[This post is part of a series on The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
Two days ago we first saw the complete Model. Now we’ll begin discussing it. First let’s clarify the central points of pleasure, happiness, and reward.
At this level of simplification, the Model distinguishes between pleasure, happiness, and reward, though outside the Model they overlap more than in the Model. Different people define each term differently, so I’ll clarify mine.
You feel pleasure based on direct stimulation of your senses. Pleasure motivates you to bring about the thing in the environment that created the pleasure — things like foods that taste good and materials that feel good.
You feel happiness not at merely something feeling good. You feel happiness when your beliefs and expectations resonate with your environment. Happiness motivates you to maintain that cycle — things like being with friends. You can feel happy even when you aren’t feeling pleasure and vice versa.
You feel reward not at merely being in a situation that seems right. You feel reward when all of your environment, beliefs, and behavior resonate with your emotions. Moreover, you can feel reward even in situations where you wouldn’t feel pleasure or happiness. For example, I feel reward when I run a marathon, though I feel the opposite of pleasure and happiness while running it.
My rule of thumb is you feel happy when you find a dollar on the ground. You feel reward when you earn it.
We have presented all the elements of the cycle, though we have barely scratched the surface of its meaning or what we can do with it
Tomorrow: the evolutionary origins of our emotions
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees