The Happiness Spectrum
By Leo Gura - February 24, 2015 | 68 Comments
The best and worst kinds of happiness
This is Leo for Actualized.org, and in this video I want to talk about understanding happiness. I am going to share with you my happiness spectrum.
Happiness is a topic that we need a better and deeper understanding of as we are going through the self-actualization process and as we are doing personal development. What do we need to know better? What kinds of happiness are good for us and what kinds of happiness are bad for us?
In this video, I am going to be talking about this. I am going to be making a distinction between two fundamental types of happiness. This distinction will help you in your personal development journey to go through and identify which happiness is the one that is the most right for you.
I am also going to share with you my happiness spectrum, which is this large list that I created and which takes you through all the fundamental categories of happiness that you can have in your life. Then, we kind of rank them. We’re going to show you which ones are the lowest quality happiness and which ones are the highest quality happiness.
I am going to tell you the most high quality happiness, the number one activity that you can do to attain the highest quality happiness. So, stick with me. The basic distinction that we need to make here is between what is called pleasure, on one hand, and then gratification, on the other hand.
Pleasure VS Gratification
If we go back 2000 years into antiquity and we take a look at what the Greeks and Romans were talking about when they were talking about happiness, which was a favorite topic of theirs, we can take a look at Aristotle. He makes this distinction as well. He calls it hedonic happiness versus eudaemonic happiness.
What does this actually mean? Hedonic happiness or pleasure is the most obvious and typical form of happiness. This is the stuff that titillates your senses or raises your emotions in some sort of pleasurable way. It’s stuff like drugs, food, sex or excitement of any kind.
This is basically thrill seeking. This is what we call hedonism. This was contrasted with the eudaemonic happiness. That is what we are calling gratification here. It’s gratification versus pleasure.
What is eudaemonic happiness? This is a little bit more difficult to capture. It is not immediately obvious why you would want to pursue eudaemonic happiness, but I will talk about that and I will make a case for it as we go forward.
Eudaemonic happiness is all about living a virtuous life. The Greeks and Romans were really big into this thing called virtue and living a virtuous life. What that really meant for them is the same thing that it is going to mean for us now, which is embodying your greatest strengths, living up to them, living a life of integrity and noble purpose and living with higher consciousness and wisdom.
That is basically what eudaemonic happiness is. The Greeks and the Romans have this term called arte. Arte basically translates as living excellently. That is the same thing as living virtuously. You see, we are kind of contrasting.
We’ve got the pleasures of the body, senses and emotions on one hand, and then this kind of wisdom and virtuous and noble living on the other hand. This is the fundamental distinction we are making. Now, I want you to already start asking yourself this.
How much of my happiness currently, if I graphed it out, if I took all the stuff that I do in my life and I graphed it all out in a given week, all of my activities, how much of them would be about hedonism and how much of them would be about eudemonia? The degree to which you’ve got this ratio is what? Is it 50/50? Is it 90% here and only 10% here?
Maybe you’re doing well and you’ve got 90% here and only 10% there. Basically, in all of personal development, what you are going to be doing is you’re going to be increasing the ratio of eudaemonic and decreasing the ratio of hedonic. That is what you should be doing with all of your personal development goals and everything that you are trying to achieve.
I will talk more about that as we go forward. This ratio is important. Ask yourself where you lie. You are also going to start asking yourself how you can move the ratio more towards the eudemonia. They have actually done a lot of research on this now, with positive psychology.
They are finding more and more that the stuff we think makes us happy, which is all the hedonic stuff, isn’t so. The hedonic stuff seems like it’s going to make us happy because it is the most thrilling and exciting in the moment. It’s the most thrilling and exciting if you don’t really think long term too much.
This is stuff like awesome food, taking great vacations, getting a huge bonus at your job, having a cushy career, having fame, acclaim and prestige in your career, sex and any kind of chemical drugs that you take that make you happy. It’s all of this easy stuff. This stuff is easy.
