How to Be Happy: the GREAT DREAM Model

Practical Steps Toward a Happier Life

For many people, finding happiness is almost an obsession. Whether we're reading self-help books, learning to meditate, or installing play equipment in our workplaces, our quest to be happy seems to take up more and more of our time and energy.

But what does happiness really consist of? And how do you get there?

According to the GREAT DREAM model, happiness is really quite simple. It suggests that we can focus on a few key areas to enrich our lives and make them more rewarding.

A healthy, happy life could be 10 simple steps away.

In this article, we explore the 10 elements that make up the model, and explain how you can use it to bring more happiness to your own life.

What Is the GREAT DREAM Model for Happiness?

Psychologist Vanessa King, and the nonprofit organization, Action for Happiness, set out the GREAT DREAM model in King's 2016 book, "10 Keys to Happier Living."

It's a straightforward guide to finding happiness and success in your everyday life, and it can help you to flourish both in and outside of the workplace.

GREAT DREAM is an acronym for 10 key areas:

  • Giving: doing things for other people.
  • Relating: connecting with the people around you.
  • Exercising: looking after your body.
  • Awareness: being mindful of the world around you.
  • Trying Out: being curious, and open to new experiences.
  • Direction: setting goals.
  • Resilience: "bouncing back."
  • Emotions: being positive and emotionally intelligent.
  • Acceptance: being comfortable with who you are.
  • Meaning: connecting your work with a higher purpose.

From "10 Keys to Happier Living" by Vanessa King, published by the Headline Publishing Group. Reproduced with permission.

Using the GREAT DREAM Model to Feel Happier

Here's a step-by-step guide to using the GREAT DREAM model to raise your level of happiness.

G: Giving

Whether you're donating money to good causes, sharing your expertise with a struggling colleague, or giving up your personal time for a corporate volunteering initiative, giving to others is important.

Even small gestures like offering colleagues a ride home or making coffee for your team can lift team and individual morale. You can find out more about this in our article, Random Acts of Kindness.

But giving doesn't just make others happy. It can make you happier, too. Research shows that doing things for others improves your own sense of well-being and has positive effects on your health. It can even make you live longer!

But it doesn't stop there. Generosity fosters trust, and it can build stronger and more collaborative working relationships.

R: Relating

Good relationships are fundamental to our happiness and well-being. Both the quantity and the quality of our relationships matter but, of the two, quality is the more important.

Developing your ability to listen actively and to read body language will help you to improve your connections with others, and to understand and respect what they say and how they feel. Our article, How to Make "High-Quality Connections" has more advice on this.

Sharing positive experiences at work is another important part of relationship-building. Organizing social events with your co-workers is a good way to do this, but take care to avoid a culture of "compulsory happiness." Your efforts may prove counterproductive if social or fun events are too frequent and start to feel like an obligation.

E: Exercising

Staying physically active is good for you, period. Exercise reduces stress, helps you to think more clearly, and raises your energy levels.

If you don't have the time (or the inclination!) for regular gym sessions, there are plenty of things that you can do to be more healthy at work. Even just standing up and moving around the office more, and going outside for a lunchtime walk, can clear your mind and boost your physical fitness.

Look after your diet, too. Be sure to maintain a healthy balance of the main food groups, and to limit your sugar intake. It's also essential to get enough sleep: recent research links lack of sleep to a wide range of physical and mental problems.

A: Awareness

Being mindfully aware of the "here and now" can help you to deal with problems caused by stress. It enables you to be more creative, and more sensitive to your own feelings, as well as other people's. It can also foster a nonjudgmental frame of mind, which will help you to keep your relationships on a sound footing.

The key to mindful awareness is to focus on the present, and to notice the details of the world around you in an objective way. You can learn more about it in our article, Mindfulness in the Workplace.

T: Trying Out

Having the courage and the curiosity to seek new experiences and develop new skills, and to grasp the opportunities to do so, can be truly rewarding. It may help you to feel more in control of your life and work, which can raise your self-esteem.

