Saturday, March 26, 2005

Learning the Pursuit of Happiness

The title of this post popped into my head as a possible unifying concept for my thesis. Each of the key words is loaded with meaning, and the intersection between them is where my interests lie. Some preliminary questions I need answers to:

Learning
  • How are kids currently learning about which possibilities for their future are likely to make them happy?
  • Is this learning effectively helping them make good decisions? Do they have the information and skills?
  • How might these skills and information be learned better? Technology, social software, planning portfolios, mentoring, overhauling career development and guidance programs, etc?
  • How could a more holistic focus on lifestylism (or entire future lifestyles, as opposed to just family or career goals in isolation) help us make better decisions?
  • How would rich visualization, simulation and reflection help kids understand the implications and interdependencies of their future choices?
  • What differences exist in how kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds learn about their future options (career, education, lifestyle)?

Pursuit
  • How are young people currently setting goals or directions for their futures? What are the ecological and social consequences of an entire generation of people pursuing those goals? Are they sustainable goals for individuals and society?
  • Are the goals or directions generally meaningful, realistic, and aligned with their personal values? Are they pursuing what they actually care about? Do they know how to identify and take the best steps to achieving those goals?
  • How could the process of helping kids set and achieve lifestyle goals be improved so that they'd have better tools and motivation to succeed by their own measures of success?
  • How does fear motivate and paralyze young people when they think about their future options?
  • How much of the goals and dreams of young people are borrowed or absorbed from society and the American Dream as opposed to being authentic and personal?
  • Do young people believe that they can create their own futures, or that they must choose from existing options? How much desire is there to create future ways of living that are more satisfying and sustainable?
  • How are differences in socioeconomic status manifested in the types of lifestyles kids pursue? How could those differences be minimized? Is class mobility a myth?

Happiness
  • How likely are the most common or popular goals to make young people happy, both in the process of pursuing them and in their attainment? How happy is the American Dream making adults right now?
  • How might lifestylism as an orientation or approach to the future help us better enjoy the journey and the destination?
  • How could people better understand the connections between their personal happiness and the collective or common good of their communities and planet?
  • How do kids define and pursue happiness in the present? What needs and wants do they believe will make them happy in their futures?
  • What do young people believe about the relationships between work and happiness? Is work mostly viewed as the means for generating income to fuel consumption (which should equal happiness)? How well is this model working now? What should replace it if it's not making most people happy?
As I said in a previous post about my thesis topic, it's not a problem of not being interested in enough things -- it's a matter of organizing these questions into some kind of coherent approach or conceptual model. I'm glad I took a few months off from my program to ponder some of this stuff, because I feel like I'm at least identifying the questions I care about. The comments to my last thesis post were extremely helpful, even the abusive ones. Please feel free to comment on the questions I've included here -- even though I'm mostly just thinking out loud, it's great to have others bounce off of them as well. Which ones are most interesting to you (they're all interesting to me)? Which might be combined or expanded to yield the most interesting explorations?

5 comments:

Christopher Bailey said...

Jeremy, I won't call you a wussy, but I might challenge you to change "happiness" for "fulfillment" or "purpose." I tend to think of happiness as an emotional response to something. The question is "what?" Either fulfillment or purpoe goes to the heart of something deeper and might be an explanation for why someone is happy.

Jeremy said...

Oh, c'mon Christopher. Surely you can think of some names to call me to add impact to your argument!

Yeah, I see what you're saying. "Happiness", like "lifestyle" has some fluffy baggage attached. I was actually thinking of using "pursuit of happiness" as a sort of leading title, then debunk (or at least expand on) the ways people think about happiness and especially what they think might make them happy in the future. Satisfaction, fulfillment, purpose, flow, meaning, self-actualization...to me it's all about a deeper and richer understanding of what makes us happy.

Rachel said...

I think if your glass is half full you probably tend to be a happier person than someone who sees it half empty.

Just a thought: More and more people have Life Coaches today!

Garth said...

Excellent thesis idea Jer! However, when I see the pursuit of happiness as a sole aim it seems kind of fluffy, but again it all depends on how you define happiness. Christopher saw fulfillment or purpose as perhaps being somewhat deeper.

Different religions find fulfillment in different ways: Buddhists would probably refer to it as the pursuit of emptiness (absence of self/suffering), Jews the pursuit of Shalom (more than just peace - reconciliation), & Christians - the pursuit of joy or contentment (whatever the circumstance)and understanding of one's purpose in life through God.

I admittedly am often not content but I have come to understand that just because the weather outside sucks doesn't mean I can't enjoy life - I simply have to be somewhat more creative and keep plugging ahead.

I also found rachel's comments interesting - particularly her sense that more and more people are utilizing life coaches. In many ways, I see my role as a professor being that. Teachers, pastors, coaches, counselors, mentors - all in a sense act as guides on this journey called life.

JEFFREY MENARD said...

"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down".
~~ Oprah