The problem is that the eudaemonic stuff is much harder. It’s not immediately obvious that it’s going to produce the same levels of satisfaction as this stuff here, the hedonic stuff. Actually, with all the research they have done, I will talk about this a little bit more as we talk about my spectrum. The hedonic happiness is like a hollow and shallow happiness. You think that it’s going to make you happy.
You chase it and you chase it and you chase it. You are probably going to spend a good 10 to 20 years of your life, if not more, caught in the trap of chasing hedonic happiness. But, what you’re going to find, after all that chasing and all that hard work, is that it’s going to make you unfulfilled and unsatisfied on the inside.
When that starts happening, you then start scratching your head and wondering this. What’s going on here? Why is my life not really improving, even though I’m doing all this stuff in my life? I am accomplishing all of these big goals. Well, that is what is going to hit you. You need to turn from the outside more into the inside and start to live this nobler and more virtuous type of life.
When you start doing that, then that is when you’re going to start to see the fulfillment come into your life for real, rather than this hollow happiness that you were getting over here. It’s an interesting point that eudaemonic happiness is gratification. It cannot be chemically induced.
There is really no shortcut for it. It also takes hard work. It doesn’t come naturally and it doesn’t come easily to most people. If you just do the average thing that most people do, then what happens is that you always drift towards heavy hedonism.
If you want to move towards eudemonia, then you have to work a lot. That is where personal development comes in. It is also curious to me that you cannot chemically induce eudaemonic happiness, because what is eudaemonic happiness?
Ultimately, it’s this feeling of strength, inner integrity and nobility that you have. How are you going to buy that? You can’t buy that with money. You can’t create a magic pill that will do it for you. All the shortcuts towards happiness end up being hedonic happiness.
This is why you can’t really buy yourself happiness because you go out there and you try to spend your money doing it. But, you realize, after a while of trying that, you’re just kind of spinning your wheels and you’re not getting that deeper fulfillment that you can get in life. This can only happen through the hard inner development that you do to move yourself more towards eudemonia.
That is basically what the ancient philosophers were about. Ancient philosophers weren’t just disputing abstract theoretical ideas about metaphysics and stuff. They were doing that as well. Mostly, they were just interested in how to live the highest quality life.
What they ultimately discovered is that it’s through excellence, wisdom and embodying a lot of these self-help principles that you see in my videos. Basically, it is self-actualization. It is the process of self-actualization. They just had different labels for it.
What I want to do now is this. I want to get into my spectrum and tell you a lot of details about the different types of happiness that we can be engaged in and hopefully how good and bad they are. Before I do that, there are three factors I want you to look out for when you’re thinking about an activity that provides you with happiness.
Number one is this. How long does this happiness last, in its duration? Does it last for five seconds, 5 minutes, an hour or a day? How long does it last? That is an important consideration as you’re strategizing it.
The second important consideration is this. What does this cost to produce? How much does it cost you to create this form of happiness? Does it cost you a lot? Does it cost you a little?
The third thing is this. What are the consequences of engaging in this form of happiness? What does it cost me long term if I keep doing it again and again and again? Does it make my psychology weaker or does it make my psychology stronger? This turns out to be a really key consideration.
The Happiness Spectrum
So, let’s talk about the spectrum. The spectrum is going to go from this side here, which is going to be pure hedonic happiness, to this extreme side over here, which is going to be pure eudaemonic happiness. It’s going to gradually just kind of move in this direction towards eudaemonic happiness.
I am splitting this spectrum up into three chunks, the first third, the second third and the last third. The first third is going to be the stuff you really want to avoid. This is pure hedonic stuff.
The stuff in the middle is going to be moderately okay types of happiness. The stuff on this last third is going to be the best. As I’m telling you this stuff, I want you to already start thinking about how you can be moving away from the first third and moving towards the last third.
As you can probably guess, what is the most obvious hedonic happiness? It is drugs. So, you’ve got drugs. After drugs, you’ve got food, partying and drinking. After that, you’ve got beauty.
Now, beauty is an interesting one. What that means is trying to make yourself physically look better and more attractive. A lot of us get hung up on this, on how we look. So, we try to look better. This goes for both women and men.
