Why some people are successful and happy, while others are not? Who are the modern successful people? What was the definition of being successful in ancient times? Do we have the same personal problems people had some thousand years ago?
During the last century, there have been published probably 100 times more literature books for self-development and pop psychology than during the last millennium in total. The topic is in high demand because the world is getting more and more stressful every day and people experience the struggle of being successful. But is it really helpful? Or is this entirely a matter of placebo new trends and short-term relief effects without real and deep inspiration? Otherwise, if they were helpful, why would people struggle so long and so passionately, again and again?
One of the most known and powerful authors of the 20th century, who wrote about success and happiness, was Stephen R. Covey (author of the best-selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”). He said that there is a huge difference between what ancient philosophers taught us millenia ago and what most modern psychological authors declare. The idea of his books was based on the Principle-Centered Leadership, while most authors of our days teach us positive thinking and other superficial methods. He went deeper into principles of fairness, integrity, honesty and human dignity. Principles which are pretty much the same as the ones taught by Aristotle.
From his work “Nicomachean Ethics” we can learn what was the idea of a successful and happy person at that time. The question “What makes people happy?” has troubled humanity for centuries and continues to do so. Aristotle declares that all successful people possess distinguished virtues, such as: courage, temperance, liberality, magnificence, magnanimity, pride, patience, truthfulness, wittiness, friendliness, modesty and righteous indignation. So, every person can become better and happier if she/he puts them into practice in their life.
Aristotle’s logic, especially his theory of the syllogism, has had an unparalleled influence on the history of Western thought. It did not always hold this position: in the Hellenistic period, Stoic logic, and in particular the work of Chrysippus, took pride of place. However, in later antiquity, following the work of Aristotelian Commentators, Aristotle’s logic became dominant, and Aristotelian logic was what was transmitted to the Arabic and the Latin medieval traditions, while the works of Chrysippus have not survived.
The influential ideas of Aristotle, as well as of other ancient important philosophers, can be still found through many significant works of 20th and 21st centuries. For example, “Atlas Shrugged”, a very famous novel by Ayn Rand, is a hymn of Aristotle’s Logic and at the same time was inspired by the myth of Atlas and Atlantis (well known from Plato’s dialogue “Timaeus and Critias”). The book, among other things, tells us a story about modern, successful people, who have power, dignity and live according to aforesaid principles; today’s “Atlases”, meant to hold up modern world’s sky on their shoulders.
The Atlantis story has had a considerable impact on literature beginning from Renaissance (ca. 14th century). The Russian mystic Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and her partner Henry Steel Olcott founded the Theosophical Society in the 1870s with a philosophy that combined western romanticism and eastern religious concepts. Blavatsky and her followers in this group are often cited as the founders of New Age and other spiritual movements. Blavatsky took up Donnelly’s interpretations when she wrote The Secret Doctrine (1888), which she claimed was originally dictated in Atlantis itself.
So, what if we would go back and implement the ancient ideas of success, happiness and dignity into our lives? Perhaps it would be easier to make the world a better place and stop people from suffering… After all, it’s worth trying; isn’t it?
Researched & written by Olga Kuzmenko
Psychologist/Marketing Director at Samotour