FOOD FOR THOUGHT
By Bushra Majid
Psychology is a wonderful subject. It enables one to understand human nature; how people think and interpret different happenings and cope with unusual situations or even with daily life activities. This might be one of the reasons why I like Behavioral Sciences class so much.
It was very fortunate that I came across a wonderful book called Flow-Classic work on how to achieve Happiness by the brilliant Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The book is basically a compilation of his several years of studies done in order to understand the human mind and was an initiative that was inspired by the riots he saw in his hometown, in Italy, when he was just a child.
I couldn’t agree more when he says that happiness is not just an extrinsic factor experienced only when there is some situation of peace, tranquility or wellbeing but it largely depends on the person’s intrinsic desire to enjoy him/herself in whatever they do. You can never achieve happiness unless you really want to be happy.
Given a particular situation or a task, you will observe that one person’s reviews would be very positive and despite the difficulties he had to face in order to achieve that task, he took all the positive things from his experience and made it worthwhile. In contrast, from another person’s perspective of the same experience, you will notice his frustration and agitation for the things he had to face that were not according to his taste in order to complete the task! This has been called an “autotelic” personality which can be summed up as a trait possessed by individuals who can learn to enjoy situations that most other people would find miserable. Such people have been seen to adjust easily in any environment because they possess skills like curiosity, persistence and humility.
Another wonderful finding of Dr. Mihaly’s work is a quality possessed by individuals called “Intrinsic Motivation” which enables the individuals to optimize positive experience, feelings and overall well-being as a result of challenging experiences. This quality has been seen to be a better predictor of grades and achievements of goals in students than any other positive influence as such. In Dr Mihaly’s words:
“The ability to persevere despite obstacles and setbacks is the quality people admire most in others, and justly so; it is probably the most important trait not only for succeeding in life, but for enjoying it as well!”
“Autotelic Personality” and “Intrinsic Motivation” are just the two small examples of how important it is to understand the fact that we are responsible for our own happiness to a greater extent. Those individuals who stand fast in the face of adverse situations and try to learn and bring out positivity from every new experience are the ones who succeed - not only in achieving their goals but also attaining a state of healthy and satisfied inner self.