Entrepreneurship and Eudaimonic Well-Being: Five Venues for New Science

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: Eudaimonic study in entrepreneurship examines the type of well-being involving the realization of personal talents and potential. Such active pursuit of such personal excellence, in the spirit of Aristotle, is fundamental to entrepreneurship.

In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle opened with this question: what is the highest of all human goods? The answer for him was eudaimonia, which he described as activity of the soul in accord with virtue. The key task in life is to know and live in truth with one's daimon, a kind of spirit given to all persons at birth. Eudaimonia is thus kind of personal excellence built on striving to realize one's true and best nature. It is well captured the two great imperatives of self-truth (know thyself) and striving toward excellence consistent with one's given potentialities (become what you are).

Although there is growing research on the psychological well-being of entrepreneurs, most studies to date have focused on hedonic conceptions of well-being. However, key aspects of eudaimonic well-being (e.g., realization of personal potential, purposeful life engagement, effective management of complex environments) have received little attention even though they may be particularly relevant to entrepreneurial pursuits.

Although hedonic and eudaimonic indicators are positively correlated, as would be expected given that both are assessing well-being, they have been shown to be empirically distinct, and may sometimes even be at odds with each other. Purposeful striving and personal growth are demanding, if not stressful approaches to living that may not always be conducive to feelings of happiness and contentment.

What relevance, if any, do these eudaimonic components of well-being have for studies of entrepreneurship? There are synergies between the largely disconnected eudaimonic and entrepreneurial fields.

  • Autonomy emphasizes that one is self-determining and independent as well as able to evaluate oneself by personal standards, and if need be, to resist social pressures to think or act in certain ways. These qualities seem inherently relevant for the self-initiated, often risky, features of entrepreneurial pursuits. 

  • Environmental mastery emphasizes the sense that one can manage the surrounding environment, including making effective use of available opportunities, while also creating contexts suitable to one's personal needs and values. These qualities seem highly relevant to the well-being of entrepreneurs, who explicitly choose work pursuits that require effective management, if not exploitation, of unique opportunities.

  • Personal growth is concerned with self-realization and achievement of personal potential and thus is closest in content to Aristotle's ideas about eudaimonia. Both the presence and the absence of personal growth seem fundamentally important to entrepreneurial pursuits.

  • Positive relations with others is important to study because no entrepreneur succeeds or fails without connections to others. Those who bring these positive social connections to their work endeavors and to those they employ likely increase their prospects of success.

  • Purpose in life is the existential core of eudaimonic well-being, with its emphasis on viewing one's life has having meaning, direction, and goals. These qualities comprise a kind of intentionality that involves having aims and objectives for living. Entrepreneurial endeavors would seem to heighten the essential relevance of these aspects of well-being.

  • Self-acceptance brings a potentially neglected aspect of entrepreneurial well-being. It encompasses having positive attitudes toward oneself, but drawing on the Jungian idea of the shadow, also includes the capacity to see one's bad qualities. Applied to the entrepreneurial context, self-acceptance may be a critical asset, such that effective problem-solving and negotiating through unfolding challenges would seem to demand an honest reckoning with one's self.

A handful of provocative hypotheses worthy of future testing:

  1. Entrepreneurs age better psychologically than traditional employees.
  2. Entrepreneurs have better health compared to traditional employees.
  3. Entrepreneurs are uniquely resilient vis-à-vis work stress.
  4. The above benefits redound to virtuous (not vicious) entrepreneurs.
  5. Virtuous entrepreneurs improve society.

Read the full study HERE

Feature Charticle

Eudaimonia and Entrepreneurship

Carol D. Ryff

Findings:

What relevance, if any, do these eudaimonic components of well-being have for studies of entrepreneurship? There are synergies between the largely disconnected eudaimonic and entrepreneurial fields.

  • Autonomy emphasizes that one is self-determining and independent as well as able to evaluate oneself by personal standards, and if need be, to resist social pressures to think or act in certain ways. These qualities seem inherently relevant for the self-initiated, often risky, features of entrepreneurial pursuits. 

  • Environmental mastery emphasizes the sense that one can manage the surrounding environment, including making effective use of available opportunities, while also creating contexts suitable to one's personal needs and values. These qualities seem highly relevant to the well-being of entrepreneurs, who explicitly choose work pursuits that require effective management, if not exploitation, of unique opportunities.

  • Personal growth is concerned with self-realization and achievement of personal potential and thus is closest in content to Aristotle's ideas about eudaimonia. Both the presence and the absence of personal growth seem fundamentally important to entrepreneurial pursuits.

  • Positive relations with others is important to study because no entrepreneur succeeds or fails without connections to others. Those who bring these positive social connections to their work endeavors and to those they employ likely increase their prospects of success.

  • Purpose in life is the existential core of eudaimonic well-being, with its emphasis on viewing one's life has having meaning, direction, and goals. These qualities comprise a kind of intentionality that involves having aims and objectives for living. Entrepreneurial endeavors would seem to heighten the essential relevance of these aspects of well-being.

  • Self-acceptance brings a potentially neglected aspect of entrepreneurial well-being. It encompasses having positive attitudes toward oneself, but drawing on the Jungian idea of the shadow, also includes the capacity to see one's bad qualities. Applied to the entrepreneurial context, self-acceptance may be a critical asset, such that effective problem-solving and negotiating through unfolding challenges would seem to demand an honest reckoning with one's self.