Happy, smart and useful – a decision making framework

In a thought-provoking article by author and entrepreneur Derek Sivers, he outlines the three things to consider when making life-size decisions.
  • What makes you happy
  • What’s smart — meaning long-term good for you
  • What’s useful to others

Decision making is hugely important. We face decisions every single day and sometimes they can have a major impact on the trajectory of our life. The best decision-makers tend to utilise frameworks so they a consistent way of measuring up their options.

How to use happy, smart and useful in career choices

We’re able to use these three elements to create a framework for our work choices. Understanding what it all means could help a child or young adult figure out what a viable option for them might be in the future. With only two out of the three in place, the following situations occur:

Smart and useful, but not happy, is akin to the strict parent who says “you must be a lawyer” or similar, even though the kid doesn’t want to do that.

Happy and smart, but not useful, is a self-focused way of operating. It’s the passive income searcher or the lifestyle design addict.

Happy and useful, but not smart, is the charity volunteer, or people who stay at the same job for years without improving.


Sivers puts forward the idea that when a life or plan feels ultimately satisfying, it’s because he’s found the perfect intersection of smart, happy and useful.

The article, including more detail and a Venn diagram, can be found here.

How important are the concepts of smart, happy and useful to you and your family, and how could each be introduced as a way of framing a future career?