Motivation and emotion/Book/2013/Failure and happiness

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Failure and Happiness:
What do happy people do when they fail?

Happiness can be executed through various physical expressions

Overview[edit | edit source]

Failure and happiness are two terms derived from the circumstances and context provided by any given person. Individual experiences and scenarios account for different perspectives on failure and happiness. Failure and happiness affects everyone, regardless of age, gender, religion, nationality or socioeconomic status. The impact on each individual however, changes the understanding and meaning of the words failure and happiness. Major sources of happiness derive from close kinship, occupational situations, education, leisure activities and the individual's overall contribution to society. Major life aspects including education and occupation effect individual happiness, self-determination and personal development. Family, friends and intimate relationships are other major life aspects and create various emotions with hopes to evoke long term happiness within an individual. Personality and individual growth is considered to arise from leisure and recreational activities, these activities are important as they provide insight into individual happiness. Within these major life aspects failure is common, however learning from failure and shaping personal growth is important to succeeding in individual happiness.

Focus questions[edit | edit source]

Happiness is ethnically diverse
  • How do we define failure and happiness?
  • What are the theoretical underpinnings for failure and happiness?
  • What common situations determine why happy people fail?
  • How can people improve and live more effective motivational and emotional lives?

What is the definition of happiness?[edit | edit source]

Happiness is an emotion that is the result of a context based situation enabling an individual to feel happy and content (Emmons, 2007). Feeling happy requires the individual to indulge in pleasant behaviour, and to avoid unpleasant behaviour in the interest of the self (Wallis, 2005). Happiness is not about eliminating bad moods or smiling all the time, however it is about the depth and deliberation it encompasses (Emmons, 2007). Happiness can be used as a life evaluation, 'overall, how happy are you with life?', or it can be used as an immediate emotional response to a report, 'how happy do you feel right now?' (Wallis, 2005). Happiness is not a reward for escaping pain, rather it demands that you confront negative emotions head on; this creates the understanding that the term happiness is temporary within an individual until another emotional state overrides it (Emmons, 2007).

What defines a happy person?[edit | edit source]

A happy person tends to have more physical and mental traits than those who are not happy (Post & Neimark, 2007). In personality terms, a person that is happy is more extroverted and avoids neuroticism; they are energised by the social world (Post & Neimark, 2007). A happy person has a flourishing social life with numerous amounts of friends they can rely on. Aside from traits, a happy person tends to be more spiritual and cultural, and interacts in an active leisure environment with optimistic people, rather than engaging in passive seeking behaviour such as computer games or television (Post & Neimark, 2007). Happy people tend to volunteer and engage in pro-social behaviours this is to satisfy their need of curiosity, which is the pulsing state of knowing (Post & Neimark, 2007). A truly happy person believes in self-growth and venturing beyond comfort zones (Post & Neimark, 2007).

Positive psychology[edit | edit source]

Positive psychology is a new branch of psychology that shifts away from clinical practices to the creation of well-being and positive relationships (Gable & Haidt, 2005). Positive psychology provides an understanding of the underlying goals and direction used by individual's to achieve happiness. It builds upon peoples strengths and key competencies (Gable & Haidt, 2005). Positive psychology encourages improvement through acknowledging increased levels of emotional, psychological and social well-being, these aspects of improvement flourish from continuous individual growth (Reeve, 2009). Positive psychologists tend to understand the creative and adaptive aspects of human behaviour and do not ignore or neglect disappointment or challenges, instead they encourage weaknesses (Reeve, 2009). The goal of positive psychology is to change negative lifestyles of living to incorporate a more positive outlook on different dimensions and life as a whole. The change in direction of any of these aspects can ultimately effect how an individual perceives the nature of happiness (Seligman & Martin, 2000). Positive Psychologist Martin Seligman (2011) discovered that momentary basis is not the only explanation for happiness. Seligman put forward a model accounting for when individuals are most happy.

PERMA model (Seligman, 2011)

1. Positive Emotion: This accounts for any basic positive emotion needed in an individual's life. This can be pleasure, food, inspiration, hope and curiosity.

  • Savouring: The awareness of pleasure and giving conscious attention to pleasure.

