pain. On the contrary, his idea of simple pleasures as the path to happiness is especially relevant today, in a world where consumerism and the pursuit of material wealth often overshadow more sustainable and fulfilling ways of living.


Reflection on Attainable Goals

Epicurus's wisdom, reflected in the quote above, encourages us to find contentment in what we have, rather than being perpetually dissatisfied by chasing after what we lack. This perspective is crucial when setting goals that lead to true happiness.


By focusing on attainable and meaningful objectives that align with our authentic needs—such as health, community, and personal growth—we can cultivate lasting satisfaction and not just the dopamine hits that come with achieving more.


Personal Reflection

Reflecting on Epicurus's teachings has prompted me to reassess my own goals and desires. It has reminded me to cherish the relationships and achievements I currently enjoy, and to question the societal pressures that push toward incessant striving.


As a recovering perfectionist and anxious achiever, Epicurus's teachings have helped me realize that there's no prize for more. Overall, it's encouraged me to take a more grounded, measured approach to achievement. And it's helped me to remain grateful for what I have rather than stress about what I don't have (or probably need).


Relevance to You

Epicurus's message offers a powerful counter-narrative to the modern ethos of endless growth and acquisition. It challenges you to evaluate your own life and aspirations through the lens of simplicity and contentment. Are your goals bringing you real happiness, or are they leading you away from it?


Your Monthly Challenge

This month, I encourage you to:

  • Identify one area of your life where your desires may be unbounded and reflect on how this affects your happiness.

  • Set a personal goal that prioritizes simple pleasures and genuine needs over superfluous wants.

  • Spend time cultivating and appreciating relationships and activities that truly contribute to your happiness.


Explore Further

To deepen your understanding of Epicurean philosophy and its application to modern living, consider exploring the following:

  • "The Art of Happiness" by Epicurus - A collection of his thoughts and sayings.

  • "Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life" by Daniel Klein - A modern exploration of how Epicurus's ideas can be applied today.


That's all for this month. Join me next month as we continue to explore ancient wisdom and its relevance to our contemporary lives.

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