Let’s begin with a simple question: What is happiness?
Happiness is when your life fulfills your needs.
If you want to be happy, all you have to do is make sure your needs are fulfilled.
That sounds simple enough but the question then becomes “What are my needs?” That’s where things start to get a bit more complex.
You see, for thousands of years philosophers, psychologists, and scientists have tried to find an answer to the question of your essential needs. And because we all like simple answers, they tried to answer in simple ways.
Always the answer was one need, or two. Eventually, some suggested there were five essential needs. The pressure was on to keep the number of essential needs as low as possible, simple and memorable.
What if that effort to simplify they missed the point. What if, in the desire to find the one essential need, the actual needs of real, complex people like you were being overlooked just to be able to claim a simple, bite-sized answer?
What if the answer isn’t this need, or that need, or even those five needs, but rather something as simple as all of the above? What if Plato, Aristotle, the Hedonists, and Maslow were all basically right? What if we didn’t exclude their valuable insights, ignore their arguments, or dismiss their answers in an effort to over-simplify our complex human nature?
What if we could integrate thousands of years of philosophical inquiry with modern psychology and neuroscience? What if we examined the needs fulfilled by the major world religions? Would we see overlaps? What would our essential needs look like if we used all the sources? Would the answer be simple enough to understand?
It would look like this: nine needs, going by the easy to remember acronym WE PROMISE. Easy enough, right?
Your Essential Human Needs – WE PROMISE
Your nine essential human needs are:
The order of the needs isn’t important. They are presented in this order for the convenience of being able to remember them by their acronym, WE PROMISE, not due to any priority of one over another.
As you’ll see later on, how important each one is varies from person to person and can change over your lifetime, as well.
These are, of course, still a simplification of your true needs but, as categorization goes, it’s better than trying to fit your human complexity into less categories.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into each of the WE PROMISE categories to better understand what they are and how they contribute to your happiness. Then we can explore those areas where you may have the power to increase your happiness by bringing your life into better alignment with your needs.
Wellbeing refers to those aspects of your life that are more physical in nature. Things that affect your mood through the mind-body connection.
All living things have basic physiological needs such as food, water, and enough safety to survive and those basic needs are a self-evident aspect of wellbeing. Odds are, if you’re reading this, you are meeting these basic needs but there are other wellbeing needs where you might not be succeeding.
There are both factors you have limited control over, your health, for example, and others where you have a great degree of control.
Healthy food, freedom from addictions, fitness, and living a low stress lifestyle are all wellbeing factors that contribute to happiness and are factors over which you have control.
Those factors which you can control are called your Happiness Essentials.
Your environment, the external conditions of your life, can have a powerful effect on your life.
Freedom, safety and security, a home, pleasant climate, and beauty are all environment Happiness Essentials over which many of us have at least some control.
If there is one word that most of us think of when we think of happiness, it is pleasure. But happiness is actually something else, a feeling closer to satisfaction and fulfillment than to pleasure.
One thing that clearly distinguishes pleasure from happiness is that pleasure is a temporary feeling, whereas happiness is a state that can be maintained.
Pleasure is, however, one of your essential human needs. Love, tasty food and drink, humor and laughter, joyful experiences, the feeling of gratitude, and, let’s not forget sex, are all pleasure Happiness Essentials within your control.
A word of caution here: pleasurable experiences release addictive chemicals in the brain. Too much of a good thing can create an unhealthy addiction that interferes with other aspects of your happiness in many ways. Remember, the key to happiness is by meeting all your needs, not just the pursuit of pleasure.
If I were forced to name only one essential human need, relationships would probably be my choice. We are intensely social animals. Even the most withdrawn of us are driven by primal, and subconscious, social needs.
Your relationship Happiness Essentials cover the full range of human social interactions: parents, children, friends, family, acquaintances, and even with our pets. There is also the whole gamut of groups to which we belong, from workplaces to churches, communities to countries. In addition, our desire to both contribute to and receive from others are Happiness Essentials.
How you perceive the world, your outlook, is a factor in finding happiness. Striking the right balance between your outlook and the life you live is the key.
Your dreams and desires, curiosity, adventurousness, self-confidence, desire for structure and order, and new experiences are all outlook Happiness Essentials which, through self-awareness and smart choices you can align your life to match.
The science is still unclear about exactly why we need meaning in our life but there is no arguing that we do. As humans we feel unfulfilled if we don’t have some sort of answers to the big questions in life like “What is my purpose?” and “What is the meaning of life?”
