The Three Types Of Happiness

At the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Nerve conference last month, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh was on of the keynote speakers and focused his presentation on happiness. Specifically, Tony explained that if you ask someone what they want out of life, it will boil down to happiness. You just need to keep asking why. For instance, someone looking for a mate will admit that the root of his or her desire for companionship is to be happier. Similarly, business owners may superficially believe that they are in business to make money but, when pushed, will likely concede that they are in it for achieve some form of happiness.

Hsieh authored the book “Delivering Happiness” which discussed his life and entrepreneurial endeavors. He also discussed how Zappos’ culture foster happiness as well as some positive psychology concepts.

In the keynote, Tony focused on positive psychology, a relatively new field. He explained that people are bad predictors of their happiness level. Think about the many lottery winners who (after the excitement wears off) return to the same pre-winning happiness levels. Or that movie star who has fame and fortune but is still un-happy.

Hsieh explains that there are three types of happiness: rock star, flow and higher purpose.  Rock star happiness are the times when you are hitting it on all cylinders.  Perhaps, a night when you won an award or contest.  Or that perfect date. The problem with “rock star” happiness is that it cannot be sustained.  It is a great experience but doesn’t last over time (unless of course you are really a rock star).

The second time of happiness is called “flow”.  This type of happiness occurs when you are immersed in an activity that you really enjoy.  The type of activity when time becomes irrelevant.  Think about a hobby that you enjoy or a relaxing day at the beach.

The final type of happiness involves a higher purpose.  The fulfillment that one gets from doing something meaningful for others, or being involved in a larger cause.  Examples are helping a charity raise funds, donating your time to a soup kitchen, and helping your community with some project.

Hsieh explained that most people pursue rock star happiness, then flow and sometimes (if they get around to it) higher purpose.  He suggested that this pattern should be reversed.  That we should pursue higher purpose happiness, then flow activities, and allow the occasional rock star moments to be the gravy on top.  Those that follow this reversed pattern will find themselves more content and fulfilled.  Give it a try!

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • How do u define true happiness?

    • Mazia,

      For me, happiness is simply feeling good. I try to be grateful for what I have and avoid comparing myself to others. This too makes me happy. Finally, getting involved with projects that are meaningful and rewarding makes me happy.

      How about you?

      Matthew Weiss


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