The Four Archetypes of Happiness: Which One Are You?

I used to complain all the time, about pretty much everything. I’m not sure how I had any friends. One day at work, I was on the verge of yet another moan-fest when my colleague looked at me and said, “Stop complaining.”

Dumbstruck by his honesty, I shut my mouth and didn’t say another word. No doubt that was his intention (or, at least his hope). I can’t remember what happened next, but his words had an impact on me.

Not immediately, mind you. I remained an ardent complainer for a number of years before realizing that some self-work was necessary if I wanted to be happier. I’ve since spent a lot of time working on myself and am now no longer the Debbie Downer I once was.

I often think back on that moment and silently applaud my colleague for his honesty. (Especially as I now find myself with a similarly nihilistic friend.) The thing is, ‘telling it like it is’ may serve as a wake up call in the moment, but ultimately, happiness is an inside job.


According to Tal Ben-Shahar the answer is an emphatic ‘Yes!’ As someone who taught two of the largest classes in Harvard University’s history, Positive Psychology and The Psychology of Leadership, he should know.

And as a fully recovered nihilist, I too believe we can learn to be happier. But how exactly do you go about this business of learning to be happier? It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. But first, let’s take a look at the four happiness archetypes.


In his book Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, Tal defines four different happiness archetypes.

The Rat Racer

The Rat Racer is always chasing after a goal in the future and never happy in the moment. Do you routinely chase down future rewards at the expense of current pleasures? Are you always busy and never satisfied, even when you achieve your goals? Given our career-driven mindset nowadays, this is the archetype most people relate to.

The Hedonist

The Hedonist is always in the moment but never moving forward. You’re all about enjoying the now and give little or no thought to what tomorrow holds, let alone next month or next year. Living day to day with no regard for goals or purpose will leave you feeling unfulfilled.

The Nihilist

The Nihilist has given up on both the present and the future. You’ve lost your joy for life, in the present as well as in the future. You find no pleasure in your work or home life and you’re not optimistic about what’s to come. You’ve essentially given up and resigned yourself to being miserable.

The Happy Person

The Happy Person has a goal that inspires them, yet still makes a point of enjoying the moments along the way. Maintaining a healthy balance between the present and the future is the secret to true happiness.

For you, life is about the journey as much as it is the destination. You’re able to recognize and appreciate today’s gifts, while keeping your eye on your long term goals and dreams.


Research has shown that 40 percent of our happiness is determined by our thoughts and behaviors, with a paltry 10 percent attributed to life circumstances. The other 50 is genetically influenced. That means almost half our happiness is up to us.

Wayne Dyer echoes this wisdom. He says if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Happiness isn’t some future goal to be attained, it’s available to all of us right now.

As Tal Ben-Shahar says, “Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.”

So what can we do now to ensure we enjoy the journey? Packed with helpful exercises and soul-searching questions, Tal’s book Happier is a great place to learn more about honing our happiness skills. But these two daily practices are a good jumping off point.

Express Gratitude Daily

The science behind gratitude is unequivocal. By taking the time to notice and reflect upon the things you’re thankful for, you experience more positive emotions. You also sleep better and are more inclined to be kind to other people.

Research has shown that keeping a gratitude journal can significantly increase wellbeing and life satisfaction. All you have to do is write down five things you’re grateful for on a daily or even a weekly basis and you’ll be emotionally and physically better off.

“Fill your life with as many moments and experiences of joy and passion as you humanly can. Start with one experience and build on it.” —Tal Ben-Shahar

Simplify Your Life

Research by psychologist Tim Kasser —author of The High Price of Materialism— concluded that the feeling of time affluence not only benefits people’s physical health, but their subjective wellbeing and happiness as well.

In other words, when you have more time on your hands, you’re more likely to be happy. Conversely, material affluence offers no such guarantees. The longer you remain on the hedonistic treadmill, the less happy you’ll be.

Books like Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and Less Doing, More Living: Make Everything in Life Easier by Ari Meisel will help you figure out how to declutter your work life and create more time in your day.

Ultimately, the more you simplify your life and make time for what matters, the happier you’ll be. And just in case you’re concerned that cutting back on your work hours will hinder your career progress, I’ll leave you with these wise words from Tal Ben-Shahar.

“The good news is that simplifying our lives, doing less rather than more, does not have to come at the expense of success.”

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Ingrid A
Ingrid A8 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

thanks for sharing

Amanda M
Amanda McConnell10 months ago

Thanks for Sharing

Amanda M
Amanda McConnell10 months ago

Thanks for Sharing

Leo C
Leo Custer10 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Aldana W
Aldana W10 months ago


Jennifer M
Jennifer K10 months ago

we can't fit into these kind of lists, we are all different and these are too general for complex emotional beings.

Ruth S
Ruth S10 months ago


Kathy G
Kathy G10 months ago

Thank you

Janis K
Janis K10 months ago

Thanks for sharing.