While clear, scientific answers to these questions remain out of reach, we each, nevertheless, find some peace with answers of our own, answers that address our meaning Happiness Essentials of purpose, understanding the world around you, feeling that you belong to the greater good, knowing the reasons for your actions, self-awareness, having children, and having clear goals and objectives in life.
To be happy you must be doing something. You must be involved to fulfill your Happiness Essentials of challenge, solving problems, expressing your creativity, getting into the state of flow, and feeling like you are taking action.
Fortunately, getting involved is easy so long as you’re doing something that will lead to…
What is success? Success is the recognition by others that what you do has value.
What does that mean for you? It means that it is the feedback, mainly from your involvement and relationships, that feels like success.
It isn’t money or rewards, those are simply proxies for success. Success comes from fulfilling your Happiness Essentials of a sense of doing things well, learning something new, accomplishing your goals, having a legacy to leave behind, and fame.
So far, we have only addressed positive aspects of your Happiness Essentials but what about the darker side? Negative emotions can drain away happiness and any effort to address your needs must account for that.
Elasticity deals with how well you recover from adversity in life. How quickly can you bounce back from or overcome fear, jealousy, rejection, loss, failure, and depression.
While much of your elasticity is built in, you can overcome learned responses, discover techniques and get help to manage the worst of it, and make lifestyle choices to minimize what’s left.
Universal Human Needs vs. Your Needs
The WE PROMISE needs of Wellbeing, Environment, Pleasure, Relationships, Outlook, Meaning, Involvement, Success, and Elasticity are universal among humans.
What varies from person to person are the specific degree to which we need each Happiness Essential. That’s where things get a bit tricky.
Happiness is as simple as making your life fulfill your needs.
If it’s that simple, then why is it so hard for us to find happiness?
The answer is within us. Now, I don’t mean that we must embark on some spiritual quest to find happiness within. What I mean is that we aren’t good at keeping track of all the details needed to become happy.
You are probably familiar with the theory that the human mind can only keep track of between five and eight different things at a time. For example, read the following words, then close your eyes and try to repeat them back to yourself:
Wellbeing, Environment, Pleasure, Relationships, Outlook, Meaning, Involvement, Success, Elasticity.
How did you do? If you remembered all nine, congratulations, that makes you the exception. The thing is, those nine WE PROMISE words are just the categories. To deal with the specifics of your needs, the Happiness Essentials, you need to remember nearly sixty items. Our brains just aren’t good at that sort of thing.
Fortunately there is an easy solution.
Back in the old days, you might have studied hard to learn the Happiness Essentials but who has time for that anymore. Besides, we have better tools, our computers, and I have an even simpler solution for you:
The Happiness Planner – Your Key to Discovering Your Pathway to Happiness
Keeping track of nearly sixty Happiness Essentials spread over nine categories is both something you can’t do, and more importantly, don’t need to do. What you want is to focus your attention on only those areas where your efforts will improve your happiness the most.
Our online Happiness Planner helps you do exactly that.
By answering a series of questions, you will discover which of your Happiness Essentials are already aligned with your needs, and which are most in need of work.
By allowing the computer to do what it does best, keep track of lots of information, you can focus your attention on what matters most to you: making your life more happy, satisfying, and fulfilling.
How to Be Happy
By discovering and carefully focusing your efforts on just the those Happiness Essentials which need the most work you’ll get happier faster.
Most people work on their happiness in a disorganized way, influenced by trendy solutions, what helped a friend, or anything that sounds like something which might help.
The problem is not with the techniques themselves, it’s that without a clear idea about what your specific needs are, which ones you have well met, and which ones are most in need of work, you can’t easily align your life with your needs. In other words, you can’t achieve happiness.
When you use the Happiness Planner, don’t expect big surprises. Deep inside you probably know which of your Happiness Essentials needs work. Just like the invention of the wheel, the results may even seem obvious to you once you know what they are. What you get from the Happiness Planner is an invention that gives you the confidence and power of a simple, clear list to show you the way to happiness.
With clear objectives in mind, you can then focus your energy on just those top few Happiness Essentials you most need. You have the tools to know if that certain self-help book or course might be helpful to you. You know what kinds of questions to ask your friends and advisers You know where to focus your attention, both within and on life around you. You can begin to bring more of your life into alignment with your needs. You can have more happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction with your life.
Happiness won’t come while you sit around and wish for it and I won’t fool you by saying that achieving full and complete happiness is easy when it’s not. Happiness is something, like everything in life, you have to work for but can you imagine anything else more worthwhile than working on what satisfies and fulfills you most?
P.S. To be happy you need to align your life with your needs. To do that you need a plan that clearly shows your top unfulfilled needs.