The Happiness Formula - East And West

Posted on January 10th, 2013

What It Means To Be Happy Today

In this post I would like to present to you two models of well-being that compliment each other. By becoming aware of what it means to be happy in the present day and age, you will be able to make better decisions in your life that will help you become happier, live a more meaningful life, and improve your well-being.

Eastern Approach - Kovalev’s Happiness Formula

According to Sergey Kovalev’s well-being theory, the happiness formula looks like this:1

Well-being = Happiness + Effectiveness

You overall well-being consists of your effectiveness combined with your happiness. Happiness means that you are satisfied with what you have, who you are, and what you do in life. Effectiveness means that you are able to achieve the desired results with minimum effort.

Note that being effective does not mean being happy just like being happy does not mean being effective. You can be effective and unhappy, and you can be happy but not effective. Effectiveness is a necessary component of well-being, whereas happiness is a sufficient part of well-being. Lets look at what happiness and effectiveness consist of.

Happiness

Happiness comes from your ability to mindfully enjoy your achievements and the realization that these achievements are desired and important. To be happy, you have to learn how to enjoy what you already have rather than be disappointed about what you don’t have. Once you get to the point where you realize that what you have now is all that you really need to be happy, you will achieve a state of happiness.

Kovalev suggests that we should refer to the Hindu model of well-being for better understanding what we should strive for. This model of well-being consists of four purusharthas 2:

  • Artha - sufficient material wealth.
  • Kama - ability enjoy life through sensual pleasures.
  • Dharma - having a sense of purpose in life and self-actualization.
  • Moksha - enlightenment and cosmic consciousness.

True happiness comes from calmness, wisdom, and a realization that you what you currently have in your life is enough to be happy here and now. Mindfulness is an essential component of happiness because it allows you to enjoy life as it is by savoring simple things and experiencing inner peace. You must also practice appreciation and love toward yourself, other people, and the world.

Purposeful living

Happy people often have some kind of purpose in their life. To put this philosophy into practical terms, you must have a set of worthy goals in your life and your primary motivation must drive your towards your goals rather than away from fear of not accomplishing these goals.

While pursuing your goals, you will face many challenges some of which will be easy and some of which will be hard. But no matter how hard things may seem, you must remember to always focus on the solution rather than the problem. When you set your goals, remember that a worthy goal must:

  • Be Desired
  • Be Meaningful
  • Seem possible to achieve
  • Resonate with with your personal values and morality
  • Improve your life and lives of other people
  • Be congruent with your abilities
  • You must feel that you deserve it

The Well-being Star

To help you start evaluating your own well-being, Kovalev suggests to examine your life using The Well-being Star that consists of five major parts of life:

  • Health

Physical Health - when this part of your health does not bother you.

Psychological Health - when your thoughts and emotions are balanced.

Spiritual Health - when you have purpose in your life and know why you wake up in the morning.

  • Love and Sex
  • Work
  • Finance
  • Meaningful relationships

Effectiveness

Effectiveness is a function of excellence multiplied by luck:2

Effectiveness = Excellence x Luck

Excellence includes factors such as your education, creativity, and different skills that you have.

Your luck consists of your maps of reality and the mental programs. The subjective mental maps of reality include what you think about yourself, other people, and the world. These mental maps are formed during your childhood as a result of your parental programming. During your life-span development these maps are updated as a result of your interaction with other people and your environment. Your mental programs determine how you interact with your mental maps. Together, mental maps and programs determine how effective you are in life.

  • Mental maps determine what do to.
  • Mental programs determine how to do something.

Seligman’s Happiness Formula - Western Approach

According to Martin Seligman’s happiness theory, the happiness formula looks like this:1

H=S+C+V

  • H is your enduring level of happiness,
  • S is your set range - the sum of your genetic capacity for happiness
  • C is the circumstances of your life,
  • V represents factors under your voluntary control.

The percentage breakdown of the different parts:

  • 50% Your genetic capacity for happiness
  • 10% Conditions of living
  • 40% Voluntary actions or choices you make daily

This means that even though you have a certain genetic set point for happiness, there is a lot that you can do to improve your happiness. You should take care of your happiness not only because you can but because research shows that happy and optimistic people are healthier, live longer, are more successful and have more fulfilling relationships.

How to improve your happiness

Based on the research data obtained in positive psychology, Martin Seligman suggested that you can improve your happiness by following these guidelines 1:

  • Live in a wealthy democracy, not in an impoverished dictatorship (a strong effect)
  • Get married (a robust effect, but perhaps not causal)
  • Avoid negative events and negative emotion (only a moderate effect)
  • Acquire a rich social network (a robust effect, but perhaps not causal)
  • Get religion (a moderate effect)

How NOT to improve your happiness

  • Make more money (money has little or no effect once you are comfortable enough to buy this book, and more materialistic people are less happy)
  • Stay healthy (subjective health, not objective health matters)
  • Get as much education as possible (no effect)
  • Change your race or move to a sunnier climate (no effect)

In your pursuit for happiness, you must remember that happiness is not a state of being, it’s state of doing. You can’t really be happy, but you can do something that can make you happy even if this something is mindfully enjoying the present moment.

So, what is the first step that you can make today to bring more happiness into your life and improve your well-being?


  1. Seligman, M. E. (2002). Authentic happiness: using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York: Free Press.   

  2. Kovalev, S. V. (2009). Osnovy nejrotransforminga ili psichotechnologii upravlenija realʹnostʹju. Moskva: Profit Stajl  

Questions or comments? Send me an email