Techniques to promote savouring include: To seek out other people and to inform them of an experience you value, to build memories in the form of photographs or souvenirs to share your valued memories with others, to self-congratulate and express to yourself how long you have waited for a particular moment, to sharpen perception and ignore certain elements in a particular environment, to absorb yourself in senses without thinking, avoid forming habits and seek out sensationally invigorating activities.

2. Engagement: When an individual engages in an activity flowis experienced, to concentrate and pay full attention to challenging tasks.

  • Mindfulness: We act automatically without much mental thinking, mindfulness allows an individual to sharpen perspectives at a particular moment.

Techniques to promote engagement include: set clear goals, receive immediate feedback, enable a sense of control and encounter tasks that require skill.

3. Relationships: Relationships are arguably the most important aspect of an individual's life. Relationships account for social connections, family connections, intimate connections, occupational connections and educational connections.

  • Nurture: We nurture and energise growing relationships.

Techniques to promote engagement include: Invest time and energy into meeting up with friends and maintaining relationships, revising relationships that have had minimal impact on your life to determine if they are worth keeping and to strengthen relationship connections.

4. Meaning: Meaning provides an initiative to seek a sense of belonging amongst others and perhaps a higher power. To seek meaning is to allow for a sense of well-being throughout life.

  • Kindness: Creates and boosts self-esteem, makes you feel good about yourself and enhances your connections with others.

Techniques to promote meaning include: Keeping a diary to enhance gratitude, thank a mentor or someone that you owe appreciation to, learn to forgive someone by letting go of anger, weigh up your life to consider how you are going in aspects of work, life, family and friends.

5. Accomplishments: The ability to master a task or skill, to achieve a set goal and to become competitive when flourishing throughout activities.

  • Strengths: Allow time to think about personal strengths to use in everyday life.

Techniques to promote accomplishments include: What type of leader are you? Do you have a good sense of perspective? Do you love learning? Are you good at teamwork?

The elements in this model are measured subjectively, mainly using self-report measures. Each element contributes to well-being, and enables an individual to easily identify a more meaningful and productive life (Gable & Haidt, 2005). Positive psychology relies heavily on the individual's strength to illustrate optimism.

Optimism and happiness[edit | edit source]

An optimistic perspective views a glass as half full, rather than empty.

Optimismis a state that correlates with happiness, it is within human nature to think we are better than average in many aspects of life including coaching, skills and trustworthiness (Froh et al., 2008). Optimism can be an innate quality within humans, others however learn optimism through leading a happier lifestyle with a positive outlook on life. The amount of positivity in one's life provides an indication of how optimistic that particular individual is. Research indicates that unhappy and happy people, respectively, encounter similar events in their life; it is however the individual's interpretation of the unfortunate events that depicts the overall outlook of that person (Froh et al., 2008). Optimism is type of explanatory style used to predict both a positive or negative mood and expansive or inhibited behaviour (Froh et al., 2008). Optimistic people tend to remove obstacles from their life to create happiness as well as analyse goals from the past and for the future. Martin Seligman, a leading father of positive psychology, began his theory of learned helplessness by comparing the behaviour of dogs in two types of shock boxes (Kamen & Seligman, 1987). The fist group of dogs felt as though they could not escape the box and became rather passive; however the second group of dogs felt as though they could escape the shock by jumping out of the box (Kamen & Seligman, 1987). This experiment was projected onto humans to reveal that when people experience this type of learned helplessness they are more susceptible to depression and anxiety, however some humans can learn coping skills that immune them from passivity and helplessness (Kamen & Seligman, 1987). Having an optimistic perspective on life supports an individual through times of failure.

What is classified as failing?[edit | edit source]

The term failing begins with a pre-determined goal that is created by an individual and set to overcome within a specific time-frame (Biswas-Diener & Kashdan, 2013). failure is determined by the individual's own belief system, as such failure for one person might be success for another (Biswas-Diener & Kashdan, 2013). Heuristics form the basis for judging success or failure of a particular situation (Biswas-Diener & Kashdan, 2013).

  • There are different types of failure, which can be perceived by each individual differently (Carter, 2013);

1. Outcome failure: This type of failure relates to the person who is only interested in the overall outcome of the core issue.

