Maslow’s pyramid and happiness

Happiness is a subjective feeling. What works with one person, does not necessarily work with another person. The answer to this “mystery” can be found in Maslow’s pyramid of needs. For those who are not familiar with this concept, Abraham Maslow was a professor of psychology. He developed the theory of the Hierarchy of Needs. To explain his theory, he created the Pyramid of Needs, featured below. According to his theory, needs must be met in a certain order. One needs to meet their needs starting by the most basic and essential ones mentioned in the bottom layer before being able to meet the needs mentioned in the layer right above and so on. Trying to skip levels will not bring satisfaction, because the person would still be missing more basic fulfillment.

Maslow's pyramid of needs - Picture Wikipedia

His theory, although widely spread and used, has not got general approval and there are quite a few people who disagree with his hierarchy approach. Some see the overall picture as one whole pool of needs, that all need to be met one way or another in order to provide satisfaction. Although all the needs listed in the pyramid exist for all of us, to different degrees, this discussion is not very relevant, as every person will rank the needs differently. Maslow’s pyramid would probably be more accurate, if it the ranking was adjusted to what different people’s profile groups. Certainly, the basic physiological needs are absolutely essential and common to all of us, and everyone needs a minimum level of security for them to be able to think of needs that are more elaborate.

When it comes to happiness, the key is in one’s values, more than the different parameters that define them. By defining one’s values, which include a number of the needs listed in the pyramid, and by prioritize them, it becomes much simpler to understand why different people will find happiness in different things. Not everyone values Maslow’s needs equally, and therefore his hierarchy cannot describe properly the whole process of increasing fulfillment. The reason why material goods do not necessarily bring happiness can be explained by the fact that some more important values get by-passed in the materialistic thinking. Some deeper and more essential needs are not met, although the new “toy” just bought might bring some short-term satisfaction. The need left unfilled very soon calls for an answer, which another “toy” will not satisfy, either. This explains why, although some people have more and more stuff, many among them still feel empty. The real need is not being answered. They keep looking for the answer in the wrong place. This also explains that some people end up throwing away their current lifestyle to look for a drastic change. Unless this change answers the real need being left unfulfilled, such a move will only bring more damage.

Finding happiness does not have to be difficult. However, it must follow the following steps:

  • Know your values
  • Shape your life around them, which means giving up some things in the process
  • Take charge of your life, do not your let environment do that for you
  • Define your goals and set a plan to achieve them, including timelines
  • Keep working at shaping your own life
  • Celebrate your successes, and do not give up when you have setbacks
  • In the end, it is all up to you to make it happen!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

Success and happiness: which came first?

I have heard and read about this question quite a few times, without getting a very clear answer, though.
Probably, this is because the question as such does not really address the core of the issue it wants to raise.
In my view, both success and happiness originate from the same, and grow in a very similar way.
In order to be successful and happy, you must start with shaping your life around your core values, and not around those that your environment imposes on you. Only by doing so, you will be able to choose and develop activities that, both professionally and personally, can bring the fulfillment and the enthusiasm that are required in any successful endeavor.


Success can be a rather difficult concept to formalize, as its definition depends greatly on what you consider important for you in life. For some, this will be making lots of money, for others it will mean have a family, it also could be gaining a position of power or reach a certain social status; it could be becoming famous, and so on.
If you try to eliminate the subjectivity that goes together with the variety of values, a good definition of success that I have heard is that “success is to bring what you start to its completion”. I personally like this definition, because it describes very well the whole process that is necessary to reach the required satisfaction to feel successful.
What, to me, reinforces my conviction that success and happiness go in parallel is that you can write the same paragraph above, just by replacing success by happiness and the text will make just as much sense.
It is quite difficult to try to see a relation of cause and effect between the two concepts. Indeed, if you are not happy, can you feel successful? In the same line of thought, can you feel happy if you are not successful? You probably cannot.
Next to engaging in activities that match your values and working on bringing them to completion, a very important aspect for both success and happiness is to get others involved as well. Never hesitate to ask for help, for support and for feedback. You will never have enough of those. Other people’s input is very valuable to stay motivated and determined, as well as to avoid losing track.
A great way of increasing your level of happiness and success in life is to first envision what the ideal world would be. What would you do if you were the one who could make things “perfect” for yourself? Once you have defined this ideal world, you can start developing your own plan. Although in some cases, a drastic change could work, I would recommend having a step-by-step approach, as a drastic change all of a sudden could bring a lot of uncertainty and chances of failure that not everyone can handle. Set your targets to go from point A (where you are today) to point B (your ideal world). Define each step clearly and set realistic and rigorous timelines to this plan. Timelines are quite important because they will force you to keep taking action. Not doing so will always end up in inaction, because we are all very good and finding excuses to postpone what we prefer not to do. Another important part in the execution of this plan is to designate someone (friend, coach, family member, etc…) to remind you, to enforce these timelines and if needed to reprimand you, because there again, if you can get away with procrastination, chances are that you will indeed.
To sum up, the way to happiness and success requires the following: build your life around your values and choose the environment in which they can flourish. Have a plan to improve your level of fulfillment. Share the enthusiasm with others. Celebrate every success along the way. Do not forget to ask for assistance to make sure that you will not divert and give up on your plan.
This last point is actually quite important: many people feel unhappy because they have given up on their dreams.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

The Life Plan will help you increase personal fulfillment

Your level of happiness or fulfillment is generally a direct consequence of how much you live your life and live in an environment that matches your values.

The Happy Future Group developed a Life Plan program to help you identify how balanced your life and your values are, and from there we help you build your own specific action list.

The process is simple. To identify your values, you will confront your own findings with some of your friends’ assessment of what truly drives you. Involving trusted friends to participate makes this process more fun and more rewarding. It also avoids this search to feel like a questioning, and at the same time, it will give you a much more objective feedback. After all, every person is who they really are, but also whom they show and who others think they are. By reducing the discrepancy between these three apparently different persons, your level of happiness will naturally increase.

By assessing how much fulfillment the different parts of your life match your core values, you will get your own “fulfillment index”. From that index and its analysis, it will become rather easy and obvious what actions you will need to take to increase your level of fulfillment.

The philosophy of the action list is all about incremental improvement. Consider your current life as being the ground zero. Each action when completed will help you live more to your values, and therefore you will achieve progress one step at a time. The timelines are the ones you feel comfortable with. All you need is to fully commit to the process. Should you “soften” a bit, we will help you remember what you promised yourself to achieve.

All you need to complete this process to success is to have the willingness to make it work, to be yourself and to spend the necessary time and energy.

To be happy, you do not need to go up the mountain to find yourself. It is all here and now, inside and around you!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.