3 Paths of Happiness: The Pleasant Life, The Good Life, and The Meaningful Life



I was reading an article by Martin E. P. Seligman on authentic happiness called Pleasure, Meaning, and Eudemonia.

The big idea is that there are three paths to a happy life: 

  1. The Pleasant Life
  2. The Good Life
  3. The Meaningful Life.

Here’s my favorite take away:

“His target was life satisfaction. He found that both the Good Life and the Meaningful Life were related to life satisfaction: the more Eudemonia or the more Meaning, the more life satisfaction.

Astonishingly, however, the amount of pleasure in life did not add to life satisfaction.”

According to Seligman, The Pleasant Life, just as it sounds, is about having as many pleasures as possible in life, and having the skills to amplify your pleasures.

The Good Life is about recrafting your work, love, friendship, leisure, and parenting to use your strengths and spend more time in your values to have more flow in life.

The Meaningful Life is about using your strengths in the service of something that is bigger than you are.

Here’s the surprise:

You don’t need to be cheery to be happy, and pleasure does not equal happiness. 

Instead, you can focus on eudemonic pursuits to improve your satisfaction with life.

Rather than focus on hedonic motives such as pleasure, enjoyment, and comfort, you can focus on eudemonic motives, such as personal growth, personal excellence, and contributing to the lives of others.

Iโ€™ve written about The Good Life before, as well as The Meaningful Life in my articles: Meaningful Work is Hard, What Really Matters, Living Your Values, and How Will You Measure Your Life.

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  1. Hi JD, for me the distinction between the good and meaningful doesn’t make sense. Our values have meaning. Am I missing something?

  2. Indeed JD, I have found being inspiringly addicted to a cause that makes a positive difference
    in the world is the best way for me to feel my own ‘marvelously made nature’. When we pursue eudaemonistic endeavors we are invigoratingly compelled to set goals that make life meaningful.

  3. @ Jimmy — I haven’t gone through Prager’s work, but I’ll check it out. I too am a fan of combining the destination and the journey. I’m learning more skills here, and I found the key really is knowing my values and finding creative ways to bake them into my daily life.

    @ Evan — I think it’s about focus. For example, I value adventure, freedom, and growth. Just because I spend time in my values, and they have meaning to me, doesn’t mean they have meaning to something bigger than me. That said, I do have a meaningful purpose which is to improve the quality of life for as many people as I can, as long as I can.

    So they are different, but not mutually exclusive.

    My personal strategy is to combine all three paths, and integrate them in a way where I get some synergy. I wrote about how to do this in my You 2.0 guide (which I should update and elaobrate on at some point.)

    @ Rob — I see you live your values and light up your life and others in the purstuit and realization of your cause. Way to be, and way to go ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. @ Louisa — I like the fact that the three paths are intuitive and easily “stackable” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. It is very interesting lesson for making cheerfulness life be away from all worries and spend happy life in this world. lol

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