2. Process failure: Although the task is complete, the individual may feel unsuccessful with their results.

  • According to Carlin Flora (2009), editor and writer for Psychology Today, failure is inevitable when it comes to success, however, overcoming failure requires an individual to:

1. Not regret life events.

2. Comprehend failure as bringing you wisdom.

3. Learn and grow from failure.

4. Maintain enthusiasm to never give up.

5. Keep confident and dream big.

Placing pressure on people to cope well in a situation in which they are unaware of the circumstances, creates a fear of failure within that particular individual (Flora, 2009). Pressure comes from external forces such as work colleagues and peers.

Education and occupation[edit | edit source]

Throughout the eighteenth century, freedom and self-determination were claimed by progressive thinkers and ideas of education stemmed from using force (Bailey, 2013). This attitude became the origin for curiosity and spontaneous needs in becoming interested in education and further knowledge (Bailey, 2013). Progression from the nineteenth century to the twentieth century saw a shift in overt authority to anonymous authority (Bailey, 2013). Overt authority was directed and explicit, as students were told what tasks to complete and if they did not complete it, what the sanction would be (Bailey, 2013). Anonymous authority creates an illusion of authority, which uses psychic manipulation to allow students to become interested in education (Bailey, 2013). This shift was determined by society and the respective economic system at the time. Neill (1921) devised a radical system to child rearing that enabled students not to fear education, he believed that happiness grew from freedom and that happiness deprivation lead to many different psychological disorders (Bailey, 2013). Neill (1921) implemented critical thinking rather than obedience to achieve self-determination, he applied these principles to the children at Summerhill School:

1. Firm faith in the goodness of the child.

2. The aim of education is to find happiness and to be genuinely interested in education with a complete sense of personality.

3. Intellectual and emotional knowledge is required.

4. Education is tailored to the psychic needs of a particular child.

5. Discipline and punishment create fear which results in hostility.

6. The teacher and child relationship must be of mutual respect.

7. Sincerity of the teacher.

8. To connect with family members that encourage support before becoming independent.

9. Guilt feelings bind the child to authority within society.

10. Understanding basic humanistic values without the incorporation of a heavily religious based education.

Neill (1921) found that schools with less coercion and less 'traditional' forms of corporal punishment produced happier children with self-determination, critical thinking skills and the ability to engage in self-knowledge and learning (Bailey, 2013). Once simplified, Neill's (1921) principles can be used to help people in a contemporary society live more effective motivational and emotional lives. Our own happiness creates an understanding of unhappiness and a willingness to diminish the suffering of others to be truly happy. Noddings (2004) analysed several contributions that assist in providing happiness:

1. Home environment; the different parenting styles including encouragement and engagement from the parents.

2. Interpersonal growth and discovering the path of education the individual enjoys the most.

3. Finding new ways to make the classroom a practical and friendly environment.

These contributions allow the flourishing of education through the happiness of one individual.

Think about it:

Think back to a time when you failed at school; this could be an exam or an assignment-

Firstly, how did you feel at the time when you found out about the unsatisfactory result?

Secondly, who was there to support you?

Thirdly, how did you overcome this?

As education flourishes an individual's specific skill-set is refined and their particular interest in a specific occupation is aroused.

Occupation satisfaction is a personal measure that balances career choices and life. Working in general has created the stigma that the sole purpose of working is to receive an income to live comfortably. However, this unsatisfactory feeling takes a toll on an individual's physical and mental health causing psychological problems such as anxiety or depression. Without job satisfaction and happiness it is difficult to advance or find your career rewarding. A study conducted by Camfield et al. (2009) suggests that although Bangladesh is one of the most poorest and overly populated countries in the world its people reported higher levels of happiness than in other developed countries. The qualitative research indicates varying social and personal goals combined with a strong work ethic which led to cultural context results (Camfield et al., 2009). One of the most broadest and comprehensive surveys conducted reveals business owners as the most happiest occupational group (Shellenbarger, 2009). The survey incorporated a composite measure of six criteria to analyse the relationship between happiness and occupation (Shellenbarger, 2009). This research reflects business owners' freedom from time constraints, the ability to choose work and to respond to adversity (Shellenbarger, 2009). As a result seeking out enjoyable work allows the individual to have control and to process the outcome (Shellenbarger, 2009).

