OPTIMISM IN THE PRESENT
When memory fades into the past, it is easy to select only the best situations to recall. But in the present, when one is actually living through the everyday events of life, it is difficult to always see things positively. Yet here is where happy people shine compared to the rest of us: they are able to see most any event happily…
In the last chapter we presented a mathematical model of happiness:
FH = (AE) x (EXP)
There we said that “felt happiness” (FH) equaled the “actual events” that happen in our lives (AE) which are modulated by a function of the “expectations” (EXP) we forecast about the event. Our analysis suggested that happiness can only be partially explained by good or bad circumstance. The “expectations” we have, has just as much to do with our happiness as do the actual circumstances.
In other words, how happy we are with a situation has just as much to do with the situation itself as it does how much we hoped to get from the situation.
Now, we have another factor to add to our formula: the factor of optimism (OPT). Adding this factor, the formula reads:
FH = (AE) x (EXP) x (OPT)
Here, we see, that “felt happiness” (FH) equals the “actual events” that happen in our lives (AE) which are modulated by a function of the “expectations” (EXP) we forecast about the event, AND by the function of “optimism” (OPT) — how we view the event once it has occurred. According to the formula (all other factors being equal) “felt happiness” will be determined by how we tend to interpret the event. The interpretation can range from negative (pessimistic) to positive (optimistic).
Happy people tend to see what happens to them in the most positive and optimistic way possible. Unhappy people typically perceive things in the most negative, pessimistic, critical light possible.
What difference does this make in real life? It’s all a matter of interpretation when it comes to happiness…
Your child is selected to attend a special summer program for talented students. Is this a wonderful family opportunity, or do you start to worry about the expenses involved?
For the first time since you’ve been working for the company, your boss invites you to join him at his country club. Is it a promotion he has in mind, or are you about to be fired?
You discover that the neighbors are having a party and they didn’t invite you. Are you being purposely snubbed? Or is it a party for their work associates, to which you, quite understandably, wouldn’t be asked?
You find a missing check for a $1,000.00 you forgot to record or deposit. Is this joyous “found money?” Or do you immediately start to worry about the I.R.S. ?