Happiness is a pretty subjective concept. While almost everyone would undoubtedly agree that happiness is a positive thing, that’s likely the only universally accepted truth about happiness. From there, every individual is going to have his or her own definition or description about what happiness is. Is it a late night, or an early morning? Do you find it when you’re alone, or when you’re with others? Is it a six-course meal or a large pizza?
Nailing down happiness, at least with any level of objectivity, is incredibly difficult. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying to create frameworks for happiness that make an attempt to explain it, at least to a certain extent. These frameworks do their best to answer the questions: “What does it mean to be truly happy?” and “What can I do to find greater happiness?”
It’s important to note that happiness frameworks aren’t trying to define happiness. Rather, they’re trying to frame it—to provide generalized context that will allow individuals to plug in their own circumstances and situations so that they can then discover their own personal happiness.
This is exactly what we do with our Egg framework.
The Design.org Egg framework is a tool that helps people progress through different stages, with the ultimate goal of discovering inner peace and greater overall satisfaction with life. That is, discovering real happiness.
The five stages of Egg are:
- Hope: You want things to be different and can see a different outcome for yourself and your life.
- Belief: You are able to see new possibilities for yourself, and you recognize that those possibilities are available to you.
- Action: You change your thoughts and act according to your new way of thinking. You act deliberately to create the outcome you want.
- Purpose: You know why you exist, and know the path you need to take to reach your potential. You are self-aware and consistent with your thoughts and actions.
- Meaning: You’ve discovered peace, and you easily maintain it. You help those around you. You are masterful in designing your thoughts to help you create a life you love on a consistent basis.
Why the Egg works
I’ve seen firsthand how the Egg can make a difference in people’s lives. I believe that it is an effective tool because it:
- It reinforces the idea that happiness comes from within. None of the Egg’s stages have to do with external circumstances. Each of these stages can be achieved no matter where you’re at in life. Happiness is the way, when you realize that it starts with the hope of happiness you find it.
- It presents a natural progression. Hope matures into belief. Belief initiates action. Repeated action reveals purpose. Purpose transforms into meaning. There is a natural and logical flow to this order.
- It uses simple concepts. We believe that truth is simple. These concepts are not complex or convoluted. Rather, they’re ideas that are easy to understand and easy to see in yourself.
- It requires effort. A chick must break free of its own egg; if it is helped out, it will die. Likewise, the Egg framework requires you to discover and use your inner strength to progress. Only you can move yourself forward, which helps you evolve into a stronger, more capable person.
The Egg is undoubtedly effective at helping people discover and live more meaningful lives. But as we mentioned before, it’s not the only happiness framework out there.
We thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at a few other frameworks related to happiness, and to see how they line up with the ideas presented in the Egg.
Happiness framework: Maslov’s hierarchy of needs
One of the most well-known happiness frameworks is Maslov’s hierarchy of needs. This psychological theory attempts to explain the pattern of human motivation, from our most basic needs to our most evolved states.
The stages of Maslov’s hierarchy, from bottom to top, are:
- Physiological needs, including food/water, sleep, shelter, health, and sex
- Safety needs, related to personal, financial, emotional security
- The need for love/belonging, or things like friends and family
- Self-esteem, which includes needing respect from others and respect for yourself
- Self-actualization, which refers to a person realizing their fullest potential
Interestingly, later in his career, Maslov considered adding another level to this hierarchy: transcendence. This level would demonstrate man’s need to be involved in or connected to something greater than himself.
Similarities to the Egg
This framework has a few things in common with the Egg framework.
- Both frameworks require progression. Maslov’s hierarchy requires mastery of the base levels before you can move on to the higher levels. This is similar to the natural progression of the Egg framework.
- They both emphasize the importance of self-awareness. Progressing through the Egg requires self-awareness. Maslov’s hierarchy also places utmost importance on self-awareness, essentially making it the highest level of the framework, and the goal that everyone is working towards.
