The 4 States of Human Living

Happiness now vs. later. Here's what you need to know.

September 1, 2016
looking into the future

Think of happiness in the now and vision for the future as two ingredients that can be combined, but that have to be in balance. Too much of one or the other creates imbalance and limitation.

More: 10 Laws for an Extraordinary Life

Depending on how they're combined, at any moment in life, we can be in one of four different states of mind. This napkin drawing will help you see it.

four states of human living
1/5 Image courtesy of Vishen Lakhiani

To better understand the four states, where you currently stand, and where you aspire to be, check them out below: 

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1. The negative sprial

In this state, you're not happy in the now, nor do you have a vision of your future. With little to enjoy or look forward to, this is a painful place to be, and certainly not one where you want to spend any significant amount of time. Often when in this state you're feeling depressed.

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2. The current reality trap

This state feels great because you're happy in the now. There's nothing wrong with being in this state now and then—for example, when you're having an amazing experience or are on vacation. But remember, happiness alone can be fleeting. You can get happy from smoking a joint. But long-term happiness and fulfillment come from something more—the need to contribute, grow, and do meaningful things. While this state may bring you temporary happiness, it won't bring you long-term fulfillment.

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3. Stress and anxiety

This is the state I was in during the years I struggled to build my business. A lot of entrepreneurs are in this state, as are a lot of career-driven people. In this state, you may have big goals, but you've tied your happiness to those goals. You're waiting to sign the next big deal, move into that new office, hit that next revenue milestone—before you celebrate.

It's great to think big and to want to accomplish amazing things, but it's not an optimal state if you're postponing your happiness along the way. If you're working hard but aren't making progress or if you feel you have a lot to offer but aren't getting where you want to go, you may be stuck in this state.

looking into the future
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4. Bending reality

This is the ideal state where you're happy in the now, and you have a vision for the future that drives you. Your vision pulls you forward, but you're happy now—despite not having yet attained that vision. When you're in this state, there's a feeling of growth and enjoyment. It's about the journey as well as the destination. An interesting observation about this state is that it often seems as if the universe "has your back." Call it what you want—but it starts to feel as if you're lucky. The right opportunities, ideas, and people seem to gravitate to you. It's as if your happiness is rocket fuel moving you toward your vision.

Adapted from The Code of the Extraordinary Mind 

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