Happiness or being in a state of happiness means that all the desires have been completely satisfied. Several researches have been undertaken, aiming to explain the meaning of happiness, the ways it can be attained, maintained and the consequences resulted from lack of happiness in one’s life. The researches include: “The Secret of Self-Control” by Jonah Lehrer, “What Makes Us Happy, the Summoned Self” by Joshua Wolf Shenk and “The Sandra Bullock Trade” by David Brooks. The researchers expound the ways people attain happiness. Although the authors of the above researches define differently the importance of happiness in one’s life, they show how the presence of happiness is associated with achievements.
Jonah Lehrer’s article “The Secret of Self-Control” explores the main reason of delayed gratification. Lehrer is one of the researchers and scientists, who teamed up to carry out a study aiming at identifying mental processes, which made people delay gratification. The researcher used children to collect information, which allowed him to come up with the conclusions that people, who delayed gratification were more successful in life than those who surrendered to temptations.
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The research was carried out at Bing Nursery School, which is located on the campus of Stanford University. There was set a game room with a chair and a table in it. They wanted to see if children could avoid the temptations of eating the delicacies, which were placed on the table. The experiment results showed that the pupils put in much struggle in order to delay gratification into a longer period. They used tactics like turning away from the tray with sweets, so that they could not see it, or covered their eyes with hands. The footage also showed that other kids started kicking their desks, tugging on their pigtails, or stroking the marshmallow, like it was a tiny stuffed animal. Some of the kids carefully looked around to ensure that they were not seen before picking up an Oreo, twisting it apart, or licking the ice cream and returning the cookie to the tray with a very satisfied face (Lehrer, 2009).
The Stanford professor, who was carrying out the experiment, reported that, “most children struggled to resist the treat and held out for an average of less than three minutes. A few kids ate the marshmallow right away”. He noted that about 30% of the children were delaying gratification until the researcher returned after about a quarter of an hour. He reports, “these kids wrestled with temptation but found a way to resist” ( Lehrer, 2009). It is difficult to disagree with the professor’s findings as many children like eating sweetened delicacies like chocolates, cookies and other sweets a lot. Therefore, it was found that most of the kids could not cope up with the temptations for more than three minutes and devoured the delicacies. A few of the children, about 30%, managed to resist the urge of eating the sweets.
The study showed that Carolyn, who had a strong will and did not surrender the temptations, became a psychology professor, and her brother Craig, who could not cope with the temptation, worked in a sphere of production in Hollywood. Here the researcher tries to show that people, who can delay gratification, are more successful than those, who surrender the temptation. Lehrer asserts that having the same genetic makeup does not guarantee the same quality of life. Achievement is attained individually and not on the basis of hereditary lines (Lehrer, 2009).
Joshua Wolf Shenk (2009) hoped to find out the secrets of happiness and therefore he started the Harvard study of adult development among students. The project was carried out for about 72 years, whereby the researchers from Harvard managed to follow 268 men during their life time. The man who had directed the research study, processed, and compiled all that information was George Vaillant (Shenk, 2009).
The researcher identified the most important factors, which foretell a healthy aging in both psychological and physical aspects. These factors were: education, not smoking, exercise, keeping up a healthy weight, not misusing alcohol, stable marriage, and use of mature adaptations. Therefore, I agree with the researcher’s findings on the above factors since following them up would ensure that one is healthy and lives a happy life (Shenk, 2009).
George’s findings showed that relationships had a great influence on one’s successful aging. He said, “The only thing that really matters in life is your relationships to other people” (Shenk, 2009). His study showed that relationships of men aged 47 years had life adjustments, which came late. Again he noted that, “It is social aptitude, not intellectual brilliance or parental social class that leads to successful aging.” I disagree with the above finding as social aptitude or relationships are not the only factors, which ensure happiness and success. Although, material or social factors are important as they give one a milestone to have a successful life, intellectual brilliance is important too, as it gives an ability to develop one’s own business, manage finances, analyze current events in society, be aware of economic and political affairs in the country, and, in general, be intelligent and set an example for the younger generation (Shenk, 2009).
Based on the views expressed in these articles, one can agree or disagree with the findings and define one’s own necessary factors for a successful/happy life. David Brooks (2010) writes about Clayton Christensen on his arguments on the road to success and achievements. He starts by advising the students “to invest a lot of time when they are young in finding a clear purpose for their lives” (David, 2010). I agree with this advice as students should make careful and right decisions in choosing their careers that would influence on their future life. Christensen also indicates that one has to make clear decisions on how to allocate one’s energy, talent, and time. “Once you have come up with an overall purpose, he continues, you have to make decisions about allocating your time, energy and talent.” For a happy and successful life one has to invest much time in decision making on the best path to follow so as to achieve maximum success in life. These include following a promising career and make sure that this is what your heart desires and invest all your efforts and time in it. Misallocation of resources among people who are eager for high achievements is common and to avoid that one has to devote more time to important things that can yield definite and long term accomplishments (David, 2010).
Moreover, I agree with the author that investing one’s energy and time in a relationship with either children or spouse does not bring out the same quick expression of achievement. It can only be felt after a long period of time, for example after 20 years, when the achievement is seen by the presence of a well raised daughter or son. At that moment one experiences full happiness due to attaining a great achievement. In order to attain a happy family, one has to take into account and practice good ways of bringing up the family, including moral values, investing much in education, taking good care of the family, both financially and socially, to be ensure in a happy life thereafter (David, 2010).
The author brings out another line of thinking about one’s life called summoned life, whereby the way of thinking begins wholly from a different angle. He argues out that “Life isn’t a project to be completed; it is an unknowable landscape to be explored. A 24-year-old can’t sit down and define the purpose of life in the manner of a school exercise because she is not yet deep enough into the landscape to know herself or her purpose” (David, 2010). I tend to disagree with the author’s views as a 24-year-old person is old enough to know his/her purpose in life. At that age one has already got education and is able to make firm decisions concerning his/her future life.