It’s probably a worse situation for women because women are judged more on their appearance. Men get caught up with beauty too. This is worrying about your hair, worrying about how you look, worrying about how you dress, trying to impress people with your beauty, getting plastic surgery, obsessing about makeup and all of this kind of stuff.
You might think that doing beauty and improving your appearance is going to make you a lot happier. Actually, they have done studies on this. What they find is that people who obsess about beauty are not happy. They are more miserable.
They have also done studies and found that people who are more physically attractive, objectively speaking, are no happier than the average or even below average attractiveness levels of other people. So, beauty is really a trap. You’re not really going to make yourself more fulfilled just by working on your beauty.
The next thing is money. Money is huge and money becomes a trap for many people. Many intelligent people get trapped by money. Many business people, many entrepreneurs and many CEOs fall into this money trap, chasing money. They think that money is going to do it for them.
But, it doesn’t do it. In fact, they have done research on this as well. They found that people who have primarily money based goals in their career and their life are the most frustrated people. They are not happy. Even if they achieve their money goals, they are still not happy.
Hopefully, you are already wise enough to see that money doesn’t directly buy you happiness in any meaningful way because all that money can do is buy you more of this hedonic happiness. It can buy you drugs. It can buy you food, drinking, partying, beauty and some other stuff that we are going to get into here. Ultimately, all of that stuff is very shallow and unfulfilling by itself.
So, money is not going to do it for you. In addition to money, there is also shopping. Shopping can basically be a form of addiction but I don’t think most of us are addicted to it. We tend to think that shopping or buying something, whatever it is and whether it’s a new TV, a new house, a new car or anything else for your house or however lavishly you want to set up your place, somehow is going to do it for you. This also goes if you’re shopping for clothing.
Of course, it’s very hollow. The amount of happiness you get is very short and it doesn’t produce that kind of higher level of fulfillment that you want in life. The next thing is media and entertainment.
This includes television, internet, social media and video games. All of this entertainment is so cheap now. A lot of it is totally free that you can get with the internet now. The really dangerous thing about it is that it can consume so much of your time. It can literally consume hundreds, if not thousands of hours of your time every single year.
What I find the biggest problem here is that this creates an opportunity cost. This means that if you’re heavily engaged in entertainment, like video games, internet and television, you’re missing out on so much more that you could be doing with your life because you are wasting that time. Then, that time is not available for you to do the more eudaemonic types of happiness.
Here, you could potentially make your biggest gains right here, by eliminating some of this stuff. Again, they have done studies on this. Basically, what they find is that people who watch lots of TV go around like this. In fact, if you watch lots of TV for long periods of time and if you measure the mood, what they discovered is that the average mood of someone watching several hours of television is mild depression.
It’s not happiness. So, it might seem like you’re getting lots of pleasure from this stuff. Actually, it’s kind of rotting your soul from the inside out. That is the problem.
The next thing is gossip and idle socialization. When you kind of mindlessly hang out with your friends or you have a social circle, you like to gossip about stuff and talk about politics and all of this kind of nonsense, it can seem like that is rewarding. Really, it’s not. That is very hollow.
The next thing is pursuing fame, public image and “success”. These are like external signs of accomplishment. Do you pursue these? If you’re really busy chasing fame and status, it is basically equivalent to chasing money.
If you’ve ever gotten any fame or status, it’s hard to initially believe, before you have it, that it wouldn’t make your life better. Once you get it, you realize this. Well, people know me now but what does that do for me really? On the inside, it doesn’t do much for you at all.
It is just exciting when you get it. After you get acclimated to it, your fame, prestige, all of this stuff and all of your public image, public status and all of your ability to impress people with accomplishments, it really doesn’t mean much for your internal levels of fulfillment. This can be a huge trap and you can waste a lot of time chasing this stuff.
The next thing is validation from other people. How much of your time and how many of your goals are centered around getting people to like you, to approve of you and give you compliments? This is a huge and pointless activity, to be doing this.
