Four Levels of Happiness: Helping to transcend and transform

By Ginny Revel

“True happiness (joy) is derived from a life of service and helping others.”

According to the theory of the Four Levels of Happiness, as introduced in the Grand Junction Deanery’s January 5 presentation by Deacon Dan Leetch, the goal as Christians is to transcend the lower levels (1 – immediate gratification and 2 – personal achievement/ego) and rise to level 3 (good beyond self) and ultimately to the 4th level of happiness, which is the ultimate good of communion with God.

Attaining those upper levels of spiritual happiness is not easy. It demands going beyond the “me” and directing the “self” to the good of others.

Fr. Don Malin, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Grand Junction, explained it by saying: “Being charitable to better the world demands intentionally changing ourselves and our activities with help from prayer, the sacraments, and closeness with God. That focus on serving others will bring the true joy that is anchored deeply in our hearts and souls.”

This journey to Level 4 Happiness is life-long and often circuitous, if it happens at all. Sue Noffsinger, another attendee, characterized it this way: “I was surprised at how the Four Levels coincided with a timeline of my personal growth and aging. As I get more ‘life’ under my belt, it is easy to see how I progressed from different levels at some stages of my life even going down a level temporarily, in order to restore a basic structure of my life, and then going back up again as the situation allowed.“

When Jake Aubert, principal of Holy Family Catholic School in Grand Junction, attended the recent presentation on the Four Levels of Happiness, he knew he could take these ideas and incorporate them easily into the school’s culture.

As a Catholic educator, he uses every available opportunity and resource to challenge his students to change their way of thinking.

“I see my role as a vocation in the Church. This helps me to embrace my mission to serve the greater good by not only educating the students, but also by giving them strong leadership in their faith lives,” Aubert said. After all, the quest for happiness is universal, cutting across all factions of society. And Holy Family mirrors that society, with a variety of faith backgrounds represented in the school’s enrollment. Aubert and the teachers, by modeling a life of service, which is the foundation of Christianity, provide a template for the students to emulate. They also promote inclusivity and a non-condemning attitude.

Aubert is excited to use the simple, concise messages from the Four Levels of Happiness’ daily reflection card to supplement the school’s morning prayer.

“The five commitments for increasing trust tie in nicely with the weekly themes that I’ve presented to the school community for reflection and action. Adopting these virtues engages the students and defines ways for them to go beyond their self-interest,” Aubert commented.

Aubert has become famous, at least among the Holy Family 8th graders, for subtly impacting the students with eye-opening advice, in one-sentence “Aub-Talks,” as they’re known on campus. “I consciously try to remember what it was like for me to be in middle school, and then I translate that to my current students’ situations,” he said.

He thinks Deacon Dan’s presentation was well received, and he’s observed the Holy Family teachers and staff talking about the Four Levels principles and how they’re implementing them in their interactions with the students. “With a program like this it may not be possible to measure immediate tangible results, but I’ve already seen transformation and changed attitudes, so we’ve accomplished our goal,” noted Aubert.