Realize Meaning In Your Experience Of Living
Actualize Your Potential To A Meaningful Life
Ef Zin reflects a view on life not merely as what is, but what can be if we actively participate in its making. It represents a holistic and all-inclusive antidote to the material aspects of contemporary living because it is about “How to become” rather than “What to be”.
“It is important to live well (Ef Zin, “Ευ Ζην”), not simply to exist” (Aristotle).
Ef Zin has been woven out of the works of Classical Thinkers; more specifically, Aristotle. It represents an era of thinking that, in its essence, discusses how to find “truth” and “good” in our quality of living. More simply, they define how to live well, in full acknowledgment of our human limits and potential. Permeating through Aristotle’s texts is the recognition that our reasoning – our ability to think – is the spearhead to finding meaning and quality in our lives. The quality of our thinking determines the quality of our decisions and therefore the quality of our experience of living. Through Ef Zin we study and practice this dynamic of good thinking, wise decisions and well-being.
Recognize Your Potential As Humans
To Create Value For Yourselves and Others
The need for self-worth is part of human nature. We want our lives to matter; we want our work, our feelings, our ideals and ideas to be of value. We make every effort to differentiate ourselves by constructing the perfect image, the perfect look, the perfect job, the ideal love relationship or the ideal family; we socialize, we keep busy and we smile. We confuse looking happy with being happy and misconceive the transient feeling of pleasure as an enduring sense of fulfillment. This is why the moment we are left alone with ourselves, happiness seems to just slip through our fingers. We become “different” only when we are genuine and we gain self-worth; only when we learn how to cultivate value for ourselves and others.
We are not perfect. There is a paradox in our human nature. We become stronger by becoming aware of our limitations, confident by recognizing our fears and insecurities and truthful by understanding the nature of our self-deceptions. Many overlook the value of this paradox. They look for ways to escape it, ways to mask it, and ways to ignore it by dismissing the negative qualities of self. If we don’t embrace this paradox, we lose the value that its nature entails.
We are not born into perfection but we have the potential of excellence if we pay attention to the way we define those things that truly govern the quality of our sense of being and, therefore, the quality of our living.
Within the Ef Zin perspective it is this very paradox of human nature that holds the energy to propel us forward. But we need to learn how to release this energy and give it a unique identity (morphi, “μορφή”). We need to realize the nature of both positive and negative elements of our personality. To understand how they energize or inhibit our growth. To realize how they can work together in measure (metro, “μέτρο”) to develop a true sense of being; an authentic sense of self.
Well-being is the result of personal effort and not a matter of luck or circumstance. True happiness (eudaimonia, “ευδαιμονία”) – the meaningful sense of self – is the ongoing activity of actualizing who we have the potential of becoming by cultivating our qualities into a true and purposeful sense of self. Well-being is the result of what we make of ourselves (not for ourselves); it needs to be self-defined to be true, self-directed to be enduring and of self-value to be meaningful.
Ef Zin is one of the most accepting perspectives on the human condition. It reveals an acceptance of the humanly imperfect that is as strong as the desire for the human ideal.
Recognize The Value Of Your Qualities
To Discover Your True Self
Discovering our true selves involves recognizing the true nature of our qualities. Our actions and reactions, behaviors and attitudes, way of communication and relations reflect the qualities of our character. The way we react to a disagreement, resolve a conflict, respond to love or look for love, the way we express our sadness or happiness, reveals something about the quality of our character. Unfortunately, we feel that some characteristics are more attractive than others. We are also told that specific qualities are required, for example, in intimate relationships, in work environments and family affairs. We adopt behaviors in our effort to become more confident, more loving, sociable and whatever else is demanded of us. We forget that we can’t become “more” of anything, for example more confident, unless we develop this quality through our experiences and learnings. We also forget that there is no single way of experiencing and expressing qualities. It is in our human nature to feel pleasure, anxiety, fear, love, anger and so much more. However, we are unique in the way we express them in our actions and choices across different situations and people. When we adopt behaviors, we fail to recognize our true character. We may even experience a sense of failure because we fall short of expectations. We need to examine our behaviors and realize our qualities, our true self. We need to be true in defining meaning for ourselves because this truth is essential to our well-being.
Recognizing our true qualities is significant because we recognize our needs through them. Our behaviors reveal our qualities and our qualities reveal the true nature of our needs. All our actions have a purpose; a reason for being. That is to fulfill a need. More often than not, we fail to recognize the true nature of our needs because we adopt goals and behaviors that are non-representative of our true selves. Needs are also qualities. We don’t all have the same needs, and even the ones that we do share, we experience in a unique way. We may all need security, but some of us will address it by gaining confidence in confronting risk, while others by being cautious in their measures against risks. Our needs also change with time. We don’t have the same needs at 18, 40 or 60 years of age. Gaining confidence may be more significant at 18 than at 50. The degree of fear we experience may be different at 18 than 50 and for different things.
Practicing our qualities allows us to address our needs, develop our ability to create meaning and maximize our potential for personal fulfillment.
Recognizing the true value of our qualities is significant because the quality of our sense of self is both the compass and the instrument of well being.
Cultivating our true sense of self involves learning how to energize our qualities to meet our needs and create meaning that is significant to personal growth. It involves realizing when to express a particular quality, for what specific reasons, towards what specific thing and in what specific manner. Thinking about and learning when to feel anxious or angry and to what degree, towards the “right” thing, for the “right” reasons and in the “right” manner. “Right” here is defined in relation to our true selves and the true demands of specific situations. We become better at recognizing and defining our needs when we learn how to energize our qualities across different situations and people. Aristotle calls this thinking process, the ability to find measure. Learning not to be excessively anxious when the situation does not represent a significant threat, but being anxious when the situation does. Cultivating the quality of our character does not refer to a specific quality of being. No one can define better than ourselves the true nature of our qualities and, therefore, our true potential.
Recognize The Value of Your Experiences
To Gain Meaning From Your Learnings
Within the Ef Zin perspective, life is not a path of disillusionment but an enabling journey. Recognizing our true potential is our most difficult undertaking. Some describe this potential as an inclination or talent and passion; a common expression we use in relation to finding happiness is “follow your heart”.
But true happiness is more than finding a profession we truly enjoy or a partner we truly love. It is about recognizing and developing our true sense of self through the learnings our experiences provide. We actualize our potential when we learn how to cultivate our personal wisdom (“σοφία”, Sophia) and bring out our Best by participating in the experience of living. We understand the value of things by examining the consequences of actions (our own and those of others), we test our strengths to find our limitations, we challenge ourselves by setting goals and learn to succeed by understanding why we fail. And all of this is powered and directed by the way we think. By the way we reason and percieve all the experiences and stimuli we are exposed to throughout our lives.
The circumstances of our living vary; some are pleasant and others not, some are difficult while others easy, some are frightening whereas others comforting. The same is true of the people we meet. Experiences provide the opportunities for us to explore meaning and purpose. Life is the field where we express ourselves, make choices, resolve conflict, connect, relate, interact, communicate, and gain learnings about ourselves and life.
We develop our ability to determine both purpose and meaning as we examine ourselves and our actions in the process of living.
Develop Your Qualities into Personal Value
By Exercising Reason And Developing Wise Thinking
“It is their character indeed that makes people who they are. But it is by reason of their actions that they are happy or the reverse.” Aristotle
Within the Ef Zin perspective, our potential to true happiness and a meaningful life depends on our ability to think and make wise decisions; an ability we have as our merit of being human. “Thinking” tends to be written off as an activity for the few – for the elite philosophers or members of academia – but there is value and depth in every person’s ability to reason. Most of us don’t think about the way we think, and if we do, we only touch upon the way we feel about the contents of our thoughts. Although it is extremely important to understand the nature of our thoughts, it’s even more important to understand how they came to be; the process of their conception. Not only analyzing “what” we’re thinking but “why” and “how” we are thinking. In doing so, we can perceive, receive and appreciate all the layers of meaning embedded in our daily reality. More importantly, we can empower ourselves to own our lives by making wise decisions.
We tend to think that decision making involves “significant” matters. We forget that decision making involves fulfilling expectations and these are an integral part of everything we do in everyday living. The content of our expectations is everything we wish for; the ice cream we crave, the partner we desire, the job position we are desperate for, the holiday we are eager to take. Our wishes become our goals and some of these are short term and easy to obtain while others are long term and more difficult to achieve. Goals represent wishes and these in turn represent needs. Expectations reflect the assumptions we make regarding the things we wish will fulfill our true needs.
These assumptions are based on our perceptions of ourselves and others as well as the circumstances of our reality. Assumptions also entail a course of action needed to fulfill the need; what we do to get the ice cream, partner, job or holiday we desire. We have to make choices in regard to what we wish for and how we might go about making them a reality. In making choices and plans our assumptions are very significant. They reflect our ability to foresee the significance of our choices and planning in fulfilling our needs. All this is a thinking process that we are engaged in every moment of every day. Making wise decisions involves having the ability to examine and evaluate the significance of every part of this process. This is why making wise decisions is fundamental to Ef Zin.
