Universal Ethics > Research > Happiness > Components

Components of Happiness

Each person has some built-in motives. Motives are necessary in any thinking being in order to guide the learning process. The only thinking processes that do not have motives linked to them are those that are autonomous, which simply occur on a regular pre-programmed method. For example, a person's digestion, circulation system, immune system all function autonomously. But all other behaviors are linked to motives.

Happiness occurs when all motivators are fulfilled in aggregate over an extended period of time. For the purpose of this discussion, I refer to short-term satisfactions of motivators as "joys" whereas "happiness" is a feeling of general wellbeing over a long period of time. Happiness includes how you feel now, as well as how you anticipate you will feel in the future. Happiness is also affected by the recollection of the joys of the past, which you may bring forward into your mind now.

So, what is it that you need in order to be happy?

If you were to make a list of whatever comes to mind, you might include such things as having friends or a loving family, having good food to eat, feeling safe, etc. If you think about this for a while, no doubt you could come up with a long list. Each of these is a motivation, whereby you prefer the satisfaction over the dissatisfaction.

For planning purposes, it helps to categorize these motivations into groups. There are various ways you could group them. For the Pathways to Happiness methodology, the following collection of motives is used. Fulfilling the green items as the need arises produces pleasure while the red items are displeasure that occurs when the need is not met. So people are motivated toward fulfilling the green items and avoiding the red ones.

We can also use yellow to represent a mild version of dissatisfaction. That might occur for any of the items, but for categories that are typically only a mild dissatisfaction, that is shown below in yellow.

Physical Motives

AbundancevsHunger *1
SleepvsSleepiness
Comfort *2vsDiscomfort *2
FitnessvsAtrophication
HealthvsSickness

Social Motives

Love *3vsLoneliness
FriendshipvsFriendlessness
SociabilityvsIsolation

Security Motives

SafetyvsFear
LibertyvsEnslavement
Financial Security *4vsInsecurity

Intellectual Motives

CuriousityvsBoredom
True Knowledge *6vsMisconception
AchievementvsDiscouragement
Mental concentration and work *5

Artistic Motives

Dance *7
Music appreciationvsNoise
Appreciation of BeautyvsUgliness

Empathic Motives

Empathic Joy
Compassion *8

Spiritual Motives

ConfidencevsAnxiety
HopevsDespair
Peace of MindvsGuilt
Appreciation *9

This is not a complete list of every possible motivator, but it is an approximate overview. Satisfaction of the green motivators is a sufficient set that will bring happiness to most people. And of course, that also requires avoidance of the red "flip side" for each motive pair.

Note that the joys above include only "cooperation compatible" motives, which are motives that people in a society can pursue without inevitable conflict. Malevolent motives such as anger, cruelty, hate, greed, etc., are not included because of unwanted side effects. For a further explanation of why I don't recommend that you seek out opportunities to feel those motivators, click here.

When planning your daily activities and planning for the future, you will have the most fulfilling lives by satisfying the motivators listed in green above. If you are feeling some of the red (undesirable) results, that is an indication that you have left a motivator unattended, or worse that you are in a situation beyond your control. When you learn about ethics and gain wisdom, you learn to put yourself into the "green" categories insofar as possible, and to help other people to feel those satisfactions too.

Also, if you have interact with pets or other animals in your life, remember that those animals have motivators too. Typically the animals' motives are simpler, with a wide variation according to species. What might be a "lack of fulfilment" for a human may not be a problem for your pet. But animals do have many of the same motives, and for those you need to consider if the animal is in a state of satisfaction or distress. In our society we put many animals into a state of dependance on us, and in those cases we have a particular responsibility for their happiness.

Remember that the greatest happiness is not achieved solely by attending to personal satisfiers, but by spreading happiness, and by gaining vicarious joy from doing that. That is why Empathic Motives are very important to include in the list of satisfiers.

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