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Everyone is always wondering what makes some people simply happier than others.  I’ve learned over the years that there are a series of traits—yes, 19 specific traits—that help make one joyous as well as successful.  And  little by little psychologists, behavioral economists, social psychologists and even neuro-biologists are proving that to be true.

It’s even true on a national basis.  Go to this great piece by psychologist Robert A. Lavine in the Atlantic Monthly to see the reasons for the Danes’ elevated levels of happiness as a people.

Dr. Lavine points out that Danes cultivate several key personality traits individually and as a society. Lavine would certainly have his own labels for them, but I would call them egalitarian, detached, autonomous, empathic and dutiful. Here are a few passages from Dr. Lavine’s article that lay out these traits, and I’ve added the traits in brackets:

“Studies of personality traits may offer clues about why the rescue was so widely supported. In Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede’s Power Distance Index, which measures how differently people treat others because of their social status, Danes ranked among the lowest in unequal treatment [egalitarian]. In a 2004 Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology study, Danes were also low in experiencing negative feelings like anger and anxiety [detached], as well as in compulsive rule-following [autonomous].

“How do Danes reconcile their standing up and rescuing others with their traditional reluctance to stand out? Danes are taught not to tolerate abusive behavior, and to speak their mind even if others disagree [autonomous]. A case in point is the boy Christian who retaliates against bullying in the 2010 Oscar-winning Danish film “In a Better World.” Danish people respect authority, but only if authority is virtuous, according to Mette N. Claushoej, recent Danish Embassy adviser in Washington (who, the embassy wishes to emphasize, was expressing her personal views). And they are taught not to think of themselves as better than others [egalitarian]. Their sense of shared responsibility for all members of the group [empathic & dutiful], evidenced by their widespread support of social welfare, might help explain the Danes taking risks during the 1943 rescue [of Danish jews].

“Furthermore, the recent Gallup well-being poll, conducted this April, isn’t an outlier. For decades international surveys have shown a greater percentage of Danes who describe themselves as happy compared to other national groups.”

And of course being happy is just part of the great personal payoff if you cultivate the traits of good souls among great achievers—that is, you are more joyous!
Cheers indeed from Sonoma,



About the author

Donald Van de Mark
Donald Van de Mark is the author of The Good Among the Great: 19 Traits of the Most Admirable, Creative and Joyous People.



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One Response to “The World’s Happiest People—Trait #11, Egalitarian”

  1. Thoughtful analysis of the traits associated with Denmark in my article The World’s Happiest People.in the Atlantic.com.
    Best regards,
    Robert Lavine