Four Levels of Happiness™
The Four Levels of Happiness
The essence of the Four Levels of Happiness is based on timeless principles going back to Aristotle who said that happiness is the one thing we desire in and of itself, everything else is desired for the sake of happiness.
Based on his study of the great philosophers and theologians over the years, Fr. Spitzer refined this model of the Four Level of Happiness. We can see that the level that is dominant in our lives will dictate our actions, choices, and ethics. We cannot understand ethics without understanding happiness. Furthermore, whichever level of happiness dominates our lives will determine the depth and endurance of our happiness.
Happiness Levels 1-4
Level 1 represents my fundamental drivers in life such as physical pleasure, immediate gratification, and excitement. This may be manifested in seeking my favorite food, new clothes, or a nice car. The “happiness” that results from this satisfaction, however, is typically short lived, shallow, and impacts no one else except me. Level 1 is not inherently bad, we all need to satisfy those basic pleasures like food and drink, but if we get stuck in level 1 our lives become a roller coaster constantly seeking to satisfy our next desire. After the food is consumed it isn’t long before I am hungry again.
Level 2 is most evident in the need to satisfy my ego. The universe exists to serve me. I need to be constantly achieving and winning in my life, for example, being recognized at work, getting that next promotion, or making sure my project has top priority. In order for me to win, though, others must lose. I must keep my comparative advantage over others. My focus is on power and control. Like level 1, level 2 is not all bad. We all need to achieve in order to gain self-confidence, and credibility, but if my life gets stuck in level 2 as my dominant source of happiness, I will be constantly obsessed with seeking that next win, and paranoid that others are trying to keep me from it. This happiness is also not very pervasive, enduring or deep.
Where the true happiness begins.
Level 3 is also somewhat about ego, but unlike level 2 it is turned outward. My skills and talents are aimed at serving others. It is still about winning, but it’s now more about achieving Win-Win results rather than Win-Lose. My desire is in seeking that meaning and purpose in my life. I want to make an optimal positive difference in the world. My happiness is now growing in its pervasiveness because it impacts other people. It is also lasts much longer and is deeper.
Level 4 is what I ultimately seek in life. I fundamentally desire ultimate or perfect truth, beauty, love, goodness, and being. But I have to recognize that this ultimate goal is not found strictly in the material elements of the world, it is found in transcendence, what people of faith look for in God. Even if someone doesn’t subscribe to a specific religious faith, they still have the a fundamental yearning for perfect truth, beauty, love, goodness, and being. This happiness is the most pervasive, enduring, and deep.
“The Four Levels of Happiness in the context of our spiritual lives is a perfect response to the call to the new evangelization. I am recommending it to other Catholics and leaders.”
– Fr. Edward Estok, Pastor, St. Albert the Great