By Bruce Barbour
Part 3 - The Happiness Strategy
The question posed at the end of Part 2 was how to choose an approach or approaches that are best for you, which will have the best possibility of providing long term happiness?
Reasons Not To Choose an Approach
As a starting point we will look at approaches that shouldn't be used. There are three reasons that would indicate that an approach should not be used. They are:
None of the approaches covered in Part 2 and listed in the Happiness Grid are necessarily bad. An approach to happiness is only bad if it is ethically bad, that is, someone else has suffered harm or a loss for the person to gain the happiness. For example, someone seeks to gain social status by getting a promotion at work does so by cheating then this can be considered ethically bad. However if she gains it by hard work and merit then this may be fine.
Similarly there is nothing wrong with getting enjoyment from a physical item, however excessive materialism can have adverse impact on the environment, not provide long term happiness and may also be ethically bad.
Other approaches are ethically benign, for example happiness from memory and imagination.
It is important that the approach does not contravene the person's values.
While the best approaches will be in line with a
person's values it is acceptable for the approach to be
The limitations of some of the approaches (the first three of which are listed in the Happiness Grid) are that the approach:
Approaches with limitations can be considered in a couple of cases such as when:
Consequently in evaluating all of the various approaches to reliably achieving happiness there are a number of requirements that you should look for which is basically the reverse of the list provided in the Limitations section above. The approach should:
There is only one approach listed in the Happiness Grid meets all these requirements. That is a values based lifestyle where the values are backed by substantive reasons.
Another approach that meets four of the five criteria is Conscious Awareness of sense information. The only criterion that it doesn't meet is the last one - solely using Conscious Awareness would result in limiting thought excessively. (21)
I would like to also mention one other approach to happiness that, although it does have limitations, is an important source of happiness, which has evolved with humanity. This is the happiness that can be achieved through relationships, with family and other significant people, and other people in the community. Relationships, especially with family, involve an Awareness based emotional response. However relationships can also involve values. Part of your personal values can be "I value my family". Having these two aspects can make family a particularly potent source of emotional response, mostly on the positive side of the happiness continuum. Part of your values may be to value your community. If you value your community you are going to be involved in your community. This may mean membership of special interest groups that advocate for some community benefit that is aligned to your values. For example you may value the environment and in particular want to save some local remnant natural bushland. To endeavour to achieve this you could individually write copious letters to your local political representative. However it may be more effective be involved in the local environmental protection group that is advocating for the preservation of remnant bushland. To be effective in this group you must have relationship with both people in the group and those people the group interacts with. Through your membership of this group you may achieve a level of happiness by living in alignment with your values and through the direct relationship with other people of like mind in the group.
That there are limitations to relationships should be
recognised - refer to the Happiness Grid - but these
should not preclude personal, family and community
relationship from your Happiness Strategy.
21 The two different approaches to happiness can be seen in the suggested reading books. In "The Power of Now" (Eckhart Tolle) the approach is very much based on Awareness, however in my opinion it has problems. Russ Harris' approach is much more a values based positive Self Thoughts approach although he suggests some Awareness based aspects through the use of mindfulness techniques.
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