Like most of America, I recently finished binge-watching both seasons of Queer Eye. I’ve been following the Fab Five religiously on social media ever since, finding ways to incorporate these gorgeous men into conversations with complete strangers. I decided the logical next step would be to invite Jonathan Van Ness, my favorite of the fab, into my kitchen for breakfast. Not literally, of course (one day). Our perfect morning date came in the form of his new podcast, Getting Curious, which addresses anything and everything that JVN is, well, curious about.
In his most recent episode, Jonathan chatted ethics with Ethicist Ryan Huber; as always, balancing the heavy (World War II and genocide, for instance), with the light (giggle-inducing personal anecdotes about “ethically” choosing cheer camp over church retreats). But, as a coach, I found the really juicy tidbit in this particular episode to be Huber’s brief mention of “eudaimonia.” He explained that this fanciful term is something akin to the feeling of complete exhaustion after a day’s work and an accompanied feeling of happiness and satisfaction.
Maybe virtue ethics aren’t the most enthralling thing for you. Let’s try comparing eudaimonia to something more familiar: injury versus soreness. So often, when we feel completely wiped after a hard workout, we say “It’s okay, it’s good soreness.” Compare that to an injury where we respond with something like, “I really need to lay down because my back is flaring up again.” The workout and its accompanying soreness are energizing and propel us towards growth; we embrace it. We know it’s good for us. That’s eudaimonia. That’s what Hubert was discussing. Whereas the injury is actually pulling us away from the best versions of ourselves. That’s just pain.
So here are some explorative questions to drive things home:
When is the last time you felt utterly spent and equally satisfied?
What does that specific situation tell you about yourself?
Remember: ZERO JUDGEMENT around these answers! These are personal to you and it won’t serve you in the least to compare yourself to a friend, a role model, or a partner. It’s about you. Because here’s the thing: We grow at different rates and in different ways. Our endurance and capabilities evolve with every passing day. You are vastly different in 2018 than you were 5, 10, or 15 years ago.
Consider Jonathan Van Ness, a hairstylist by trade. We could imagine that many years ago, before Queer Eye fame, he may have experienced eudaimonia at the end of an exhausting 3-hour hair coloring workshop. But think about the Jonathan we know and love today. He may be able to do that very same workshop, along with a photoshoot, a podcast recording, and top it all off with a comedy performance at night. How can today’s Jonathan accomplish so much more? Because he has grown, he has changed, and he has increased his endurance for greatness. It’s quite possible that years ago, these activities would have simply been too much. They would have “injured” him rather than giving him the “good sore” we’ve talked about.
So, the important question is this: what do you want to exhaust yourself doing? Really, what is your purpose?
Turns out, eudaimonia also translates to “human flourishing” or, “the highest human good” (according to some other guy named Aristotle). Which, when we think about it, couldn’t make more sense. If we acted on our purpose, relentlessly tired ourselves doing that thing, and had a beautiful sleep at the end of the day, what more could anyone ask?