“Blu” Mural in Berlin (PC: Pascal Poggi)

You don’t need much to be happy.

Lessons from Epicurus on our pleasures, friends, and wants

Nobody wakes up thinking “Wow today sucks and I want it to suck more! I can’t wait to have a huge fight with my girlfriend, get laid off from my job, and lose all my money in a housing crash today.”

  • Buy a few trips, a car, a house to satisfy your wants
  • Raise a nice family and see your kids grow into adulthood
  • Retire comfortably with enough money saved over for a nice retirement

Chasing desire endlessly doesn’t make you happy

For most of us buying things doesn’t bring happiness alone. Once we’ve got our hands on that “something”, we enjoy it very briefly and then turn our eyes to the next thing.

  • A sense of (financial) security that’s free from worry and anxiety
  • A comfortable way to go about doing whatever you want in your retired years, which means long-awaited freedom with your time.

Lessons from Epicurus

Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher who lived from 341BC — 270BC. Even way back then at this time were people moved by the question: “what is happiness, and how do I live my life happily?”

Statue of Epicurus
  1. Natural, non-essential pleasures: Sex, ego, pride
  2. Unnatural, non-essential pleasures: Power, money, influence

Enjoy the simple things in life, and live happier

We have an idea of how Epicurus would have broken down the materialistic cycle of consumption and desire that many people live by. But that doesn’t clearly tell us how to live happier per se.

  • Focus on spending more meaningful time with the people you care about, and the people you love.
  • Realize that if it isn’t for financial leverage to help people or for financial security, excess money won’t get you extremely far in the “feeling fulfilled with your life” department

Final Thoughts + Key Takeaways

I try to take a more pragmatic approach to extract actionable steps that we can take to implement the thoughts of these great thinkers into our daily lives. Ultimately when it comes to building a better state for pleasure in our life, I think we can 3 main takeaways from Epicurus:

  1. Spend more time with people you care about and make your time spent with them meaningfully. Remember that the people you love won’t be around forever!
  2. Separate the voice of others and your own as to what you think living well means. Be the CEO of your own life: dictate your happiness by your terms.

Sources

  1. Philosophize This (Podcast) on Epicurus:
  2. Youtube video describing the fundamentals of Epicurian philosophy:
  3. Video on Epicurus’ views on “Living the Good life”
  4. The School of Life on Epicuruianism

Undergraduate builder & researcher @UofT in the crossroads of computer science, immunology, and genetic engineering.