Unlocking Happiness: Insights from Research on Pleasure vs. Success

November 11th, 2023

By John Patterson

Staff Writer for Wake Up World

In a groundbreaking and illuminating research endeavor undertaken by the esteemed Department of Psychology, led by the erudite Dr. Paul Hanel, the enduring adage, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” has been resoundingly and empirically affirmed.

This comprehensive investigation delves profoundly into the intricate tapestry of human happiness, seeking to decipher the profound effects that prioritizing distinct values can wield upon our overarching sense of contentment and well-being.

As the insightful results of this study have been meticulously detailed within the esteemed pages of the Journal of Personality, they unequivocally expose a stark reality: individuals who place an unwavering emphasis on the pursuit of achievement to the detriment of enjoying life’s simpler pleasures may inadvertently find themselves in a state of well-being depletion.

The Quest for Happiness Across Three Countries

Dr. Hanel’s study spanned three culturally diverse countries – India, Turkey, and the UK – and involved over 180 participants who diligently maintained diaries over a nine-day period. These diaries provided crucial insights into how different values influenced their well-being.

Prioritizing Freedom: A 13% Boost in Well-being

Surprisingly, individuals who prioritized freedom reported a remarkable 13% increase in overall well-being. This was accompanied by improved sleep quality and enhanced life satisfaction. It appears that the pursuit of freedom plays a pivotal role in enhancing happiness across cultures.

Relaxation and Hobbies: An 8% Well-being Boost

Participants who dedicated time to relaxation and pursuing their hobbies recorded an average well-being boost of 8%. Additionally, they experienced a 10% reduction in stress and anxiety levels. This demonstrates the significant impact of leisure activities on our mental and emotional health.

The Elusive Pursuit of Achievement

On the flip side, those who placed a high value on achievement did not experience any discernible increase in happiness. This result was consistent across all three nationalities, suggesting that the pursuit of success alone does not contribute significantly to well-being.

The Role of Values in Well-being

Dr. Hanel emphasized the importance of achieving a balanced life and taking time to enjoy oneself and pursue individual goals. He stated,

There is no benefit to well-being in prioritizing achievement over fun and autonomy. This research shows that there are real benefits to having a balanced life and taking time to focus on enjoying ourselves and following individual goals. Ironically by doing this, people could in fact be more successful as they will be more relaxed, happier, and satisfied.

Implications for Work and Life Balance

This study also raises questions about the role of achievement in the context of job satisfaction and the number of hours worked. While achievement-oriented values did not directly impact happiness, they could still have an indirect influence through job-related factors.

The Universality of Happiness Values

One remarkable finding of this research is that individuals from different cultural backgrounds reported similar results. Both “hedonism” (the pursuit of pleasure) and “self-direction” (autonomy and individual goals) values were consistently associated with increased happiness. This suggests that certain values may transcend cultural boundaries when it comes to well-being.

Future Directions in Well-being Research

Professor Greg Maio from the University of Bath, a collaborator on this study, expressed excitement about the project’s findings and potential future research. He highlighted the need to strike a balance between achievement-oriented values and those that prioritize freedom and individuality, especially in a world where many devote the majority of their time to work and career pursuits.

Impact on Mental Health Provision

One significant outcome of this research is its potential to influence mental health provision. The insights gained from this study could lead to more effective therapeutic approaches that encourage individuals to prioritize happiness and well-being over simply reducing anxiety and stress.

In conclusion, this groundbreaking research led by Dr. Paul Hanel sheds light on the importance of prioritizing enjoyment, freedom, and personal goals in the pursuit of happiness. While achievement has its place, a balanced life that includes relaxation and leisure activities is essential for overall well-being. These findings have the potential to reshape how we approach work, life balance, and mental health, ultimately guiding us toward a happier and more fulfilled existence.


  1. Paul H. P. Hanel, Hamdullah Tunç, Divija Bhasin, Lukas F. Litzellachner, Gregory R. Maio. Value fulfillment and wellbeing: Clarifying directions over timeJournal of Personality, 2023; DOI: 10.1111/jopy.12869

About the author:

John Patterson is an avid writer and researcher who delves into the latest scientific research. With an insatiable curiosity, he translates complex concepts into accessible narratives, allowing readers to embark on a journey of discovery. Through his work, John bridges the gap between experts and the public, igniting curiosity and inspiring meaningful conversations about scientific breakthroughs.

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