The many paths to happiness

The many paths to happiness

An article in a recent edition of the Journal of Positive Psychology (an academic publication for happiness geeks like me, Dr. Happy!) I was reminded of a concept about which I'd been fascinated but, as happens from time to time, I'd forgotten about.

I was, therefore, very happy to be reminded about this idea and I'm now very happy to introduce it to you (or remind you of it if you too have previously stumbled upon this thesis).

In short, the construct is known as "orientations to happiness" and basically, it proposes that different people require and/or prefer different approaches to happiness. This not very radical idea argues that, surprise surprise, we're all different!

But too often we forget this; too often we think we need to do what "so and so" is doing or as coaches or psychologists, we get stuck in a pattern of offering the same things to all clients because it worked for someone last week!

Anyway, although there are a number of general principles that may well be beneficial for most of us the thinking in this domain is that there are atleast 3-5 different "orientations" to happiness which are:

  • pleasure or positive emotion

  • engagement

  • relationships and connectedness

  • meaning and purpose

  • achievement and accomplishment

What does this all mean? Well, quite simply, it means there are different paths that might take us to the ultimate goal of happiness.

What does this mean? It means we all need to find our own paths and we can't necessarily just copy someone else and expect to get the same results!

What does this mean? Notably, it means we don't necessarily have to walk every path. A friend of mine recently commented that he was finding it difficult to find meaning and purpose in his life and without really thinking about it in this context I encouraged him not to worry about it too much; just to work on achieving something or building his positive relationships. Although purpose and meaning are almost certainly important for all of us in some ways it's also probably true to say that some will find the finding of this much harder than others; that doesn't mean they can't enjoy happiness and in fact might enjoy more happiness and wellbeing if they focused more on the other "orientations" (at least for now, at this stage in their lives).

So give some thought to your primary orientation (or orientations) to happiness and then give some thought o how you can devote as much of your time and resources as possible to these endeavours to ensure you get the greatest "return on your invesment" as possible. 

So that's the "what", how about the "how"? 

Following on from the previous article about orientations to happiness we give you now some practical strategies for pursuing each of the different paths. If the previous section was interesting and thought provoking (which we hope it was); then we hope just as much that this section is practical and helpful.

If your primary orientation is pleasure then…

…make sure you actively schedule fun and pleasant activities into your life on a regular basis

If your primaray orientation is engagement then…

…make sure you utilise your strengths as often as possible and also, find new ways to use your strengths on a regular basis

If your primary orientation is relationships then…

…make sure you devote time and energy to those people in your life who're important or who you want to be important

If your primary orientation to happiness is meaning then…

…clarify exactly what it is that gives you meaning and purpose, reflect upon your values and priorities, and find ways to remind yourself of and to focus on these each and every day

If your primary orientation to happiness is achievement then…

…ensure that you regularly set and work towards goals, even if it's a small step each and every day, to ensure you get your regular dose of accomplishment

How and where do you find your happiness? Share with us on The Happiness Institute's Facebook Page : )