Are philosophers happy

Finally get lucky when the career elevator goes up. A lucky hand with stocks wouldn't be bad either. And, of course, luck in love, so that the right person can get into life. We all like to be lucky in life - better more than less. However, if you are looking for advice in philosophy on how you can give luck a helping hand, at first glance you have one thing above all else: bad luck. Philosophers, it seems, are not so lucky.

Even the first philosopher in the western world, Thales von Milet, was really unlucky. While taking a walk, he is said to have stared at the sky, lost in thought. He overlooked a pit and fell miserably into it. Ironically, a maid was watching the mishap. The philosopher thinks he is particularly clever because he thinks about complicated things in heaven. But he is clearly unable to pay attention to the way in front of his own feet, so her comment. How embarrassing for a man who considered himself one of the most educated people of his time.

Top managers overestimate their own abilities. For many careers, it's not just performance and talent that are decisive, but above all chance - if you use it properly.

by Jan Guldner, Varinia Bernau

The great philosophers after Thales such as Plato, Aristotle or the Stoics then all agree that it is better not to make one's own happiness dependent on luck. In order to be happy in life, according to Aristotle, it is important that our life as a whole succeeds. His advice: We should always do what we believe to the best of our knowledge to be good and right in view of the circumstances - regardless of whether these circumstances are happy or not. Because those who link their happiness in life to happy external circumstances make it a plaything of chance. And that, according to Aristotle, really nobody could seriously want.

The first key is called "Serendipity"

It is wise to learn from the mistakes of others and to listen to good advice. So here too: The Malheur des Thales and the advice of Aristotle provide two valuable keys on closer inspection to have luck in life. Modern happiness research helps us to discover the first key. There the English term "serendipity" was coined for an attitude to life that lets people recognize happy coincidences. The word goes back to an old Persian fairy tale about the three princes of Serendip, today's Sri Lanka.

The three princes have all kinds of adventures to endure and solve even the most difficult tasks. How do you do it? You face all situations and challenges in an alert and attentive manner. You are “mindful” in the best sense of the word, present-minded and open to the world with all its unpredictable possibilities. And they do not obstruct their view of themselves and the world through unproductive brooding, excessive self-images and too narrow expectations. As a result, they always manage to seize unexpected opportunities and quickly turn them to their advantage. The unlucky Thales, on the other hand, is caught up in his grandiose thoughts and ideas. He is so absent with his attention that he cannot even see the pit at his feet. How is such a person supposed to recognize good opportunities in life?

So whether we are lucky in life does not just depend on chance. A critical prerequisite is that we are able to identify happy opportunities. But how can we determine whether an opportunity that opens up is actually happy for us? There are cautionary examples of lottery winners who squander their millions and are poorer and sicker than before. They show: a supposed stroke of luck can make a person's life deeply unhappy.

In the company of young executives I often experience how demanding the distinction can be: Suddenly the offer of a headhunter for the management of a well-known company is on the table. The peers, the flattered ego and, last but not least, the headhunter say: The opportunity. But will you really be happy in your new company? In the new role? With significantly less time for the children and ultimately for yourself?

It doesn't work without self-knowledge

This is exactly where Aristotle's advice comes in as the second philosophical key to "being happy": When making important decisions, and especially life decisions, we should always orientate ourselves towards what enables our life as a whole to succeed. After we have become clear about it, we should we do what we believe to be good and right to the best of our knowledge. So the criteria of what is good for us are not provided by supposedly lucky coincidence or the opinions of others. An AI algorithm is also not in sight. Here we are ourselves asked: What do I really enjoy? Even when there are times when everything does not run smoothly. What is really important to me and where does my longing draw me? What environment do I need to develop my potential? What challenges do I want accept to grow as a whole person?

However, those who only begin self-exploration in the decision-making situation will often be too slow and see many opportunities pass by unused. A feeling for coherence and inconsistency in your own life in order to be able to trust your own gut feeling is much more helpful and, above all, faster in the specific situation. And you can learn that. This is now also confirmed by personality psychology.

By the way: Thales did not want to let go of the accusation that philosophy was a completely remote endeavor. By chance, while observing the sky, he is said to have discovered a constellation of the stars that made the yield of the olive harvest predictable. When the constellation was particularly cheap, he rented all the olive presses in the area for little money long before anyone else. Lo and behold: the harvest was plentiful this year. In fact, very abundantly.

Many of the requirements that make career advancement easier seem to be a matter of luck. With these tips, your career will still succeed.

Thales could call up virtually any price for using the presses. The hungry old man was suddenly swimming in money. And his contemporaries couldn't believe it. How could the philosopher have so much trouble! When asked what he plans to do with his wealth, he is said to have said: “What do I care about all the money? I am interested in philosophy. When I philosophize, I am happy. But philosophers can also get rich - if they only want to. "

more on the subject
Even when you start school you need luck, because success depends not only on you, but also largely on the people who accompany you on the way there. The problem: who these comrades-in-arms are often determined by chance. Why many careers start in first grade.

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