Hope or Happiness? | Psychology Today

Positive psychologists believe and claim that happiness makes life worth living. In contrast, overwhelmingly, the general assumption from time immemorial is that hope makes life worth living since those who take their own lives do so because of the loss of hope. The question, therefore, is hope or happiness: which one must we have to make life worth living?

To find a reasonable answer to this question, I want to call your attention to the Triple-H Equation, definitions of its three variables, some original empirical findings, and several corroborating evidence from peer-reviewed literature:

I. The Triple-H Equation

The Triple-H Equation states hope/hunger = happiness [i.e., hope ÷ hunger = happiness].

Hope is the belief and the feeling that one’s desires or aspirations are achievable. Your hope comes from you and your five essential human assets. These five assets are:

  1. Intrinsic Assets [i.e., your ego strength, self-esteem, and other virtuous attributes or characteristics].
  2. Human Family Assets [i.e., the love, help, support, and assistance from others].
  3. Economic Assets [i.e., your income, savings, material possessions, and overall sense of material sufficiency or resource adequacy].
  4. Educational Assets [i.e., intellect, awareness, skills, knowledge, and curiosity].
  5. Spiritual Assets [i.e., the benefits and dividends of your faith, spirituality, and religious beliefs].

These assets (which may be real or potential) are the five sources of human hope (Obayuwana, 2012).

Hunger is a compelling desire or a burning aspiration. The most compelling of all hungers are the five inborn human hungers. These in-born hungers are:

1. Hunger for inclusion and acknowledgment

2. Hunger for intimacy and trusted companionship.

3. Hunger for food and comfort.

4. Hunger for information and answers.

5. Hunger for continuity and certainty.

These five “hungers” are the primary drives and motives behind every action we take in life (Obayuwana, 2024).

Happiness is that unmistakable feeling of joy, delight, satisfaction, fulfillment, or contentment that one may get at various points or moments in life.

Five life situations are known to trigger happiness in us. These five triggers of happiness are:

1. Personal achievements, victories, and accomplishments [e.g., 17-year-old Allen getting a perfect score on SAT]

2. Advancement or enhancement in personal relationships, human family connection, or connectedness [e.g., Zelda getting an engagement ring from her boyfriend]

3. Increase in income, material possessions, and personal comfort [e.g., Marcus being promoted to the position of a higher-paid manager]

4. Acquired new knowledge, new skill, expertise, or capability [e.g., Hellen learning to be a pilot]

5. Pleasant spiritual experience, event, or occurrence [e.g., Virginia getting baptized by Pope Francis]

II. Postulations

This equation claims that:

  1. Happiness is directly related to hope but inversely related to hunger.
  2. When hope is high, it tends to lessen hunger; when it is severe, it tends to reduce hope.
  3. Happiness is best assured when hope is high and hunger is minimal.
  4. Happiness is not possible in the absence of hope.
  5. No one can have a happy life when overwhelmed by hunger.
  6. True contentment can ensue only when hunger becomes negligible.

And these six assertions constitute the Triple-H Hypothesis (Obayuwana, 2024).

III. Supportive Findings

The face validity of the Triple-H Equation is very strong since hunger unquestionably should decrease happiness while hope is naturally expected to increase happiness. Humans are heavily obsessed with the future, and there is no better antidote for the uncertainties in life than hope—the feeling and belief that all will be well.

Happiness Essential Reads

Experientially, we all know that a hopeful disposition usually makes us feel happier, and a happy feeling strengthens our hope for the future. In contrast, unfulfilled desires (or hungers) generate negative emotions and make us unhappy. Personally, how I perceive the future greatly affects how I feel.

Beyond face validity, personal experiences, anecdotes, literature overview, and empirical analysis by Pleeging, Burger, and J. van Exel (2019) affirm a strong positive relationship between Hope and Happiness—in agreement with the Triple-H Equation. Also, Everett Worthington Jr. (2020) has demonstrated that more hopeful people are happier and healthier than unhappy people. Additionally, this Triple-H Equation is also well corroborated by the Desire-Fulfillment Theory of Chris Heathwood (2014); the Human Flourishing Program findings of Harvard University; Ruut Veenhoven’s Opentia Newsletter vol. 3(2015); T.C. Bailey and W. Eng. et al. (2007); Martin Seligman’s PERMA model, and Tal Ben Shahar’s SPIRE theory.

The Triple-H Equation also shares the historical sentiments of many theologians, poets, and philosophers about hope and happiness. It contradicts no facts in positive psychology literature but affirms and corroborates many.

IV. Conclusion

As can be easily inferred from the equation, definitions of variables, and corroborating evidence, happiness is essentially a consequence of our hopes and hunger.

  • First, we do everything in response to our five inborn “hungers.”
  • When the future looks good and promising, we are happy.
  • We become happier when the desires we had hoped for are achieved.
  • When our desires are not realized, and there is no hope, happiness is not possible.
  • A happy life is essentially a life that is full of hope.
  • In summary, when our inborn “hungers” provoke and prod us, we reach for hope and start accruing essential human assets. Hope emanates positive emotions such as joy, anticipation, interest, excitement, exhilaration, enthusiasm, and inspiration—collectively termed happiness.

It is a reasonable conclusion, therefore, that hope (rather than happiness) is fundamentally what makes life worth living.

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