Psychological Self-Help

Navigation bar
  Home Print document View PDF document Start Previous page
 14 of 179 
Next page End Contents 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19  

are in control of our happiness already think we know all we need to
know about it. Sad. Surely humans will in the coming decades learn to
influence their own happiness to a great extent. The secret, I currently
believe, is finding hard, meaningful, demanding-but-fun ways to
achieve your highest values. See chapter 3. For me, a serious cultural
problem may be that 75% of college students say "becoming very well
off financially" is their highest aspiration--above "raising a family" and
"helping others." Only 40% said that in 1970. Note that criminals,
cons, deceptive business people, and drug dealers are also striving to
become well off financially. 
In our culture, it is commonly believed that happiness happens
when you become rich, powerful, or popular. Recent research
(Sheldon, Elliot, Kim & Kasser, 2001) suggests those beliefs are
wrong. Their study found that meeting other needs bring more
happiness. What were the most happiness-related needs? Autonomy
(self-direction, being in charge of your own activities), competence
(feeling and being able and effective), relatedness (having meaningful,
satisfying, caring relationships) and self-esteem (accepting and feeling
OK about one's self). Other research findings have also found that
happiness is related to self-esteem, loving relationships, extroversion,
good health, satisfying and challenging work, having exciting goals and
interests, status and power (education and money), a sense of control
over our good fortune and an optimistic outlook, being helpful to
others, and making an effort to do new and fun things (Diener,
Sandvik, & Pavot, 1990). Thus, there seems to be some research
agreement about what makes us happy, but the young still yearn for
extraordinary stardom and the older folks want to win the 1-in-30-
million lottery. Being able, caring, and self-directed, so that we
accomplish ordinary goals and have a sense of adequate mastery of
common lives and relationships, has the potential of making us happy,
but many of us seem to invest our hope in some highly improbable
goal. The result sometimes is that we spend our lives wishing for the
impossible while we merely get by at work, our relationships
deteriorate, and we can't even learn to lose weight. 
Waterman (1993) says there are two aspects to happiness. One is
"personal expression" and the other is "hedonic enjoyment." Personal
expression is self-actualization, i.e. using your talents, taking on
meaningful and challenging projects, working hard and guided by your
values, and feeling confident and satisfied. Hedonic enjoyment is
having fun, i.e. satisfying your needs, feeling relaxed, excited, happy,
content, etc., and being able to forget your personal problems. What is
very surprising and perhaps quite important was Waterman's finding
that the two types of happiness are highly correlated, i.e. happy
people tend to achieve and have fun while unhappy people get neither.
Vigorous, productive self-actualizing doesn't eliminate fun, it seems to
enhance it. 
Ed Diener at the University of Illinois says that life is judged happy
if we have more positive experiences (an enjoyable job, loving spouse,
a hobby, etc.) than negative ones on a day to day basis and, in
Previous page Top Next page

« Back