The Secret to Happiness? Choose Your Type

secret to happiness

Happiness. We all deserve it. The pursuit of happiness is even enshrined in the US  Declaration of Independence. Each of us finds it in a different way: time with family or friends, the feeling of a job well done, spending an afternoon in the mountains, or with a good book. You would think there are as many kinds of happiness as there are people. In fact, there may only be three.

Three Kinds of Happy

Types of happiness, where they are found and their implications, are explored in the World Happiness Report  and in Dan Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones of Happiness.  The report identifies six contributing factors:  caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance. Buettner says there are three drives that, when satisfied, can make us happy: Pleasure, Purpose, and Pride.  If you live in a culture that strongly encourages one of these, you are more likely to be happy.

Experienced Happiness: The Pursuit of Pleasure

Meet Lulu. At 40, Lulu has a wide circle of friends with whom she regularly goes dancing, hiking, or just hangs out, talking. Her friends and family, and the fun they have together, are the center of her life. Her job? Definitely secondary. Lulu is living a life of experienced happiness, also called positive affect. She lives every day to the fullest, focusing on maximizing joy, for herself and the people around her. Boettner identifies Costa Rica as the country and culture most representative of Experienced Happiness, which focuses on finding pleasure.

Endaimonic Happiness: The Purpose-Driven Life

Annett, a 35 year old mother of twin girls, is an archaeologist who also volunteers in her local community garden. She loves the constant discovery and learning in her career, and the way it contributes to our knowledge about our ancestors. She brings her girls to the community garden. Here they learn about the importance of nature, and the value in donating time to something important. Annett is living a purpose-driven life. Boettner says these people are most likely to answer yes to the question ‘did you do something interesting in the last 24 hours?’ Boettner identifies the Scandinavian countries, especially Denmark, as having a culture most representative of Endaimonic Happiness, which focuses on purpose.

Evaluative Happiness: Pride and Accomplishments

Last, meet Josephine, a 29 year old hedge fund manager. She loves her car (black BMW 5-series), her condo filled with works from edgy new artists, and her big bank account. Josephine is living the dream of evaluative happiness, which focuses on pride. Asked how happy she is, Josephine is likely to use a scale of 1 to 10. Boettner says Singapore is the classic example of this culture. It also resonates with many Americans.

The Secret to Happiness? Pursue your Happiness!

Your culture, your personality and your experiences combine to influence which type of happiness best fits you. The name is not important. What is most important is that you understand which one fits you best, and fill your life with it.

Oh, and the happiest countries? According to the 2017 World Happiness report, they are Norway Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland.

Marne Platt

Dr. Marne Platt is the President of Fundamental Capabilities and the author of 3 books (so far): Living Singlish: Your Life, Your Way; Professional Presence; and PREP For Success. Originally a practicing veterinarian, she built a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry. She founded Fundamental Capabilities to ‘pay it forward’ by providing career development workshops and coaching for women. ‘Living Singlish: Your Life, Your Way’ is an ‘older sister in your pocket’ packed full of advice for young women on building their own independent and exciting life. 'Professional Presence' and PREP For Success' help you strengthen your spoken and unspoken communication and leadership presence.