The next thing is porn and sex. How much time and how many goals do you have on your “to do” list that are about getting more sex and chasing after sex? With porn, you don’t need to chase after it. It is so easy to get. It can also be a big diversion from the things you should be doing in your life.
The last piece on this first third of the spectrum is going to be romantic infatuation. This is the first six months or so of a new relationship, a new intimate relationship. You are all excited, it feels great and you like falling in love. It’s that feeling.
This is really a chemical romantic infatuation and it’s not sustainable. It always dies off. It feels great, but then the fulfillment it brings you in the long run isn’t really high. So, that is going to be the first third.
Now, if you’re engaged in any of this stuff, first of all realize that anything in this first third can become an addiction. You can develop an addiction to anything here. It’s to chasing money, to drugs, to food, to validation, to fame, sex or even romantic infatuation. Watch out with that because all of these things are very addictive.
Also notice that all of these things give you a big spike in excitement in your life, but then that spike quickly comes down and when it goes up again, it always comes down lower. You kind of get left with this feeling of emptiness after you engage in some of these behaviors and activities. You should start thinking about how you can get the goals that you have, that are centered around all of this, to move over to what we are about to talk next.
The next thing is going to be the middle third. You’re going to have hobbies, any kind of hobbies that you have. Those are mostly alright, no problem there. It is also pretty good to have physical exercise and physical growth as part of your routine. That is a healthy type of thing.
Don’t confuse that though with beauty. Some people do this with physical exercise, especially guys at the gym. I see them doing this. They are into physical exercise and they tell you they do physical exercise. Actually, what they are doing is they are obsessing over beauty. Don’t think that if you’re a guy, you’re immune to this beauty thing.
You are not immune to it at all. The next thing is friendships and strong relationships. You can have shallow friendships and gossipy types of friendships, or you can have deeper, stronger and more intimate friendships. Those are the ones you want to be going after.
That can be a good source of fulfillment in your life if you can develop a couple of really solid friends. We’re not talking about Facebook friends, but face—to—face and real friends. Also, family is good.
Relationships that you build with your family and strengthen with your family are going to give you higher quality of happiness. Lastly, in this middle third, there is going to be companion at love. A companion at love is the love that you have in a relationship after those first six months pass and some of the chemicals and excitement wear off.
Then, you develop this kind of deeper bond with this person. That can be quite good. That is the middle third. The middle third is quite healthy, so if you can just move yourself from the bottom third to the middle third, that is already going to be a huge improvement in your fulfillment levels in life.
I think that it’s really the last third, which I’m going to talk about right now, that is the most exciting for me. This is what Actualized.org is talking about. It’s all this stuff that you could do with your life if you move yourself to this third right here. That starts off with learning and education.
How much of your time are you spending on learning and educating yourself, especially after you get out of college? Are you still keeping up with your education? Are you not only educating yourself, but actually savoring it and taking pleasure and joy from it? If you’re not, you’re missing out on some really good eudaemonic happiness right there.
After that come excellent work and flow states. Do you really value your work? Do you do your work excellently? Do you proud yourself on your work? Does your work produce flow for you?
Flow means these periods when you lose self-consciousness and you’re in that zone where everything is flowing and everything is effortless. You’re totally engaged and absorbed in the activity. Does your work do that for you? If not, you need to create that.
The next thing is inner development and self-acceptance. By inner development, we mean any kind of personal growth activities that you do, whether it’s therapy, coaching, exercises, journaling, meditating, seminars or workshops. There are a million different ways you can do personal development.
Also, this means any kind of work you do to accept yourself exactly as you are, and not worrying about your beauty and trying to be different. It’s not worrying about who you should be as an ideal, but instead just accepting yourself exactly as you are. There is work you can do. I have videos on self-esteem and how to build your confidence.
It’s anything you can do to build your self-esteem and confidence levels, and just be happy with who you are right now, how you look, how much money you have and what kind of friends you have. The more you can accept all of that stuff, the truer fulfillment you will have in your life. You can’t really be fulfilled in life if you’re not accepting of yourself.
Do you understand this? You’re always going to be frustrated inside, no matter what kind of external circumstances you can create for yourself. The next thing is kindness. They have done research on this.
