Whom Favours Fortune?

During the Mental Health Days, wisdom lovers: Aristotelian Karolina Lewestam and Stoic Tomasz Mazur, together with the meeting participants, considered the nature of happiness. The students asked what happiness is, what tools we need to achieve it, how to arrange our relationships with other people so as not to compare ourselves with them, whether full self-satisfaction is possible, what the difference between failure and easing up is, why we feel ashamed while  succeeding, how to realize that we need help, how to act in moments of serial failures, whether giving up certain goals is good for us.

Happiness or Well-being

Karolina Lewestam defined happiness as a positive relationship with oneself and the community for a long time. Tomasz Mazur mentioned the word well-being as a term that, in his opinion, more effectively expresses the issues of interest to all and pointed to two key factors conducive to well-being: a relatively persistent and deep belief and a feeling of satisfaction that we are at least on the right track to achieving the goals that are important to us and a thorough analysis of what our goals are. It is good to be able to distinguish between external goals, i.e. those independent of us, and internal goals, i.e. those on which we have influence, just like the state of our mind. Karolina Lewestam, in turn, believes that the word happiness has a more existential dimension and therefore does not want to give up this word. The Aristotelian also cannot help but compare herself to others, although she is aware of her relative maladjustment to confront the constantly growing number of opinions due to the development of social media. The Stoic concluded that we currently live in a very unnatural world in which we are exposed to a huge amount of social stimuli. He recalled Plato’s dictum, according to which there is no one good recipe for happiness, but only one for unhappiness, namely striving to please others. The Stoics similarly argued that happiness is independent of what others think of us. Karolina Lewestam drew attention to the issue of prioritization and habituation. Taking into account the opinions of people we consider important to us and experience that often results in lack of satisfaction most often lead to wisdom. Gaining wisdom is a valuable thing, but some kind of ambition is also part of the good life.

Agency versus Acceptance

Tomasz Mazur emphasized the role of self-trust. Each of us is good enough to achieve the goals that are important to each of us. Karolina Lewestam emphasized that our life will be good when we achieve various goals. Together with Misha Tomaszewski, she also recalled the problem of the fundamental difficulty in discerning what depends and what does not depend on us. The Stoic, however, encouraged us to accept the effect that we do not expect and to constantly work on our mentality – to carry out a mental process of deconstruction and construction and if something is not 100% dependent on us, treat it as independent and accept it. He encouraged us to expand our conscious management of internal states, to work on ourselves, to self-reflect on our assessment, which is the area of ​​our freedom.

Karolina Lewestam expressed the need to cultivate our own agency, and Tomasz Mazur stated that we overestimate our own agency and that we should train acceptance. Right from the start, it is important to accept that things may go differently than we think.

Phronesis & Self-reflection

When asked whether easing up is good, the Aristotelian recalled phronesis, that is, practical wisdom, which Aristotle considered a virtue and distinguished from theoretical knowledge and technical skills (source: encyclopedia.pwn.pl/accessed October 25, 2023). It is important to develop a prudent assessment of each situation, and experience teaches us in what situations and how to act. We learn most things from others, so it is good to surround yourself with prudent people and learn discernment from them. After dr Laurie Santos Karolina Lewestam referred to several important conditions of the sense of happiness, namely: direct contacts with other people, physical activity, healthy eating, sleep, helping others and showing gratitude. The Stoic agreed with this approach and added how important it is to deepen self-knowledge and reflect on one’s own hierarchy of values. Referring to his recent reading of Byron Brown’s book “Soul without Shame. A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within” reminded us of the need to work with the inner critic and to make conscious choices every day as the conditions of our freedom of action.

(text: Beata Ciacek; photos: Beata Ciacek)