No research to date asks why some people are naturally more Epicurean and others more Stoic. No doubt there is a genetic component, given the large percentage of personality that sits encoded somewhere in our DNA. But nurture likely also plays a role: In one study, a scholar found that parents who modeled and endorsed eudaimonia had kids who engaged in eudaimonic pursuits. Meanwhile, parents who role-modeled hedonia had kids who grew up to derive pleasure primarily from this model. The implication is pretty clear: If you want children who principally pursue duty and honor, do so yourself. If instead you strive to achieve happiness by minimizing pain, your kids probably will too.
People have argued for centuries about which approach is better for happiness, but they largely talk past one another. In truth, each pursues different aspects of happiness: Epicurus’s style brings pleasure and enjoyment; Epictetus’s method delivers meaning and purpose. As happiness scholars note, a good blend of these things is likeliest to deliver a truly happy life. Too much of one—a life of trivial enjoyment or one of grim determination—will not produce a life well lived, as most of us see it.
The big question is, therefore, how people can manufacture a good blend in their lives between the two approaches. Here are three ideas.