Three Life Paths


University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman categorised hundreds of people into three groups based on how they pursued happiness:

  1. The Pleasant Life: People in pursuit of the Pleasant Life seek happiness by looking for pleasure. They are good at savouring the moment and making their pleasures last.
  2. The Engaged Life: People in pursuit of the Engaged Life seek happiness by working hard at their passions. They can immerse themselves so deeply in their passion that they sometimes come across as cold and uncaring of the needs of others.
  3. The Meaningful Life: People in pursuit of the Meaningful Life use their strengths to work toward something they feel contributes to a better world.

Warning for those who seek Pleasure

Seligman found that people who pursued the Pleasant Life experienced little happiness, while those who pursued the Meaningful Life and the Engaged Life were very happy.

Raul Aguirre recently reminded me of the ideas of Dr John DeMartini on the Pleasant Life path:  “We attract into our lives the opposites of what we seek”.  To seek to avoid pain, is to invite pain in.  To seek to avoid problems, is to invite problems in.

Which Path are you on?

Update: Raul has provided more detail of the life paths

Lawrence Kolhberg worked on levels of morality: he defined three stages of moral development. At LV*, we operate al Level 1 (the most primitive, seeking reward and avoiding punishment).

*LV is “Lower Values”, a Dr John DeMartini term for a life that is not dedicated to your personal HV – highest values.  When our life is coherent with our purpose and Highest Value (we don’t have to do much work to find it, just pay attention to where things flow easily for us) then all of our activity moves to a more inspired level of consciousness.

 Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)

  • 1. Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?)
  • 2. Self-interest orientation (What’s in it for me?) (Paying for a benefit)

Level 2 (Conventional)

  • 3. Interpersonal accord and conformity (Social norms) (The good boy/girl attitude)
  • 4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation (Law and order morality)

Level 3 (Post-Conventional)

  • 5. Social contract orientation (Laws that do not promote the general welfare should be changed when necessary to meet “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”)
  • 6. Universal ethical principles (Principled conscience) (Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws.)

Six Human Needs according to Tony Robbins


  • Certainty / Comfort
  • Uncertainty / Variety
  • Significance
  • Love & Connection


  • Growth
  • Contribution

3 responses to “Three Life Paths”

  1. I have distilled my definition of a good life down to six words:

    Live with purpose, service and gratitude.

    Purpose: Every day we should be working towards something. I don’t believe that we are born with one purpose; we can have multiple purposes and of course, over time, our purpose(s) can change. We accomplish one thing and then it is time to move onto another.

    Service: Whatever it is that we are working towards (purpose) should benefit others in some way. For example, there is a difference between building a company to make a lot of money and building a company that will create a product or service that benefits others. And there is no rule that says that making money is incompatible with service. Furthermore service is a personal thing. For someone, it might mean teaching one person how to read, for another it might mean teaching English to a grade school class, for another it might mean ending illiteracy in the world. The size is less important than the intention. But your purpose should be service-oriented. Because for me, purpose without service is useless.

    Gratitude: We should be grateful, as much as possible, at every moment. Grateful for the food we have, the clothes we wear, the friends and family who surround us, the fact that we can leave a rambling comment on someone’s blog (!), etc. Of course, life isn’t 100% smooth sailing, but the journey is much more enjoyable when we realize that it isn’t 100% stormy weather either.

    1. Wonderful comment. I base my ideas of good life around Faith, Hope, Love – Faith that there is a role for me to play and that the people around me, Hope – action changes the future, Love is like your gratitude… put others at the heart of my questions – no “what is my purpose?” but “what does my daughter/mum/sister/brother/dad need from me now?

What are your thoughts?

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