Educating for happiness. Starting with the end in mind.

Educating for happiness is about starting with the end in mind. What is our ultimate goal as individuals and as a society? What is it that we want most in life?

Whilst the extent to which there can be an agreed upon end goal common to all humanity is questionable, I propose that you would be hard pressed to find someone who said they didn’t want the following trait for themselves or their next of kin. The trait? Happiness.

I am not trying to claim that there is a universal definition of what happiness is, and I am most certainly not suggesting that happiness is the same for all people or that it is obtained through the same channels, I am merely posing the notion that people at their core want to be their own version of happy.

Assuming this to be true, and acknowledging that a formal education is, in our context, an inescapable part of life’s journey, as an educator I wonder what some successful strategies for schools might be, in ensuring that a child’s time at school is spent consciously and intentionally working towards the ultimate end goal of being happy. What barriers might schools face in achieving this, and how might those barriers might be overcome?

In this blog, I hope to begin unpacking the ultimate backwards plan. I will start with the end in mind and attempt to articulate an educational philosophy that uses that utilizes the notion “everybody wants to be happy” as a central driver in all decision making processes.

Over the next few posts I plan to explore the following…

  1.     The process of backwards planning
  2.     Some of the ways in which people define happiness?
  3.    Exploring research around what makes people happy.


  1. While reading your post, I’m drawn to the usual battle in my head of the idea of content vs. happiness. When I was working in the US, I often thought of being content with my life, but not necessarily what I might deem happy. Because what is happiness? And how does one define it within their lives. Now, living overseas, I find myself thinking more often about being happy. So I have to ask myself what’s different in the two scenarios. I had always wanted to travel, to see and experience other cultures around the world. This opportunity has given me that chance. And I think that seeing how so many others live allows you to have a new perspective on your own life. Not to mention that I live in an apartment now that’s a third of the size of the place I had in the US…so there’s a much smaller focus on the things that we have and a much greater focus on the experiences we’ve had the chance to enjoy. Happiness is a journey…a journey each person should take! Thanks for sharing!


  2. Hi Nicola,
    Thanks for your post.
    I thought it is such an interesting question when you said “I wonder what some successful strategies for schools might be, in ensuring that a child’s time at school is spent consciously and intentionally working towards the ultimate end goal of being happy.”
    Your question really resonated with me because I really believe that as educators that this is the first thing that we need to start with. If we have happy students in our classroom and school I think that they will be able to achieve anything that they want to. As an Early Years teacher we work on lots of social and emotional because nothing will happen if that is not in place.
    Education systems, schools need to make sure that we teach mindfulness to invite happiness in.
    It makes me think about this article from Edutopia which helped me think about this topic further.
    Thanks for making me think. I look forward to reading your subsequent posts.
    All the best,


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