YOUR TEXT OR IMG HERE An important aspect of Spitzer’s happiness levels is their parallel character. Each level has a recurring character, and lower levels have to be present for the higher level to be successful. Our individualistic behaviours on levels 1 and 2 are often necessary to reach level 3 where co-operation and sharing play the major role. The problem is the fixation of levels 1 and 2 and abandoning levels 3 and 4 altogether. Unfortunately, many tools treat co-operation and competition as two extreme ends of one dimension.

The authors of this tool [1] show that individualism and collectivism are two separate dimensions. The origin of the two concepts confirms this distinction as well.

Happiness by Collectivism

Collectivism gets its roots from the social development of human communities. In the times of strong dependence on natural forces and the dangers of survival, being an individual was almost impossible. Hunter-gatherers co-operated out of necessity.

Happiness of gatherers

cc by United-Nations-Developement at

Happiness by Individualism

Individualism is based on individual human development. A small baby is the most individualistic and egoistic creature on earth, caring only for its survival. Society later encourages the child to abandon his or her individualistic nature and teaches the child to co-operate.

How History Changed Us

About 10,000 years ago, having both collectivism and individualism present in our lives at the same time became possible. We developed the skill to cultivate the land and grow animals, and that meant cornering the surpluses and becoming independent of the need to consume immediately. But it also meant the independence of the community. Some of the land or cattle owners could survive on the basis of ownership, not community alone.

Happiness by conquering


I believe this is the moment when we became exceptional beings. We now had a choice to share with others or look for our own individual prosperity. And with that, we could execute free will. However, we also gained the option to reject others and exploit them and their choice.

Levels of Collectivism and Individualism

We are on different levels of collectivism and individualism, depending on how we were brought up. Researchers distinguish differences between national cultures, and if you want to check your country’s culture, you may use this link.  It may help you to understand some pressures you were subject to. It may also be interesting to compare the cultures of your country of origin and the country where you live now.

Happiness in being alone

solitary cc by Allie Couture at flickr

Every situation requires a different behavioural pattern, which will be a mixture of individualism and collectivism in different proportions. Flexibility allows more collectivist attitudes in a participative company compared to other enterprises. Participative companies have to artfully reconcile and harmonise co-operation and competition.

If you decide to change your pattern, it is possible, but you have to prepare for a long venture. Other areas of expertise may be useful here, especially personal development, listening, and the will. If you decide to change, I recommend carefully reading Spitzer’s whole book. I bought it here.

If you are a coach or trainer, or if you would simply like to know more about the tool, I encourage you to click here to read the text.


Happiness Research

Methodological Remarks and Warnings







[1] Triandis, H. C., & Gelfand, M. J. (1998). Converging measurement of horizontal and vertical individualism and collectivism. Journal of personality and social psychology, 74(1), 118.