A Model Of HappinessBy
Everyone I’ve ever met considers happiness to be desirable. There is a whole wing of psychology called “positive psychology” studying things like happiness. One of the luminaries of this field is Dr. Martin Seligman, who wrote both Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness. His group publishes a newsletter called Authentic Happiness Coaching Newsletter.
The most recent issue of this newsletter discusses a Model of Happiness developed by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and others. This model describes our happiness as coming from three components.
Our Set Point (50%). This is our natural happiness state. We all know people who seem to always be happy, and others who seldom laugh or seem joyful.
Circumstances (10%) Our life circumstances also influence our happiness. Things like winning the lottery or spraining our ankle both influence our happiness, but typically over a short time period. Humans are very adaptable and so major boosts or dips in our happiness are generally short lived.
Intentional Activity (40%). For this description, let me quote from the newsletter. “The term intentional activities refers to those thoughts and behaviors that require effort. This effort may be apparent only to us (for example, making a list of goals for the week) or it may be visible to others (for example, doing a favor for a friend). They suggest that intentional activities are the key to making lasting changes in happiness because such activities are more resistant to adaptation (the process by which we get used to something and become unaffected by it). We can deliberately engage in activities that make us happy while varying them enough to ward off adaptation.”
This brief summary of this model leaves me with two important conclusions:
1. Most people’s world views on happiness rest with either Set point (we are either born happy or not) or circumstances (it’s easy for them to be happy, look at what they have going for them). Either of these world views is too limiting and fatalistic.
2. We can actively impact our happiness, based on our decisions and actions!
If you want to be happier you can take action to do just that – it is in your control!
How do you do that?
There are many ways you can intentionally improve your happiness. One way suggested by the article is to engage in random (or perhaps intentional) acts of kindness. Make these actions something that benefit others and require use of a personal resource of yours (time, effort, energy, money, food, etc.).
Happiness matters to us as individuals. If we are happier we will likely be much more productive as individuals and as leaders of others too! Once we understand that a big part of our happiness is in our control, we put ourselves on track to be not just happier, but more effective productive and move more rapidly towards our potential.