According to Aristotle, Socrates, St. Augustine, and Maslow... theses are The Four Levels of Happiness:
INSTANT GRATIFICATION (new clothes, a new car, a new house, etc.) provides short-lived Happiness (a few days, a few weeks, a few months) because it is based on THINGS, which are external to the self. We soon get bored and want someTHING new.
ACHIEVEMENT (job promotion, a certain level of income, etc.) provides unstable happiness because this kind of happiness results from competition with another person. "I have more of this than X." "I am better at this than X." It's unstable because failure can lead to resentment, unhappiness and a sense of worthlessness.
SERVICE (Philanthropy, Volunteering, etc.) provides limited happiness because we cannot be someone else's everything. For example, if we or they die, so does our happiness. The shift from "Achievement" to "Service" may be seen in the famous story of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Scrooge begins in "Achievement" and, though successful in business, is unhappy as a person. Fear of death and his unhappy state lead him to choose to move to "Service" type actions (helping the Cratchetts and others, reconciliation with his niece etc.). His happiness is a result of a shift from resentment to gratitude.
FAITH (trust that only God can provide never-ending happiness) provides infinate happiness because we are reaching for fullness and perfection of happiness: truth, beauty and goodness. We get glimpses of the sublime nature of truth, beauty and goodness at rare moments in, perhaps, the arts (music, story, film) or nature or when we are loved by or love others. These experiences are deep and largely beyond words. These "God-moments" can last a lifetime.
Which of these four stages do you think you're in right now and which do you want to get to?
Joseph Warren is a visionary entrepreneur, startup coach, speaker and evangelist for entrepreneurship.