Saturday, June 17, 2017

Happiness or Effectance Part 1

Once upon a time, a student of Socrates named Aristippus of Cyerene maintained that pleasure was the highest good. The idea that pleasure and happiness were the most important and most significant goal of human life, was called hedonism. In that belief system, the person seeked to maximize pleasure and minimize, eliminate or avoid pain. Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence wrote “that all men are created equal … among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I take issue with the pursuit of happiness. Per psychology, happiness is just one of the feelings that we experience. Not only that, it’s transitory. In other words, it comes and goes. It’s only an emotional state, and not a long-lasting mood. Other significant emotions include sadness, surprise, fear, anger, disgust, and contempt. Notice the majority are negative emotions, although important for our survival. Let’s turn back to happiness. There are a number of assessments that attempt to measure the feeling of happiness. On the test, individuals are asked to characterize themselves in the moment; for the past few days; for the past week; for the past few weeks; and for the past year. In my opinion, the various tools are primitive and unreliable and inaccurate since most people have difficulty labeling their feelings accurately. Recently, individuals have claimed they were happy when they made at least $75,000 per year. After that numerical amount, however the happiness scale did not move very much as far as their happiness was considered. Other findings from Happiness Research are summarized as follows: 1. You control about half your happiness level 2. Lottery winnings create only temporary, short-term happiness. 3. Relationships are key factor in long-term happiness 4. Focus on experiences, not stuff. Moreover, to understand more about happiness attend the University of California at Berkeley, and attend a class on the Science of Happiness. Perhaps Jefferson was barrowing an idea from the Greeks when he wrote about the pursuit of happiness. Unknown to Jefferson at that time were more modern and relevant aspects of human motivation. For example, let’s take a look at the idea of Effectance Motivation described and labeled as such by R. W. White. According to White, the development of competence is an important attribute of personality. Moreover, it is linked and associated with other motives, such as curiosity, mastery and achievement. Nothing may be more important than the ability to navigate the environment as we begin our lifespan. We learn to use our hands to eat, grab and hold onto things. We learn to navigate by crawling, walking, skipping, and running. The development of our gross motor skills are very important as we’ll see later. By the time we reach preschool, we are likely scribbling, drawing, increasing language, reading, and perhaps even writing. Mastery is so very important and necessary in our ability to master our world. To be continued

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