From egocentricity to eudaimonia - How do the different evolutionary stages of luxury relate to the different stages of happiness
By Neo-Luxury Expert Dr. Julia Riedmeier
Source & Copyright by X Shore
Author: Dr. Julia Riedmeier
From ancient to modern philosophers and humankind, the question of happiness is driving and interesting people. What do we need to be happy and what role could luxury play? Above all, how do the different evolutionary stages of luxury relate to the different stages of happiness? A reflection journey from traditional to neo luxury and from hedonia to eudaimonia.
Traditional luxury - I am what I own
The next designer handbag, the next supercar, the next performance watch – this seems like a Hollywood view. Hereby, acquiring objects becomes key for demonstrating wealth and for making a statement to others or for oneself as a sign of achievement. Despite the perspective, once we have achieved something, we get used to it.
So even if something extraordinary happens, for which we might have wished for a long time, we will soon strive for the next high. Yet, chasing and catching the next wave of excitement quickly leads to a (new) normal level of happiness, whereby extraordinariness loses its allure, luster. So, take for example a flight in business class. Once you have achieved this, you next might aim for, dream about flying in first class. Once achieved, a private jet sounds like a great next accomplishment to strive for. Brickman and Campbell (1971) call it the hedonic treadmill. From their point, wealth however is not increasing our happiness.
So, achieving and maintaining this Hollywood view by more money and objects does not add to an increased long-term level of happiness as we might expect. What we gain is a short high and the desire, adrenalin for the next one. We are trapped in this vicious cycle – aspiration, gaining, normalizing, chasing again – the hedonic treadmill. We experience short-term pleasures, hedonia, which yet can serve as a motor of drive to achieve these dreams. On the contrasting side, there is eudaimonia, happiness as personal fulfillment, well-being, and meaning, which adds to our long-lasting level of happiness.
New luxury - I am what I experience
The wave of new luxury called experience the new luxury currency. Having turns into being: You are what you experience and what you can share. Instagram it, or it didn't happen. Luxury hotelsand restaurants have their high-time, especially if their in- and exterior is instagrammable and people like to go there not only for having a great time but also for getting a nice picture with the iconic interior to share. This also applies, for example, to retail spaces or museums.
It further makes sense, why e.g., banking institutions, car manufacturers count on lifestyle membership clubs with exclusive experiential packages. These clubs lure with (money-can’t-buy) experiences, not only for the exclusivity effect, but especially for the lived moments that create long-lasting memories and bonds. Looking at it from another side: acquiring objects like the supercar and adding them to the own collection is nice (hedonic treadmill), but imagine these products come to life by owner tours in Italy connecting the car enthusiasts.
Yet, it also applies for immaterial experiences that can be a walk in nature or something you are passionate about. Remember the last time you totally forget about the time as you were absorbed, immersed in your flow state of being. Time flies when you are in this state (Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, The Concept of Flow). This can be related to an exciting project you are working on, a diving experience, a yoga session or an experience you enjoy with others. Whenever we enjoy what we are doing, we live in this flow state – eudaimonia. Hereby, you are a key part of it, you are involved. Yet, it is still self-centered - and just imagine to take it one step further.
Neo Luxury – I am what I meaningfully contribute
DNVBs – digital native vertical brands – and luxury brands that have understood the relevance to contribute to society and environment in their actions, integrate a meaningful approach in their businesses. They do not any longer offer just products or services, not even clubs are good enough. They make a contribution. Being part of something bigger than oneself is key. Higher purpose and meaning are a core ingredient of this service or product offering.
Take electric boating which is on the rise. These manufacturers, the Teslas of the sea, are mostly not only building boats, but are minimizing the pollution of our oceans. Like for X Shore, boat owners can enjoy the power of silence while not destroying the maritime life under the boat as many others do and a built-in sea lab can measure e.g., the water quality, which adds the educational aspect.
In the hospitality industry, some hotels go for a plastic-free attitude, where you won’t find single-use plastic but bamboo and glass materials, like at Soneva or Jaya House. They have started by putting people and the planet first right from the beginning on. These hotels engage in socio-ecological projects like planting corals in reefs, trees along rivers, water refill stations.
Source & Copyright by Soneva Hotel
Eudaimonia adds a level that goes beyond ourselves
By purchasing a product or experiencing a service, you become part of it and do something good instead of acquiring and leaving your (CO2) footprint. Younger brands have it in their DNA. It is authentic and it is part of their higher purpose. Traditional luxury brands need to understand the necessity to integrate this in an authentic way at their core as well. The Mark Challenge, a business plan competition by the International University of Monaco, is a great example that builds upon these pillars and creates awareness amongst the young generation.
Above all, there is no other choice for established luxury companies than changing their way of doing business. Embracing this change by large corporations will help us to go one step closer in the fight for climate change and leaving the world a bit better than it was. Hollywood and the old bling luxury seem nice but imagine the glamour with responsibility. Nature is playing such a crucial part and all activities in this ecosystem are linked.
More than ever, looking under the surface is key, in business as in nature: we look at trees because we obviously see them, and we know what role they are playing in climate change. But we forget about the importance of corals under water as we don’t see them. Sometimes it’s the invisible that matters. So, making a meaningful contribution not only creates happiness for oneself but also creates a positive impact for the society and environment we are living in. Whether you are an entrepreneur or consumer. Eudaimonia adds this level of going beyond ourselves. Respectively, brands that we feel connected with and involve us will make the difference. And luxury brands have so much to offer besides exclusivity and craftsmanship. .