College Search Happiness: The 4 Archetypes

Happiness-ModelTal Ben-Shahar teaches the most popular course at Harvard. He’s a leader in the field of positive psychology and his course, a shock to the pretentious, is about happiness. Among the many nuggets of wisdom that Ben-Shahar presents is a 4 archetype examination of people on the happiness spectrum. Unquestionably, most everyone is a mixture of each but I will present the extremes.

  1. The Rat Racer: These are people who are concerned with happiness in the future. They are willing to endure current misery for future happiness.
  2. The Hedonist: They embrace happiness in the moment for the expense of happiness in the future.
  3. The Nihilist: They believe that happiness is not attainable in either the present or the future.
  4. Happiness: View present activities happily and these activities are those that also lead to future happiness.

Those of you on a college counseling site presumably are not in category 3. In my cllege counseling experience, as long as you make certain that you infuse the college search process with positivity you can effectively pull your child out of hedonism (the nature tendency for all of us but particularly teens) and avoid the misery of the rat racer.

I vividly recall Jennifer, a mother of a teen boy in Fairfield, who lamented that she should have started the college search process sooner but that she didn’t want to argue with her son. She continued that she thought it was “his choice” and that he would start the search when he felt ready. October of senior year is not the ideal time to start the college search but that’s where we were when both Jennifer and her son came in panicked.

Had she met me earlier, I would have presented the most positive, healthy, view of the process possible. In doing so, I would have guided both Jennifer and her son to the happiness quadrant. That’s where we all should be.