Offering to work on unfamiliar or innovative projects at work, for example, can broaden your experience, build your expertise, and enhance your sense of mastery.

D: Direction

Happiness comes, in part, from finding the things that are important to you. So, setting personal goals that are based on your core values will help you to replace drift with direction. Working to achieve those goals can be enjoyable, engaging and rewarding.

Equally, workplace goals that motivate and challenge you – but which remain achievable – can provide a roadmap for a fulfilling career.

If you can, get involved with deciding your own goals, and set targets that really matter to you. That way, you'll retain a strong sense of purpose while still working toward the wider goals of your team and your organization.

R: Resilience

You can't always dictate what happens to you in life, but you can choose how you respond. The way that you react to setbacks, such as failure, loss and illness, can greatly impact your happiness.

The good news is that resilience is not just about how naturally tough you are: it's a skill that you can learn. Key to this is to change your mindset to regard setbacks as temporary challenges, rather than as permanent disasters. You can find many techniques for doing this in our article, Developing Resilience.

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E: Emotions

Few of us get through life without "ups and downs," but focusing on the times when you feel emotions such as joy and inspiration can help you to build a positive outlook.

Consider keeping a journal to record the times when you experience strong positive emotions – when a presentation goes really well, for example, or when your boss congratulates you on a job well done. Reflecting on the pride, or even the elation, that you feel will help you to keep negative emotions in check through the tough times.

The ability to regulate your emotions – known as "Emotional Intelligence" – is also a highly prized leadership skill, so learning to recognize and control your feelings in this way can benefit your career, too.

A: Acceptance

Being compassionate with yourself, and accepting your strengths as well as your weaknesses, promotes happiness and a sense of "peace." No-one is perfect, and challenging negative self-talk can prevent you from dwelling on your flaws.

Consider carrying out a Personal SWOT Analysis to identify the strengths that you could capitalize on, and the areas where you could improve. Then, add those areas to your personal goals so that you gain satisfaction from working on them.

M: Meaning

Research shows that people feel happier when they feel that their lives have meaning. "Meaning" can cover a huge range of life experiences, from religious faith to a belief that the organization you work for fulfills a noble purpose.

"Meaning" usually has three main components:

  • Feeling that what you do makes a difference.
  • Understanding how the different facets of your life connect.
  • Having a purpose from which you can develop goals.

So, try to foster a stronger sense of purpose by searching for connections between what you do and the "bigger picture" – your community or the wider world, for example.

Work to understand your organization's mission beyond the bottom line, and its approach to corporate citizenship. Look, too, for opportunities to participate in charitable or educational projects, to find a higher purpose in what you do.

Key Points

GREAT DREAM is a model developed by Vanessa King and the nonprofit organization, Action For Happiness. It offers a framework that you can use to build a happier life.

The acronym stands for:

  • Giving, in the broad sense of doing things for others.
  • Relating positively to other people.
  • Exercising, to take care of physical well-being.
  • Awareness, through a mindful appreciation of the world.
  • Trying Out new things, to become more creative.
  • Direction, involving the development of life and career goals.
  • Resilience, to enable recovery from setbacks.
  • Emotions, focusing on positive feelings and responses.
  • Acceptance of who you are and what you can and can't do.
  • Meaning: developing a sense of purpose.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (10)
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hi Arpit,

    Thank you for your feedback. We truly appreciate receiving it. I understand how it could be difficult to choose the "best" model. When selecting a model, choose one that most resonates with you and fits your purpose best.

    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago adkikani wrote
    Hi Mind Tools Team, the more I read new articles, the more difficult it is becoming for me to choose the best. I just downloaded a workbook from Action for Happiness and it has such an amazing insights that I wish to thank back end team for sharing path to such a beautiful resource. Happy learning and keep sharing!
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    Hi mrgee66,
    Welcome to the Club and glad to hear that you like this model. Sharing it with your son will hopefully help him to clarify his direction!

    My role in the Club is to help members get the most from their membership, so if you have any questions, come on over to the Forums and ask us there.

    Hope to see you around.

    Mind Tools Team
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