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The Happiness Pinnacle

The Happiness Pinnacle“The Happiness Pinnacle”© is a model of human happiness that has been developed by Horizons Coaching. Drawing in part on Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” the model proposes that to be truly happy progressive levels have to be achieved before the next level is addressed. At its simplest, the model is based on the principle that it is impossible to achieve inner peace if you have a toothache. You must deal with the toothache first! In this model of happiness, the three levels are called: Foundational Happiness; True Happiness; and Transcendence.

Foundational Happiness: The “having” level

Happiness at this level is the fulfilment of our five basic human needs:

  • Wealth and Possessions (including food, shelter and clothing)
  • Health and Beauty (especially being free of pain)
  • Safety and Belonging (usually achieved by being part of a family or group)
  • Freedom and Independence (not being controlled / told what to do all the time)
  • Sex and Reproduction (Note: This is not a basic need for everyone)

Because these are basic needs there can be a tendency for people to believe that the more they acquire of wealth, beauty, fame, power and sex the happier they will be. In fact, whilst a certain level of each is essential (although this level may vary from person to person) there appears to be a finite limit to the amount of happiness that any of these basic needs can bring. Indeed, if left unchecked, the desire to constantly seek to satisfy these needs will almost certainly lead to genuine unhappiness.

True Happiness: The “doing” level

Because happiness at the foundational level appears to be finite – the so called “happiness set point” – many people assume that there is very little they can do about the amount of happiness in their lives. They must just rely on the world (or luck) to treat them better. In fact, there are many things that a person can do to raise their levels of happiness beyond their set point: These include:

  • Looking after themselves and their personal environment better (including their home and commuting distance)
  • Achieving “Flow” as much as possible (losing yourself in an activity) - at work and through hobbies
  • Love and intimacy: Giving and receiving love with family, friends and a partner (and proving this in action)
  • Kindness: Active involvement in your community and/or workplace and interacting with others outside your immediate family and friendship group (possibly involving volunteering)

For true happiness to occur, it is necessary to address all four areas - not just one area - and achieve a balance between them. But there are no negative impacts associated with any aspect of true happiness.

Transcendence / Beyond Happiness: The “being” level

Beyond true happiness there is a level of contentment and deep inner peace that is achievable for those who seek it. Aspects of transcendence are open to everyone, even those who do not have every element of foundational happiness in place – for example people living in poverty or in prison – but it is certainly easier to achieve transcendence when all our basic needs are met.

This is the “being” level of human existence, at which it can be seen that ultimately happiness does not come from outside but from within. Elements of transcendence include:

  • Self-Awareness and deep feelings of self-respect
  • Hope and Optimism: Understanding that you always have the power to change your life and circumstances
  • Trust and Forgiveness: Generally trusting others and forgiving (not hurting back) those who break that trust
  • Being resilient: Sticking at things, learning from anything that goes wrong and bouncing back from adversity
  • Feeling grateful for the many gifts in our lives and having a sense of wonder about life
  • Being passionate and having a true sense of meaning and purpose to our life (not necessarily religious or spiritual)
  • Inner Peace – The ultimate goal of happiness and wellbeing

To find out more about the Happiness Pinnacle©, please arrange for a Free Introductory Coaching Session or visit our Workshops and Consultancy page

A new online course "Positive Psychology for Coaches and Therapists" uses the Happiness Pinnacle as the basis for explaining how acquiring the knowledge and skills of Positive Psychology is essential for anyone who seeks to guide others towards a life of greater happiness and wellbeing.

“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it”

Groucho Marx