Family, friends and intimate relationships[edit | edit source]

Athos, Porthos, Aramis & D'Artagnan- inseparable friends created by Alexandre Dumas in his novel The Three Musketeers.

The importance of family arises during childhood as a support group that creates happiness and love throughout life changes. Healthy marriages and positive relationships with children enable the survival of the family connection in later years (Brubaker, 1990). Elderly family members that have strong relationships with younger family members rely on them for assistance when needed (Brubaker, 1990). Elderly people tend to experience the death of many close friends along with having mobility issues, as such having strong relationships with younger family members is vital. Once retirement occurs, happiness is found within mutual caring and respect for the marriage to continue, this is depicted through leaving work and spending more time with your spouse (Brubaker, 1990).

Friendships are highly emotional and complex, they involve conflict, rejection and failure along with happiness and memories (O'Grady, 2012). Friendships require emotional awareness and applying various strengths to expand an individual's network of friends to allow them to feel a sense of belonging (O'Grady, 2012). Aristotle distinguished between different types of friendships explaining the principle of reciprocal altruism which indicates mutual goodwill and mutual utility (O'Grady, 2012). Contemporary psychologists identify four different types of friendships that are defined by their functions (O'Grady, 2012):

1. Acquaintances: Friends that are in frequent contact with each other though social media, however they are not aware of each others emotional content.

2. Casual friends: Discuss minimal feelings, thoughts and emotion. They try not to reveal strengths or weaknesses and are cautious in revealing personal details.

3. Agentic friends: Pragmatic friendships that share a common goal, these are utilitarian and are formed at a rapid rate.

4. True friends: Express authentic emotions without fear, this friendship requires mutual aid, concern, empathy and respect.

Friendships flourish through the ultimate goal of reciprocal altruism, this goal enables the growth of friendships into perhaps intimate relationships.

Researchers have discovered that intimate relationships is what most people want to find happiness in (Gordon, 1969). At the heart of intimacy is empathy, understanding and compassion these are feelings and emotions that are controlled by each specific individual; having control over these emotions enables a proper understanding of how they are projected onto others (Gordon, 1969). Intimate relationships begin by needing a partner to rely on, a source of support, love and affection; at first there is an illusion, then a delusion which follows confusion (Gordon, 1969). Because intimacy relies on the individual's understanding of them-self, exploration of the self is analysed by a psychotherapist who listens with empathy, and displays the skill to understand without providing harsh judgement. Couples that have not learned how to sustain an intimate relationship, result in finding it difficult to build relationships based on genuine feelings of equality (Gordon, 1969). Researchers for the last 20 years have discovered the increase in divorce from intimate relationships, especially with women falling into depression (Gordon, 1969). Divorce stems from misconceptions and misunderstandings, in which the causes of behaviour are biological, social, psychological and contextual. Gordon (1969), devised three hidden expectations within relationships:

1. If you expect a partner to understand what you need, you must figure out what you really need before telling them.

2. You cannot expect your partner to comprehend your feelings if you do not convey them properly.

3. If you do not understand or like what your partner is doing, talk to them about it rather than assuming or expecting them to change.

Relationships are one of the key factors in maintaining happiness throughout life. Broadening social networks enables individuals to create and flourish through various relationships.

Leisure and recreational activities[edit | edit source]