Wise decisions lead to meaningful outcomes as a result of our actions and purposeful learnings as a result of our experiences. These are necessary in discovering our true sense of self and our potential to a fulfilling experience of living.
Of course, we don’t always succeed in either defining or fulfilling our needs because there are many factors we need to consider in making decisions; many outside our control. Perhaps getting the ice cream we crave is easier to achieve. But getting the job or having that relationship we desire is not as easy. Even planning a holiday may prove to be more difficult than originally expected. We develop our ability to make decisions when we examine the purpose of our actions; are they true in representing our needs? We also need to examine the way we choose to energize our qualities in achieving the desired outcome. Does our reasoning draw meaningful conclusions? Are our actions representative of our true self? However, we become better at defining our expectations when we examine the results of our decisions; when we examine the significance (value) of the consequences on ourselves and others. Do they meet our needs? Do they resolve or instigate conflict? Is the ice cream we craved as pleasing as we expected? Is the relationship with the partner we desired as satisfying as expected? Is the job we have fulfilling our sense of being?
Cognitively evaluating consequences allows us to recognize the true nature of our needs and our qualities. We develop as we become “better” in defining our needs and cultivating the way we energize our qualities. “Better” in regard to discovering ourselves and creating meaning through decisions that are constructive in directing personal growth. We cultivate our potential by becoming wiser at making decisions. Being able to foresee the value of our actions is true wisdom, because that means we are able to set purposeful goals and engage in purposeful actions that bring about meaningful results.
Reasoning is the very process of making decisions.
Reasoning is the ongoing activity of examining and evaluating the way in which we give direction and purpose to our self-growth, through the decisions we make. Wise thinking involves exploring meaning, examining our goals, evaluating choices, and reflecting on the learnings we gain in the process of development.
The unique way we make decisions represents our unique system of thought. The quality of our reasoning defines the quality of our decision making and, therefore, the degree to which we learn to create meaning and value for ourselves and others.
In dealing with everyday demands, we develop behavioral habits of how we organize our lives, how we relate with others, how we manage our work and how we spend our free time. We get into a “path” and follow its course without examining its value in regard to our personal growth. We follow the path that our profession, our family, and our friends demand and loose sight of the fact that our path is ours to create. We tend to think of decision making in relation to important issues. We don’t realize that every action we undertake entails a decision that brings about specific results for ourselves and others. That there is a reason behind everything we do and a consequence of some meaning and value that follows. We don’t realize that creating meaning is a result of the attention we pay to the details that make up our experience of everyday living. Unfortunately, we tend to concentrate on the results of unexamined behaviors. We may feel that we can’t communicate, that we are estranged from significant others or have difficulty in finding fulfillment. And we revert to “quick fixes” to uplift our sense of being and our perspective on life. The most debilitating of results is to feel inadequate. But inadequacy is not the true nature of our being. We are empowered by our human ability to reason. We can communicate by learning how. We don’t feel estranged when we develop the quality of our relationships. We experience fulfillment when we develop our qualities into a true and purposeful sense of being.
We exercise our reasoning to discover ourselves and cultivate our wisdom in bringing out our best.
Create Meaning For Yourself And Others
Practice Wise Thinking
It’s easier to satisfy a material quality of living than to develop an immaterial quality of being because it requires of us to exercise our reason. We tend to believe that it is more appropriate to adopt behaviors than to practice the qualities we own when we navigate through situations and people different to us. We often feel that it is more rewarding to satisfy the desires of family and friends than to cultivate the understanding that comes to define the quality of these relationships. In many cases, we consider it more advantageous to examine the benefits of our profession than the value we gain by developing ourselves in the field.
As we develop, we gain an understanding of the laws that bring about quality in what may otherwise seem a chaotic and truly overwhelming experience. We learn to act as agents of the lives we create for ourselves and, as a consequence, for others. Our learnings become the ideas that fuel growth and progress. The quality of the results we bring as players in the story of life is as good as the quality of the purpose that sets the process of growth into motion and keeps it energized. Life is meaningful in so far as we actively engage in creating meaning that is of value to us and others.
Don’t forget that we are not alone in this journey – our co-humans (syn-anthropoi, “συνάνθρωποι”) are our companions. When we connect with others we exchange learnings and ideas, discover ourselves through the quality of our relationships and draw comfort in knowing that the human bond we share is what connects us all in our path towards a better quality of living.
Become an ambassador of the Ef Zin way of thinking. Come in touch with your true self and discover the value and self-worth that is your merit of being human.