Universal Ethics

Pathways to Happiness

The Pathways method is a means of planning for the future, so that you will include in your life the things you need to bring happiness to yourself and others whom you care about. In order to help you in that process, you can optionally use the Pathways Planner software, which is described in the following YouTube video. Below that is an explanation of the method.

Pathways method: Introduction

Have you ever given any thought to what it takes to be happy? Often happiness is thought to arise from an attitude, but if so, why does that attitude arise in some people but not others? Is it simply in some peoples' nature to be cheerful, while others are gloomy? Or, are there some decisions that one could make that would tend to make them happier?

If you observe little children, typically you will see that they are happy most of the time. Very young children, of a pre-school age, don't hide their feelings, and they ride a roller-coaster between being very happy and very unhappy. If the child is well cared for, the natural inclination is for them to be happy most of the time. They love to play and explore, and the whole world is a new plaything to discover!

But what happens as the child grows up? Often as adults, people seem to be less happy. What has changed?

One thing that changes is the burden or responsibility. A small child doesn't need to worry about where the next meal will come from, whether he (or she) will have a home to live in, have opportunities to learn and explore, or have other children to play with. In most cases, the parents take care of everything for them. But as the child grows up, and as their capacity to handle those things themselves increases, the responsibility is transferred to them.

Other things can go wrong too. People might sometimes make decisions that bring misery upon themselves, or they may fail to take advantage of opportunities that would bring joy. And adults often feel inhibited to express joy freely too. As a result, they may feel joy less, and also they may forget to spread joy to other people who need their help.

A lot of these problems can be prevented by thinking ahead, and by planning for the things you will need in order to be happy: a successful career, good friends, contributing to worthwhile goals, etc. While spontaneous joy is a good thing too, I think it is accurate to say this:

A journey conducted first in the mind is more likely to be successful than one conducted first on the feet.

In order to plan for happiness effectively, though, you need to have a pretty good idea of what is needed in order to have happiness. It turns out that you need a variety of things, in order to satisfy needs in these categories:

For a detailed breakdown of components of happiness click here.

So, we need to plan to have these motivations satisfied within our lives. Because vicarious satisfaction via empathy is an important part of your overall hapiness, it is also important to spread happiness! So it's wise to plan for that too!

Planning is most effective if it is done in a systematic way. If you undertake studies in business administration, you will learn lots about planning methods. Borrowing on that knowledge and tailoring it to personal and family decision making focused on happiness, I have come up with the 8 steps of the Pathways Planning method:

  1. Set the scope
  2. Describe the situation
  3. Make some wishes
  4. Find stepping stones
  5. Expand possibilities
  6. Choose a course of action
  7. Define policies and measures
  8. Track your progress

You can read about those things individually by clicking the hyperlinks in each step, or just keep reading and click "Next" at the bottom of each page.

One important thing to emphasize is that to make an effective plan, you will not just plan for yourself, but you will consider others too, how your decisions affect them, and vice versa. You will think of what you can do to bring joy to other people.

If you live alone on an island, perhaps that would be unnecessary, but also that would be a very miserable life. The greatest achievements and the greatest joy is achieved by synergy! The concept is that two or more people together can achieve what none of them could do alone.

When you plan for your own happiness using a method that takes advantage of synergy and vicarious joy, then your mission must go beyond yourself. Your mission becomes this:

Spread Happiness!

One of the complex parts of spreading happiness is deciding how to best apply your time, because you have a limited amount of it each day and each week. It turns out that it is difficult to measure happiness precisely, but it is possible to set goals to satisfy known motivators, which tends to give rise to increased happiness. So you will set goals and develop plans to fulfil the goals.

Plans are much more effective if you write them down, and follow up on your progress. To serve as a template for recording the goals and other important elements of your plans, I offer the Pathways Planner app for Windows. There are other ways to keep track of the same things, but you may find this to be a more convenient way than simply writing on paper. It is focused more specifically on "planning happiness" than other software planning tools. Also, this one is free, as my gift to you to help you live a happier life! So feel free to download it if you wish.

The planning process is iterative, because it would be too onerous (even impossible!) to try to plan everything at once. As you plan, essentially you are defining advice for yourself and others who may participate with you in planning. You will create two kinds of advice:

Timed Advice = a series of steps or outcomes planned over specific periods of time.

Timeless Advice = a set of policies that help you handle situations that may arise, the timing of which cannot be predicted.

So, let's get on with it! Click Next to proceed to the first step.


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