They found that in the laboratory, one of the greatest chemical pleasures that you can have is by doing kind things for other people. They have actually done experiments on this. They found that if they give people money, 5 or 10 dollars that they can use to spend on themselves and buy something nice, the person is happier if they use that money to do something kind for somebody else rather than spending that money on themselves.
Our brain is literally wired for doing kindness towards others. The problem is that most of us haven’t figured out how to integrate this happiness into a consistent and systematic way into our own lives. It is really not a part of our daily routine, and that is doing kind things.
It is also not really natural to some of our work, to be doing kind things. That is an alignment that you could create for yourself though, to be doing more kind actions. The next thing is gratitude. Gratitude is huge.
They have done lots of research on this too. They found that, basically, if you’re not grateful for what you already have, then you’re not going to be satisfied. You tell yourself this. I will be grateful when I get that cool thing that I want, that money, trophy wife or whatever.
But, if you can’t be grateful now, then when you do get that thing that you really want that you think is going to make you happy, you’re not going to be grateful for that either because your brain will just ratchet it up. Hedonic adaptation will happen. Then, you’re going to be out and chasing the next greatest and flashiest thing.
So, gratitude will never happen. If gratitude never happens, you’re not going to be fulfilled. Gratitude is again one of those things that you can practice. You can develop it as a ritual for yourself. This is something that needs active development.
The next thing is integrity. Integrity is really huge. It goes to the core of what the Greeks and Romans were after, and that is living a life of integrity. This is kind of an old school value.
You might wonder this. Integrity is something that my parents or even my grandparents would value. Yeah, and that is for a good reason. Even though integrity is not flashy, it is important. You cannot be really fulfilled in life if you’re living a life that is disintegrated.
What we mean by integrity is this. Are you living up to your greatest values? Are you doing the things that are actually meaningful to you in life? Are you honoring commitments to others and to yourself? Of course, this means not lying, not cheating, not stealing and not harming others.
Even more subtly, it means this. How good are you to keeping your own commitments to yourself? Do you tell yourself you’re going to do something and then you don’t do it? Do you set a goal for yourself, but then you quit? If you keep doing that again and again and again, you preach at people but then you don’t walk your talk, you’re then not in integrity.
You are going to be miserable. No matter who you are, human beings need that integrity in order to feel fulfilled. So, working on integrity is really huge. That is something that I actually identify with myself just recently. I can make some big gains in my fulfillment levels if I just buckle down and fix a couple of areas in my life that are a little bit out of integrity.
That is something that I want to be working on in the near future. The next thing on this list is contribution. I think contribution is one of the biggest things that people I see in American society are just totally missing out on. Contribution is what your work does for the betterment of humanity and the world.
What kind of impact does your work have? Is it contributing in a meaningful way and that you believe is meaningful? It’s not that other people believe it’s meaningful, but you. You have to believe it. This one I think I’m pretty good on because I spent the last few years of my life really working hard to position myself with Actualized.org.
It’s my business. I knew that, to be really fulfilled in life, I needed to have this contribution component. So, I worked really hard to put it into place. That means that when I release a new video, I know that it is having the impact that I want in the world. To me, that is a really huge source of satisfaction.
I see that most people don’t have this because they haven’t taken the time to make the alignment. Right now, I am actually starting to work on a life purpose course. It’s going to be a video course for you guys. This is if you really care about contribution, you really want to have a big impact on the world, you really want to have that fulfillment in your life every single day, of knowing that you are doing great for humanity or society in some way that is unique to you.
It’s not just ladling soup in a soup kitchen somewhere, but actually producing great work and great art that moves people and changes the world. I am going to have that ready pretty soon here. Then, we go to the last piece on this spectrum.
This is the one activity that is going to produce the highest source of happiness in your entire life. Can you guess what it is? It is being. It is to be, simply being and existing. That is it.
The best way to practice this is through meditation. Meditation teaches you how to be and how to enjoy the moment of being. This one is tricky because someone listening to this might say – “Well, being sounds like it’s kind of boring.”