Leisure activities are an essential component of our lives, they grasp a sense of control, freedom, individuality and personality. A leisure activity is time spent away from chores, regular routines and occupations. Social leisure activities promote self-development, character-development, identity-development as well as a sense of community. Leisure activities include hobbies such as collecting items or developing skills in a particular area of interest, whereas recreational activities are done for enjoyment and pleasure. The main purpose of leisure activities is to ignite happiness within an individual as they have the potential to define who we are as a person (Lu & Argyle, 1994). A study conducted by Lu and Argyle (1994), suggests that individuals connected to a leisure activity found their activity was challenging, stressful and under control than those who were not connected to a leisure activity (Lu & Argyle, 1994). This study also revealed a positive correlation with happiness and social aspects of leisure satisfaction predicted longitudinal happiness (Lu & Argyle, 1994). Lu (1994), recently conducted a study with Chia-Hsin Hu (2005), to determine the relationship between personality, leisure involvement, leisure satisfaction and happiness in Chinese University students. The extroverted students depicted a positive correlation with leisure involvement, whereas the neurotic students did not correlate with leisure activities (Lu & Hu, 2005). The studies conducted indicate that leisure activities shape personality differences, without leisure activities happiness within an individual would not exist (Lu & Hu, 2005).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Happiness is determined by its consequences and context, an individual can remain happy for an extended amount of time or until the context changes and requires another emotion. The causes of happiness are determined through a contemporary branch of psychology known as positive psychology, which analyses goals and motivations to achieve happiness. Happiness derives from an individual's ability to be optimistic about consequences and behaviour. The inability to focus and achieve set goals is known as failure; society has gradually developed basic heuristics to judge failure in different situations. The importance of happiness throughout education enables an individual to achieve self-determination. Happiness in education leads to success and creates pathways for various occupational interests. Occupation satisfaction is determined by happiness and the balance between career opportunities and everyday life. Aspects of everyday life include family, networks of friends and an intimate relationship with a chosen partner. These relationships create happiness through shared memories, experiences and empathy. Relationships require emotional intelligence as relationship failure can result in conflict or divorce. Another major aspect of life is leisure and recreational activities, these activities build personality and initiate freedom. Leisure activities maintain happiness and inner equilibrium as they are selected by each individual respectively. Happy people fail in numerous ways due to differing life aspects, failure is innate and overcome by an individual through various forms of optimistic techniques guided by principles of determination.

Helpful tips to avoid failure:

  • Keep an open mind, become optimistic.
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Review what your failure has taught you for future direction.
  • Accept mistakes as failure creates balance for personal growth and development.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Bailey, R. (2013). A.S Neill. United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Biswas-Diener, R., & Kashdan, T.B. (2013). What happy people do differently. Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers: July 02.

Brissette, I., Scheier, M.F., & Carver, C.S. (2002). The role of optimism and social network development, coping and psychological adjustment during a life transition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 102-111.

Brubaker, T. (1990). Families in later life: A burgeoning research area. Journal of Marriage and the family, 52, 959-982.

Camfield, L., Choudhury, K., & Devine, J. (2009). Well-being, happiness and why relationships matter: Evidence from Bangladesh. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10(1), 71-91.

Carter, C.L. (2013). Failure makes you a winner. Psychology Today: Raising Happiness, Sussex Publishers: August 20.

Emmons, R. (2007). Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Houghton Mifflin.

Flora, C. (2009). The Pursuit of Happiness. Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers: January 01.

Froh, J.J., Sefick, W.J., & Emmons, R.J. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology,46, 213-233.

Gable, S.L., & Haidt, J. (2005). What and Why is Positive Psychology. Review of General Psychology, 9, 103-110.

Gordon, L.H. (1969). How relationships are sabotaged by hidden expectations. Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers: December 31.

Kamen, L., & Seligman, M.E.P. (1987). Explanatory style and health. Current Psychological research and reviews: Special issue on health psychology, 6, 207-218.

Lu, L., & Argyle, M. (1994). Leisure satisfaction and happiness as a function of leisure activity. PubMed, 10(2), 89-96.

Lu, L., & Hu, C.H. (2005). Personality, leisure experiences and happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6(3), 325-342.

Neill, A. (1989). Locke on habituation, autonomy and education. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 27(2), 225-245.

Noddings, N. (2004). Happiness and education. New York, United States of America: Cambridge University Press.

O'Grady, P. (2012). Positive Psychology in the classroom. Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers: October 26.

Petersen, C. (2006). A Primer in Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press.

Post, S., & Neimark, J. (2007). Why Good Things Happen to Good People. Broadway.

Reeve, J.M. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion. Chennai, India: John Wiley & Sons.

Seligman, M.E.P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive Psychology: An Introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5–14.

Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Can Happiness be Taught?. Daedalus journal.

Shellenbarger, S. (2009). Plumbing for joy: Be your own boss. The Wall Street Journal. September 15.

Wallis, C. (2005). Science of Happiness: New Research on Mood, Satisfaction. TIME.

External links[edit | edit source]