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Happiness: The ultimate currency

Let’s get straight into it then, what is happiness? A seemingly impossible question to answer that has divided opinion for millennia. Is it an emotion? Is it a state of mind? or maybe it’s an amalgamation of an absence of pain and plethora of pleasure? The simple answer is that we truly don’t know…but this blog post will aim to provide you with an insight into how you may be able to become happier. There is one thing we do know however, as the Latin poet Claudian once said, “nature has given the opportunity of happiness for all, knew they but how to use it”.

The Hamburger Model

From one of the world’s leading experts on happiness, Tal Ben-Shahar, comes the hamburger model. A perfectly sculpted analogy of the four archetypes of happiness; Hedonism, Nihilism, The Rat Race and Happiness itself. The model bases itself around the notion of humans constantly waging an on-going battle between present or future benefit vs present or future detriment. Here, the burgers describe how we can categorise each and every activity we may participate in for the purpose of understanding which ones bring about the most happiness.

  1. The Veggie Burger – also known as the rat-race, whereby individuals seek long-term benefit at the detriment to their short-term happiness. We may commonly observe this in individuals who work in high profile jobs, work excessively during their academic progression through University or devote their entire life to a particular cause. The rat-racer suffers now for the purpose of some predicted impending gain by subordinating the present for the future.
  2. The Junk Food Burger – known in the trade as good old fashion hedonism. This is the archetype of happiness that describes an individual who would want to ‘seek pleasure and avoid pain’ at all cost. Seems like something we all should strive for right? However, if we constantly go about satisfying all of our pleasures with no thought about the future consequences, how do we become truly ‘happy’, if all we do is seek a pleasure that can better the previous one? The best example of hedonism would be the euphoric high experienced by a heroin addict during their first use. Famously never to be ever experienced again, yet users will continue to abuse the drug at the detriment to their physical health in the hope of one day reliving that experience.
  3. The Inedible Burger – commonly coined, Nihilism. This is the archetype that describes an individual whom may have lost their lust for life, seemingly not enjoying the present, nor optimistic about the possibilities of the what the future may hold. A dangerous place to be and a position that opposes every innate human desire to be happy.
  4. The Ideal Burger – Simply, this can be described as happiness. An individual who lives securely in the knowledge that the activities that bring them enjoyment in the present, will also understand that this ideal will lead to a fulfilling future. For me this archetype perfectly aligns to that of the experiences of playing sport. An example would be whereby an athlete enjoys every aspect of their present training routine, knowing that this intrinsic love for playing their sport will enhance both their performance and physical health in the future.

Food For Thought

Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way to the meaningful destination we have set for ourselves. Happiness is not just about making it to that end destination, nor is it about aimlessly striving to get there without a clear focus. Happiness is about relishing the moment and experiencing the satisfaction, fulfilment and cultivation of moving towards an end goal in the knowledge that the journey has been enjoyable.