- They both recognize the role other people play in a person’s happiness. No man is an island, right? Both these happiness frameworks recognize that in order to be truly happy, you need other people. This need for relationships is its own level of Maslov’s hierarchy, and is a key component of realizing purpose in the Egg.
While the Egg and Maslov’s hierarchy differ in some ways, they complement each other in powerful ways as well.
Happiness framework: Ikigai
The Japanese concept of Ikigai attempts to frame true happiness as a point of intersection of four key areas:
(1) What you love
(2) What the world needs
(3) What you’re good at
(4) What you can get paid for
Sometimes, two of these concepts will overlap, with varying results.
For example, when “what the world needs” overlaps with “what you can get paid for,” the result is a job (vocation). When “what you love” overlaps with “what you’re good at,” you discover your passion.
When three of the concepts overlap, you see even more interesting results. You may have found something that the world needs, that you’re good at, and that you love, but you aren’t getting paid for it; that makes you somewhat happy, but leaves you penniless. You could find something you can be paid for, that the world needs, and that you’re good at, but you don’t love; that also brings some measure of happiness, but leaves you feeling a bit empty inside as well.
It is only when all four elements intersect that you discover your Ikigai: your “reason for being.”
Similarities to the Egg
Ikigai also has a few similarities to the Egg.
- Both place top emphasis on meaning. Your Ikigai is, essentially, your meaning—the very reason for your existence. It is the ultimate goal, just as coming to a place of meaning is the ultimate goal of the Egg framework.
- Both are beautifully simple. The idea of Ikigai may seem complex at first, but it’s actually a wonderfully simple concept that resonates universally. Like the Egg, it taps into simple emotions that people can understand and identify easily.
- They both address practical and emotional aspects. One of the stages of the Egg is Action, a stage that requires taking actual steps and doing actual things to help you progress toward your goal. It is a practical stage that bridges the gap between the mental state of Belief to the more emotional state of Purpose. Likewise, Ikigai requires you to consider practicality when uncovering your meaning: in order to be truly happy, you must find something that the world needs, and that you can be paid for.
These two concepts share important similarities, creating overlap that makes each framework all the more fascinating and meaningful.
Happiness framework: PERMA model
Martin Seligman is widely recognized as the founder of positive psychology (in other words, he has a lot of street cred in this arena). He developed a framework called the PERMA model, which attempts to explain the five elements of happiness. These elements are:
- Positive emotion: good feelings, enjoyment, pleasure
- Engagement: fulfilling work, interesting hobbies
- Relationships: social connection, love, intimacy
- Meaning: having a purpose greater than yourself
- Accomplishments: realistic goals, ambition, sense of achievement
According to this model, when these elements exist in harmony, it leads to true happiness.
Similarities to the Egg
Represented as an equally divided circle, PERMA stands in contrast to the Egg in some ways (notably, it doesn’t follow a progression like the Egg does). However, there are some similarities between the two frameworks as well.
- Both are focused on inner perception rather than outside circumstances. The PERMA model, like the Egg, places the responsibility on you, rather than on outside circumstances. You can discover these elements in any point of life, just like you can experience the stages of the Egg at any point in life.
- Positive emotion plays a large role in both. In the Egg, Hope is the first stage. It’s what’s needed before you can even start to progress. The PERMA model also recognizes the importance (and even power) of positivity, identifying simply “feeling good” as a key player in overall happiness.
The thread that ties everything together
Each of these frameworks shares some similarities with the Egg framework, but all of them, including the Egg, have one thing in common across the board: meaning.
Each framework places some level of importance on meaning—on uncovering and holding on to the things that bring you peace and help you feel unified with the world around you.
To us, this validates our placement of Meaning as the final stage of the Egg. It seems as though everyone agrees: you can’t find true happiness without meaning.
We love seeing how the Egg fits in with these other happiness frameworks, and believe that these other concepts can be powerful supplements to the lessons we can learn as we progress through the Egg.
Ready to get started on your own journey toward a happier, more meaningful life? Start by taking our free assessment. It will show you where you’re currently at in the Egg, and will help you see what you can do to continue to progress through the stages until you come to a place of meaning.