“You’re basically saying that I should just sit there, exist and just enjoy life, and be maximally happy just doing that without anything else?” That is exactly what I am telling you. Yes, you should be able to do that. That should be your greatest source of satisfaction in life.
This means that you should not need any stimulation of any sort, not even the stimulation of reading a book, the stimulation of doing personal development or the stimulation of doing something kind for somebody. Those things are still fundamentally activities. You’re still doing all of those things to get like a kick.
If you’re just able to be in the moment, just right now and focused in the moment, totally enjoying yourself, that is what ultimate peace of mind means. All the greatest and wisest sages throughout the last 3000 years of human history have recognized this. This is why meditation is such a fundamental aspect of practice for all of these sages.
They meditate a lot because they know that it’s the most important thing for them to be doing. That is the greatest source of satisfaction. If you think back into your past about some of the most satisfying moments of your life, you are going to notice that they were just moments of being and not necessarily moments of doing. You weren’t meditating, but you were maybe sitting around the Christmas tree.
It wasn’t even that the day of Christmas was exciting for you, or the gifts. Let’s say everyone already opened all of the gifts and you already partied out. The day is winding down and you’re just sitting there with a few folks around the Christmas tree. You notice a sense of fulfillment inside of you.
This fulfillment is just a moment of being. You’re just enjoying it. You’re looking at the tree and you’re looking at the fireplace. You’re looking into someone’s face and you’re just being. You feel complete.
You feel like you don’t need anything at that moment. It is not because there is a loved one near you. It is not because there is a Christmas tree. It is simply because, in that moment, you were able to just be very present. The problem is that most of us are not really good at making ourselves present and fulfilled in the moment, just by ourselves.
What we need is all of this external nonsense, just to put us in the right circumstances so that we can just get this sense of peace and being. Then, as soon as those circumstances change, we drop out of this being and we are not able to be. This is why when you go hiking and you watch a beautiful sunset, you’re just watching that beautiful sunset and it’s winding down, just about to set, you have got this sense of peace just washing over you.
That sunset provided an excuse for you, just to be. You tell yourself this. Well, it’s the sunset that is so beautiful and putting me in this mood. Actually, you can create that mood for yourself without the sunset. The problem is that it takes work.
That is the fundamental problem with everything in this top third of the spectrum. It all takes work. It’s not easy, so there is a real cost to it. When you try to position yourself and move yourself from all this stuff in the hedonic zone into the eudaemonic zone, you notice there is a lot of resistance in you.
It does not feel very good. That is mostly because you are addicted to this stuff over here. It’s also because you have not trained your mind and you have not developed your taste for the stuff that is over here. This stuff requires an acquired taste.
It’s not that learning and education are always easy, simple and produce immediate gratification. They do not, nor does doing excellent work. That can be difficult. Neither does doing personal development because that can be strenuous. Neither does living with integrity, which can be challenging too.
Contributing to the world can be challenging too. It’s with meditation too. If you’ve ever sat down and done a full hour of meditation, that can be one of the most difficult things you can do in your entire life. It’s just sitting there and doing nothing for a whole hour. But, this is a personal development channel.
We are here to work on ourselves and develop ourselves. We have kind of already taken on the mission to work towards improving our conditions in life. Therefore, as part of the mission of self-actualization, what I want you to do at the end of this video, which is right now, is this.
I want you to identify what your goals are, your top goals for the next year. I want you to ask yourself this. Are they hedonic goals or are they eudaemonic goals? Are they mostly about money, fame and success or are they more about gratitude, contribution, being, learning and self-acceptance?
All the goals you have that are hedonic, I want you to ask yourself how you can change them into goals that are eudaemonic. Then, go ahead and reengineer your goals because this is where the real personal development happens. It’s when you can actually say to yourself – “How can I be wiser about the things that I pursue in my life?”
Then, you actually change your objectives based on the wisdom that you get from a video, from a book or from anywhere else.
This is Leo, I’m signing off. Go ahead and post me your comments down below. Click the like button to like this video. Share this video with a friend on Facebook.
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