HUMAN HAPPINESS - ITS NATURE & ITS ATTAINMENT
VOLUME II: THE ATTAINMNET OF HAPPINESS
.Fundamental Fourteen is our last of the Fundamentals, and therefore, the final lesson on personal happiness.
VALHAP "THE SECRET FUNDAMENTAL"
THE FOURTEENTH FUNDAMENTAL
We've come a long way since we began our exploration of happiness...
We started with a discussion of "The Most Important Thing in Life" and at that time, we concluded, for most people it was personal happiness.
We proceeded from that point on to examine the many characteristics from the "Big Board in the Sky," the objective and situational correlates that have long been associated with personal happiness over many years of research.
There we explored the kinds of everyday of things happy individuals enjoy. The "good things in life" that they often have more than others.The higher income, the higher social status, the model family life, the good marriage, the success, the good health, the good mental health, the "fun life," -- and the variety of other situational, personal, and objective benefits that others share much less in life.
This moved us, inevitably, to "The Bad News of Happiness Research." And the "bad news" was: that a lot of the things the research has shown that can make a contribution to a person's happiness are things that very few of us ever get.
As much as the research continues to confirm that the "good things" in life contribute to one's potential happiness -- income, success, social standing, health, etc. -- few people in any society are lucky enough to accumulate all these happiness-benefits in any lasting abundance.
It looked a bit hopeless at that point in our discussions. If the research had veracity, it seemed that only a small minority of people in any part of the world would ever enjoy the happiness we all seek.
Yet clearly this was not the actual case! There are millions and millions of happy people in the world. Millions more than a simple "success and riches formula" would ever predict!
We realized, at that point in these Volumes, that there must be something more to explain happiness than mere situational success and comfortable circumstance. And the answer was in the happiness research findings themselves...
Beyond the data regarding the objective and demographic data collected over the years regarding happy people, there was a wealth of data regarding their personalities and everyday approach to living as well.
And from these, a number of characteristics about happy individuals appeared to us as things most anybody could learn from -- and possibly develop themselves.
Fourteen of these potential "happiness traits" we're eventually isolated, and they have become the basis of the study that's been presented in this second Volume on Human Happiness.
CAN THERE BE ANY MORE?
One would wonder if there's anything more happy people can share with us. After all, the research has revealed so many valuable secrets: "stop worrying," "spend more time socializing," "develop positive, optimistic thinking," "be yourself," and, indeed, all of the fourteen fundamental traits we've examined so far.
It's hard to believe that there might be something else...
But actually there is one more thing. And it may be the most important lesson of all. It's VALHAP, the "Secret Fundamental."
THE SECRET'S OUT!
At the beginning of our exploration of the Fundamentals, I asked you not to read this chapter until you had worked your way throughout the rest of the volume first -- to save this Chapter for last. And this was done to keep Fundamental 14 a secret from you until the proper time.
Why? Well, as was explained to you at the start: without you even knowing it, this last Fundamental has already "secretly" been happening to you without you even being aware of it!
In other words, here's one Fundamental trait of happy people you've been developing "in secret" -- even to yourself! As you've been busy concentrating on the other Fundamentals, on a more subconscious level, you've also been learning this 14th happiness trait -- and you didn't even know it!
That is why we've kept this Fundamental secret until now. Let's see if it's actually happened to you...
The final Fundamental is VALHAP. It's short for Value Happiness, and it's based on the finding that happy people place a very strong value on happiness -- much more so than do average, and especially than do unhappy people, who tend to view happiness as a completely unimportant goal in life.
Moreover, as we shall come to see, happy people simply want happiness more than others do. But before we get into all that, let's go back in time a bit...
When we began researching the possibility of increasing people's happiness many years ago, we hadn't isolated all fourteen of the happiness-traits that are now included in the present program. As we reported earlier, in those early days there was a good deal of trial-and-error. We learned about what aspects of the program worked, and what didn't. As we progressed in those early studies, we spent a lot of time debriefing our participants. And it was in such debriefings that we learned something special about the way the Fundamentals were affecting them...
One thing became especially clear. It seemed that the happiness gains most participants were experiencing were being produced by something more than just the particular Fundamentals they were studying and trying to develop.
