How do you define happiness? If you listen to the Dennis Prager radio show in Sacramento during midmornings, you’ll remember that today’s, October 15, 2010 theme of the radio show focused on happiness. The radio talk show personality’s point made was that if you get what you want in life, as far as career success, for example, the type of happiness you feel at first from the success of getting there may not last for long. Or it may not bring you happiness.
Now what could that one universal be that unites us all in happiness? On today’s Dennis Prager’s radio show, heard in Sacramento on the KTKZ AM 1380 radio station, Prager talked about happiness as the promised land versus unhappiness as the wilderness. What happens when you reach the so-called promised land of happiness? How long does it last?
The radio program discussion often mentioned career success that’s fleeting. The point to remember is when you fall from early success the fall is felt with more impact than if you never reached your dream in life.
For some happiness is finding that dream job and having career success. For others it’s getting healthier, or finding a great relationship. Happiness could be being able bodied enough for travel, or having enough money for necessities.
The reason is if you fall deeply from the pinnacle of early success in life, you feel it more deeply than if you never achieved that ultimate height of success at all in your career (or relationships). What could have been covered on that show on happiness might have focused on what are the elements of happiness if you look at happiness figuratively at the ‘molecular’ level. Of what parts do happiness consist?
One article published last week says happiness is not in your genes cut and dry as your destiny. See the October 4, 2010 article, “Don’t Worry: Happiness Levels Not Set in Stone,” by Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer. But sometimes certain types of depression run in families.
To make the formula for happiness easy to understand, it’s that voice and character are more important than plot. If you ever attend fiction writers’ conventions or various speakers’ panels that explain how to write plays, scripts, or novels, the formula for writing successful fiction usually emphasizes that voice and character are more important than plot. The same is true of life when it comes to defining happiness, in my opinion. Happiness in life may be achieved when voice, characterization, and dialogue become more important in your life than plot.
You didn’t hear that on the radio in Sacramento this morning. And why is it so important to focus on voice (your dialogue–what you say to other people) and character, your memoirs, experiences, and life story presents you on each stage of life.
What did get on the radio broadcast discussed what happens if you get what you want in life. Will that make you happy? Not really. If you reach what the radio program called “the promised land” which means getting the career success you dream of or the relationship you always wanted, will that bring you happiness? Or will you always be comparing yourself to someone else?
Will the bar to leap over keep getting higher? For example, if you reached success in your career at 17, then what happens when it only lasts a few years? What else brings you happiness? What brings you happiness when you reach our crowd’s age, over 70? The answer is being able to spend time with and enjoy your deepest interests that you never got to experience at age 25. In this case, happiness means being able to learn more about the human condition.
You could measure happiness on a graph or yardstick if you wanted to compare one happy person to another. Newspaper articles have mentioned that people earning more than $75,000 annually aren’t that much happier at least about income than those earning $75,000 annually. But those earning less than $75,000 annually aren’t as happy as those earning the precise amount of $75,000 annually. But is that really happiness?
You could be a billionaire and not be happy in relationships. Or you could be very happy living on a small amount as long as it adequately covered your requirements of food, shelter, clothing, and health care needs. But that amount would depend upon the changing costs of those items in your community. So how do you measure what makes you happy?
If rich people or celebrities were happier than you, how come so many celebrities and wealthy people or children of the rich and famous are getting arrested for drunken driving, taking drugs that ruin their health in the long term, becoming alcoholics or addicts, catching HIV, dying of AIDS, committing suicide, becoming anorexic or obese, or acting unhappy in ways that get them in the news? Will they still be happy when some new rising star replaces them in the field in which they have reached success?
Are they eager to be in the news for their career? Are they creating publicity stunts? Or are they truly unhappy and partying to excess looking for happiness outside of themselves in ways that just ruin their feeling of well-being and joy? What can money buy that can be classified as permanent happiness that’s not fleeting when the new object bought gets too familiar?
To study the human condition, you can turn to art galleries, museums, and mainstream novels or you can find out within yourself what makes you happy that would still keep making you happy if your relationships and your career left you. Think of it this way. If you were the greatest athlete on a team, would you still be happy when your team consistently lost the games?
If life is a game or a stage presentation in your mind, where do you go when you’ve reached the pinnacle of success in your specialty, but the team you’re playing with has always lost the game? With whom do you compare yourself? To be happy, you stop comparing yourself with others. And you listen to voice and characterization within you.
Take your cue from novelists. Examining the parts of what makes people happy is similar to writing a popular novel and looking at the parts of a life story that contain voice, characterizations, and dialogue which are more important than plot. How this applies to real life is that voice is how you talk to people. It’s the words you use daily. But plot is what the outside world does to you or gives you that’s usually not under your control. For example, you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time because you have been assigned to do your duty for something bigger than yourself. That could be your service to your boss, your country, your family, or your faith.
If you don’t have something nice to say, figure out how to put your words politely so that don’t come back to you when you’re on your way downhill in your career or relationships. Check out my paperback book, Ethno–Playography – iUniverse on how to write plays/skits using the technique of ethno–playography which incorporates traditions, folklore, and ethnography into dramatizing real events. It may inspire your happiness in recognizing your own voice of confidence and resilience in making life choices.
Your voice is a measure of your confidence and resilience. It’s your dialogue, just like words in a script reveal the character of the person. Happiness depends in part on your voice, on what you say and on what you put into words. That applies to your personal journal as well as to what you write about others or reveal about yourself in your memoirs. It also applies to what you say, write, or illustrate publicly.
To be happy, focus on your voice of confidence and resilience. Your voice is how you face the world. Do you stand up for your rights? That’s your voice. Or are you happy in a silent world that brings you serenity if you refrain from using your
voice? Which stance makes you feel happiest?
Voice is different than dialogue, which is conversation between two people. Your inner voice is your inner locus, a point of focus. It’s also the voice in your head that you argue with when you need to make a choice or decision based on weighing pros and cons or personal likes and dislikes, or validated facts and evidence.
Dialogue is what you say when you talk to another person. That other person remembers words that make an impact on the other person’s emotions. Words can imprint in the mind or be misinterpreted. But your voice that comes from inside (and how you dialogue with others) define what makes you happiest.
What about characterization? It’s defined as a description of qualities or peculiarities. Why is character more important that plot? To be happy, you have to make choices. Characterization is about the qualities and peculiarities of your decisions.
Life is about your quality of choices. But happiness is the reason why you make those peculiar decisions and about the quality of your choices. Happiness is about how you live with or transcend past choices. It’s also why and how you choose to move on with joy.
To define happiness in your own life is to tell a serious story that you might also present to yourself as humor. Can you laugh at yourself when no one else is around? Every person who calls himself/herself happy exhibits a very distinctive voice and vision. Yet the term ‘happiness’ applies to a lot of people.
Do you have to be unique to be happy? Voice is your style. If you use ‘voice’ to express how happy you are to yourself, then voice is the quality that makes your life unique. Your ‘voice’ conveys your personality to yourself and others.
Plot is handed to you by your environment and others based on choice and being in the right place at the right time. Plot is a plan or scheme to accomplish some purpose. Plot is what your life looks like if you stood on top of a mountain and looked down at the valley as your life unfolded in that valley.
Plot is how the main events in your life are organized. Happiness also may be organized around how the events in your life are organized by you or by others with you standing by passively accepting what comes your way. Life story is different than plot. Plot is how all events in your life are related. Plot is how every event in your life has been structured.
Plot is how the events in your life change you. Do you base how happy you are now on the range or rate of change that took place in your life in the blink of an eye or over the decades?
Plots are about how deeply you get caught up in conflict that eventually you resolve by solving your problems or transcending your past choices. Do you let plots control how happy you are right now? Or do you depend on your voice of confidence and resilience for happiness?
Life throws at you many plots. They can come in episodes. They can be tightly woven. They can integrate into your life if you let them become integrated in your happiness or serenity ‘bubble.’ But take it from a novelist, how happy you are today is more about your character and your voice and less about the plot life gives you whether you chose that plot or accepted what you found as you walked the path at each stage of life.
Happiness is defined as your own attitude towards yourself and others as well as your attitude toward other objects in the world. Your voice also is a vehicle to express your character. And your character is your personality which contains your attitude toward everything in life you encounter. Your voice is not only your speech or your words, be they polite or sharp, confident or resilient. Your voice represents your thought patterns, your body gestures, decisions, and your emotions.
Your voice of experience represents all your life experiences. That’s why so many memoirs have a chance to become famous classics when they convey the secret of happiness for one person that others perceive as universal. Basically happiness can be shared if others can identify with what made you happy that did not depend upon your job or your relatives. People are looking to share with you what one universal made you happy that had nothing to do with your work or family.
You choose what makes you happy. One Oct. 2010 article, “Don’t Worry: Happiness Levels Not Set in Stone,” says happiness is usually not genetic. But a previous article published by Forbes.com in 2004 says that some experts say happiness is genetic. So who do you believe the 2004 studies or the 2010 studies? See the September 23, 2004 article, “Happiness Is Mostly Genetic,” at Forbes.com. The 2004 article says the secret of happiness is in your genes. The article notes if you’re unhappy, the fault most likely is in your genes.
Scientists in 2004 had reported that wealth levels have a limited impact on happiness. But the 2010 article says happiness is in your head, not your destiny determined by DNA or other genetic influences, at least for some people. Can the secret of happiness be optimism in the face of trauma? Is it all about keeping your head and not panicking in public when life changes in a moment of time?
If according to the 2004 Forbes magazine article, globally, about two-thirds of people say they are happy. Is being optimistic a helpful trait? And is it genetic? Do your genes determine whether your optimism will help you survive trauma? Is happiness innate or simply making a choice as if you had to turn quickly and apply logic to optimisim or stop on a dime and make the best choice? Is unhappiness caused by being blindsided early on in your career or relationships by making the wrong decisions?
Whether more studies present validated evidence that happiness is in your mind or in your genes, keep reading the research. Then look at your own family history of happiness and figure out whether happiness is inherited or learned in early childhood and throughout life. The brain of an 18-year old is different physically than the brain of a 30-year old. Being optimistic can help when you need a positive outlook the most. And optimism also is character. Remember the formula for happiness that novelists use to write successful fiction: character and voice are more important than plot.