What is the source of satisfaction in life? This is an age old question of meaningfulness of life with which philosophers have grappled.
All of the ancient Greek philosophers agreed satisfaction in life could not be dissociated from understanding of and application of oneself to right living. Satisfaction with life could not then be dissociated from a person’s capacity for living in consonance with whatever it was he or she had come to accept to be constitutive of right living.
Satisfaction had to do with mastery of self within context of demands of right living.
In light of characterization of satisfaction, Aristotle posits the role of civil society is mediation of conflicts between people, either because mastery of self induces conflicts, or because lack of mastery of self, which induces immoral behavior, is requiring of discouragement or restraint.
The Greeks demonstrated Aristotle’s understanding of role of civil society in their approach to world dominance. Note here that even Rome, which eventually would supersede Greece as world ruler, was settled with Greeks while Rome remained under domination of Greece.
Greeks settled in domains conquered by Greece tended to be up and coming Greeks for whom there was not much room within Greek society for maximization of self actualization. Resettlement of such people to conquered domains such as Rome reduced dimensions of conflicts which were outcomes of pursuit of self actualization within Greece itself, provided opportunities for potentially unlimited growth to up and coming people, and provided avenues for spreading of Greek culture.
A good understanding of Greek civilization reveals they conquered other domains not for enslavement of other peoples, but as part of mechanisms for management of conflicts of self actualization within Greece. This is the reason much of expansion of Greek culture was accomplished via combination of threat of war and signing of treaties. Threat of war served mostly as tool for bringing of small states to the negotiation table. Given people who obtained new opportunities had to be part of the fighting force, opportunities for maximization of self actualization typically were earned as opposed to merely conferred.
For a while Athens and Sparta competed, in their capacity as different city states within Greece for domination of the world (431 – 404 BC). Sparta won the military conflict via defection of an Athenian General, Athens won the philosophical conflict. Sparta won, yet lost because Sparta cared only to the strongest. There was no path to self actualization for the strong, or the stronger because they always were bested by the strongest. Sparta went on to lose relevance for or lose interest in world affairs; Athens went on to become mother of a new civilization rooted in importance of education or enlightenment, and rights to self actualization.
In aggregate, and in so far as ancient Greek philosophers are concerned, satisfaction with life derives in entirety from mastery of self, with civil society arbiter of conflicts that are outcomes of mastery or lack of mastery of self. We all today owe our knowledge driven economies to Athens, the mother of Greek civilization.
How does this then relate to work or professions?
Every profession is possessing of its own body of knowledge, its own ethics, its own ethos. Within context of Greek philosophy, satisfaction in realm of work is outcome of mastery of relevant body of knowledge, mastery of professional ethics, mastery of ethos of the profession. Satisfaction comes from confidence of mastery.
Within context of Greek philosophy, satisfaction with work comes from confidence of mastery.
One of the reasons we increasingly are having crises of leadership around the world is because we no longer value self mastery to be a normative good of society. American politics was so deficient of such leaders, a career businessman who had developed mastery of an image, and was willing to make promises to which he could be held accountable won Office of President of the United States. Hillary Clinton had the political accomplishments, the image of self mastery, however, was lacking. Lack of self mastery was evident in unwillingness to make explicit promises to which she could be held accountable. It might not be much of an exaggeration to say Donald Trump likely is on his first protracted foray into not mastery of an image but mastery of the self.
A society which does not celebrate self mastery cannot expect to be led by people who practice self mastery. America now is led by a man who mastered an image, promised self mastery to the people, who now has to deliver on his promise.
It is time for societies everywhere in the world once again to celebrate self mastery to be a normative value of life. If ever there was evidence that hedonism destroys fabric of society, this current age has produced clear evidence of link between hedonism and degradation of social interactions within society. After all, how can people who do not impose restraints on themselves in their own affairs impose restraints on themselves in course of interactions with others?
It is time for good and necessary change in our societies, change which of necessity must commence with you and I.