Certainly, the Fundamentals appeared to be helping in and of themselves, because participants would variously mention that such things as "being more active," "reducing their worry," " increasing their social activity, " etc., as responsible for any noticible gains they reported experiencing. But they also suggested to us that something else was at work...
It appeared that in addition to working on the specific traits of happy people, the participants were also beginning to think about happiness in more personal terms. Their exposure to the basic characteristics of the happiest people, had, in a rather subtle way, led them to consider the meaning of happiness more philosophically. They had begun, without any specific instructions from us, to analyze their happiness in deeper, more personally relevant terms.
Apparently, participation in the studies stimulated a lot of personal soul-searching and thought regarding the concept and importance of happiness in a person's life -- and this, in turn, led many participants to a more profound understanding of their own personal happiness and a deeper appreciation and valuing of happiness in life. And, in turn, this new awareness, by itself, was contributing to the happiness gains these people were reporting.
This interesting turn of events should have been expected, for it is based on past research on happy individuals that shows happy people understand, appreciate, and have a greater awareness of happiness than most others. My own, early work, for example, studied the relationship between happiness and values (Fordyce, 1971) and found, among other things, that happier people rated happiness among their most important values.
This was the genisis of the fourteenth Fundamental!
Since it's origination, however, we've usually kept it a secret -- presenting its explanation only after all other aspects of the Fundamentals program have been detailed.
At first we did this with the hope of repeating the same phenomenon (i.e., that people learning about the first thirteen Fundamentals would, without specific suggestion, develop a deeper value of happiness on their own). Time after time, this appeared to occur. After that, we've simply kept VALHAP a secret for the fun of it -- knowing that most people who learn about the first thirteen Fundamentals almost automatically develop the 14th.
So let's examine VALHAP more closely and see if it has happened to you, as well!
THE VALHAP CHARACTERISTICS
From the studies outlined in Volume I, there are a number of characteristics of happier individuals which show that they tend to value and understand happiness more than most others.
As these are listed, keep a mental note how many of these "characteristics" have become more true of you as you've worked you way through these Volumes...1. Happy people value happiness more than others.1. Happy people value happiness more than others.
2. Happy people understrand happinesss better than others.
3. Happy people can sense and enjoy their happiness more than others.
In Volume I we cited evidence that happy individuals appear to place a much higher value on happiness than most people do. In rankings of possible values and goals in life, they tend to place happiness far higher than do others. In terms of their important priorities, happy individuals place happiness at, or near the top -- whereas most of us seem more preoccupied with success, popularity, riches, or love. Indeed, as we began these Volumes, when it comes to an answer regarding the crucial question "What is the most important thing in Life?" it is the happiest people who are the most likely to answer "happiness" itself.
It appears that the happiest people value and appreciate happiness more than the rest of us do. The rest of us are far more likely to place more value on love, success, social acceptibility, money, status, or other things as our main priorities in life.
Could such valuings be a deciding difference in how happy one's life turns out? Is it possible that what one values in life directs them, consciously or unconsciously, toward a greater chance of finding it?
Ample psychological evidence suggests this is indeed what can happen. What we desire, if lucky and hard-working enough, is what we get. Those who want success are probably more likely to achieve it than those who don't. Those who want to find a marital partner are more likely to locate one than those who don't. And those who want happiness are more likely to find it than those who don't.
It prompts the intriguing question: are happy people happy simply because they want it more? Are they happy simply because they value happiness?
It may well be....
2. Happy people understand happinesss better than others.
Another thing the resarch indicates is that happy people seem to intuit a great deal more about the nature of happiness than the majority.
The findings were cited in Volume I -- happier people appear to be able to better and more accurately define happiness -- they are better at accurately describing the psychological concept of happiness -- they seem to better understand the important role happiness plays in their lives -- they are much more astute in identifying the factors which contribute to the happiness of people, in general, as well as more keenly understanding the factors contributing to happiness in their personal domain.
Generally, happy people appear to understand a lot more about the nature of happiness than most others do. Indeed, it is an uneducated, intuitive understanding -- nonetheless, their attributions about the the nature and causes of happiness are much more in line with the scientific understanding of happiness than that of the general public.
One explanation of this congruence is simply that happy people are happy! Clearly. happy persons are in a much better position to understand the nature and causes of happiness than those who've hardly experienced it. Yet an alternative explanation -- and the one I choose to impart -- is that suggested by VALHAP: it can equally be that a greater understanding of happiness can result simply by paying attention to it -- no matter how happy you currently are!
The more one becomes focused on happiness as a concept -- and the more one begins thinking about their own, personal happiness -- the more one can't help gain intuitive lessons and understandings as to its nature. In other words, placing a greater value on happines naturally leads to a greater examination of it. And with any examination comes greater insight, understanding, and potentials for improvement.
3. Happy people can sense and enjoy their happiness more than others.
It also seems that the happiest people appear have an extra-special sense of happiness in other ways. It is something that they, themselves, are not particularly conscious of, but something seemingly apparent in the many reports I've gathered over the years. It's a sensitivity to the experience of happiness itself.
Perhaps because happiness is so valuable for them -- or perhaps the reason happiness is so valuable to them -- many happy people seem to savor and experience happy moods more vividly than others of us do. It's not so much that their happy moods are any different from ours, it seems rather that they appreciate and relish in them to a greater degree when they do occur.
It is what I've termed "happiness awareness." It is not especially that happier people have a different kind of happy mood than most average people do, it seems, rather, that they recognize and sense them more keenly -- while many others of us are too busy with our other preoccupations to take the time to recognize the moment that a happy feeling might provide. They are more aware than most of the whole of it. In addition, they seem to have a greater appreciation of happiness. They seem to understand the role that it plays in their lives to a much greater extent, and they seem to have a much greater respect for happiness as an important thing in their lives than do other individuals and especially than do unhappy individuals who basically kind of debunk happiness. They don't seem to place much value on it or really appreciate it and have a very difficult time understanding it conceptually. They have a very difficult time defining happiness and basically place it as a very low priority.
How Easy You Forget!
It was obvious that many of you consider it to be the most important thing in life; but I think that was kind of a snap judgement, something that just sort of came automatically in that sense. I would hope at this point in time that your appreciation of happiness has grown much deeper and that you understand and that your priorities or your sensing for where happiness fits in your priorities has risen a notch or two. You have almost or inadvertently added one of the happiness characteristics to your own personal repertoire.
When we began doing research with happiness we also discovered this particular phenomenon. Initially we had included a little something along these lines regarding the value of happiness and the importance that happy individuals placed upon it. But generally in our research studies here we had individuals work with the fourteen fundamentals in a specified manner. We have often had an opportunity to debrief with these individuals either personally through interviews and at times through anonymous questionnaires (and various kinds of formats) to try an get as honest response in feedback as we could from them.
The feedback we've gotten over the years basically indicates that what happens when one concentrates on the fourteen fundamentals and learns about them and puts them into practice (as you all have been doing) seems to go beyond the specific fundamentals themselves and seems to bring in a much larger awareness or sensitivity to one's own happiness. The individuals reported to us on many occasions that even though stopping worrying helped in developing a more optimistic, positive attitude, when they practiced that it helped a great deal. And by being more active, by spending more time socializing, those things helped also. By getting a little better organized, that helped too. What they reported was there was something else happening to them also. In addition to the specific things that were contributing to their happiness, they were growing in a sort of awareness or sensitivity to their happiness that they never quite experienced before. They just became more deeply aware of it a little bit more.
I trust that the same kind of things have begun to happen to you. That you understand your happiness conceptually, but you are much more sensitive to it emotionally. As you go through your days hopefully you are much more keenly aware of happiness and when it occurs. Perhaps you have been able to expand upon it a little bit better. Perhaps you have discovered some things to spark it or to kindle it to begin with. As your sensitivity to happiness, your awareness of it grows, this happiness awareness, some interesting things begin to happen. As you become more aware of one's personal happiness or your personal happiness, it does seem to set a natural priority system. What we found eventually was people felt that this happiness sensitivity or this general appreciation of happiness went far beyond the fundamentals themselves. They were able to use the fundamentals themselves, therefore, more or less as a springboard to a tailor made solution regarding their own happiness.
Now the point to VALHAP or the fourteen fundamentals is a very simple one.
I sometimes imagine that I am in a predicament where I had to train people in the fourteen fundamentals in a matter of a minute. I could only give them one specific direction. If I had to do that what VALHAP would suggest is a quite simple proposition and that would be for a specified period of time and as a personal experiment, live your life, let's say for the next month, as if happiness was your top priority: the one thing more than anything else you were hoping to achieve -- and make every other decision accordingly.
Now, what would that do? If you were to live the next month of your life with happiness as your top priority, what I tend to think would happen is inadvertently you would discover many of the fourteen fundamentals all by yourself. As you began to examine and analyze your happiness and try basically to pursue it more or more directly, I tend to think that many other things would sort of fall in line in kind of a natural priority system. I think you would begin to realize and become much more aware of the sources and things that were working against your happiness and like I say, I think that by itself would basically be the proposition, at least that's what VALHAP suggests...
VALHAP also suggests something else that I think is quite fascinating about the nature of happiness. We began our lectures a while ago and we were talking initially about some of the happiness myths that culture has always assumed about happiness. One of those myths seem to be the idea that the direct pursuit of happiness itself often backfires. I'm sure you've heard that old expression that we mentioned earlier that "the surest way to lose happiness is to pursue it directly." What this particular fundamental suggests to us about the nature of happiness and happy individuals is that such an idea is far from the truth.
Interestingly enough, it appears that the people that are the happiest seem to be the ones who simply want it the most. The people who are the more successful in the pursuit of happiness are apparently the ones who think about it and analyze it the most. That's an interesting kind of thing when you think about it. What that suggests is that perhaps happy individuals are happy particularly because they want to be happy so much more than the rest of us. They just seem to set natural priorities that help them find greater success in attaining it.
Now, on one hand, that may sound a little strange; and a lot of people would suggest that can't be. I think that is built on the old idea that happiness is just so illusory and ephemeral that there is nothing very tangible to know about it.
I hope one thing you all have gained through this experience is an understanding that in recent years we have come to understand happiness in scientific terms and we find that knowledge about happiness can be just as substantial and can be developed just as scientifically and is just as reliably as knowledge in any scientific area.
On one hand, I don't think anyone would question the fact that if you were going to hire an engineer to build a bridge for you, you would hope that he was up to date on all engineering factors and formulas and therein so on and so forth and the more knowledge he had about his craft or his skill, the better the eventual bridge would be. In every area of life, we take that as just a basic gut assumption; that the more information you have the better decision you make, the better bridge you can build, the better building you can create or whatever.
Happiness is apparently no different. The more you know about it, the better able you are to find it.
One of the reasons some people find all this somewhat difficult to accept is because our culture teaches many false ideas about the nature of happiness. In Volume I of this set, we outlined a number of widely-held cultural "myths" regarding happiness which have obstructed its true understanding. At the core of these "myths" is the idea that happiness is both undefinable and unexplainable. These cultural myths see happiness as a complete mystery -- something beyond the understanding of the human mind. They imply that happiness cannot be explained; that there is no truly understandable reason why some people are happier than others; that, on a personal level, it is counterproductive to examine or analyze one's own happiness; and that there's nothing one can concretely do to become happier.
Well, happiness is not the mysterious, unexplainable goal the ancients could only dream for. It has shown itself to be a rather tangible, concrete phenomenon -- amenable to scientific discovery. Happiness appears to be quite understandable, quite concrete, and best of all, quite researchable. In other words, happiness is no different from any other aspect of the life -- knowledge about it can be obtained through standard scientific procedures.
So, therefore, perhaps it's no surprise that the people who are the best educated, who have the most information about happiness are going to be the ones who are going to be able to control it the best.
Well, obviously at this point in time, we've provided you with a great deal of information; and my personal hope is that this information will be continually useful to you to continue to develop your own personal happiness.
.>> This page is an adaptation from HUMAN HAPPINESS - ITS NATURE & ITS ATTAINMENT, VOLUME II: THE ATTAINMNET OF HAPPINESS, CHAPTER 17 captured when it was posted on-line. It is provided in the interim until the rest of the chapters are again available on-line.