Phase 1: Posing Real Questions
In the previous Phase 0, I have narrowed down possible inquiry project choices into one final topic: Happiness in Xizhou. Now onto the new step, Phase 1, I will be posing ten main questions that I would like to answer during my Microcampus journey.
What do I already know:
Currently, for my topic of Happiness, I know that there is no definite answer to all of my wonders. Happiness is a concept that is comprehended differently by different people, and there is no one correct definition for this word. Some people might feel contentment through their very own success, while others might feel satisfied through their time spent with family. I know that many different factors contribute to one's happiness and that although people can not always stay happy, the way people view the world and themselves can make some happier than others.
Where did I learn these things?
Most of my current knowledge of happiness is based on personal experience and observations on those who are close to me. Although the idea of joy is still quite blurry to me, I have seen traces of happiness in my parents, my friends, and myself. All of what I think I know about my topic right now are all obscure, simply one or two pieces of lost puzzles. Hopefully, my journey at Microcampus could be one way for me to gather as much lost pieces as possible, and to fix them into something meaningful, perhaps a map of its own.
What would I like to learn?
I would like to discover the perspectives of each individual I will hopefully be able to talk to in Xizhou. I would like to learn more about the factors that contribute to happiness, and what we, as a community and as an individual, can do to influence our very own feelings. I want to explore the definition of my topic, and what that could mean to different people. In addition, I want to learn about the stories people have that have impacted their "happiness" or, in a way, taken away from their "pleasure". I would like to learn about both the people in the village, and the village itself, and how everything somehow connects with each other.
In order for me to fully understand my topic before I move on to asking bigger questions about "happiness", I have done some background research to help me out. All the background information can be found in Phase 3.
Below, I have developed ten big questions that I would like to answer throughout my Microcampus journey. These proposed questions are extremely significant, as it will give me a direction to start off my research process in. Beneath each question, I have also written possible answers in italics.
1. When do people feel happiest?
I would assume that people feel happiest doing the things they love with the people they love most. I have never surveyed anyone about this topic, but from personal experience, I am the happiest when I feel passionate about things, and when I have the ability to pursue them with the encouragement of the people I feel most passionate about. The answer to this question could vary from "hanging out with family and friends", to "when I am walking my dog".
2. What, most often, gets in the way of a person's happiness? How does that prevent a person from being happy?
As mentioned before, I think the only thing/person standing in our way is ourselves. Our very own minds are the scary monsters that stop you in your path and prevent you from reaching your goals. The same goes for happiness. If more people were to change their mindsets and values, I truly believe that there will be more happy people surrounding us.
3. How does a person's definition of happiness develop throughout their lifetime?
From background research, I do know that at younger ages teenagers are more attracted to materialistic things, such as toys or clothing; while as people grow older, their view of happiness becomes more intrinsic, as they might feel happier when it comes to family or friends. From Mr. T's suggestion, I looked into a more specific Chinese definition of "happiness", and I learned that for younger people, happiness most often means ”快乐“ (kuài lè: a short-term joy), while for older people, they refer to happiness more often as “幸福” (xìn fû: a long-term feeling of satisfaction).
4. Is "being happy" the final goal that people want to achieve in their lives?
Yes, I think although people think "being successful in life" is their goal, in the end, it really does come down to just being happy. No matter what choices we make, the majority of them are all actions we take to improve our lives and to be satisfied with it. Whether it is a dream we have about being an astronaut or becoming an entrepreneur, when we imagine what we will be like in the far future, the image that appears in our minds are usually always images of us smiling.
Societal Impacts on Happiness:
5. Can money buy you happiness?
Yes and no...I believe that money can give people more opportunities and chances to pursue happiness, while at the same time, money can also limit our views. One example of money being a rather great advantage is that it can buy us more time. For example, many families at Shanghai American School have nannies or drivers helping out. With some extra help towards cooking or transportation, it would allow people to spare out more of their own personal time to help them reach their happiness. However, the value of "the amount of money one has" can also result in a devastating mindset. Materialistic things and wealth can buy one fleeting pleasure, but I do not think it can completely buy one happiness; however, on the other hand, money might not be able to buy someone happiness, but without money, the person will live their whole life without the ability to pursue what makes them happy.
6. Does the society we live in today restrict a person's ability to reach their highest "happiness potential? If so, how?
Yes. Yes. Yes. I would say that the society we find ourselves in today restricts/changes almost everyone's view of "happiness". With social media and competition, people begin to see happiness as something much more materialistic. People think "being successful and being a millionaire" will lead to happiness, and maybe it will, but most of the time I do think it is much more than just the bills. When that one person does end up succeeding and becoming a millionaire, they realize that they are in fact, not happy. Later on, they come to the stubborn conclusion that being a millionaire is not enough for them to reach happiness, and in hopes of a different result, they attempt to become the next billionaire. In our community today, we are surrounded by people that are always talking about getting a good job or paying the bills, when not many people around us mention how happiness does not always fully depend on the money we make or the degrees we have.
What actions could the government take to increase their country's happiness rate? (See Phase 3 for more details)
From background knowledge, I do know that Denmark is one of the happiest places on earth. With further research, I learned that the government of Denmark played a huge role in this. The Denmark government provided their people with free health care, and although their taxes were raised a bit, by having this free insurance there was a decrease in the level of stress with the people because it assured them that they are taken care of if they were ever to get injured or ill. With this in mind, governments could possibly consider similar actions and thoughts.
Between age groups, what differences and similarities can be found in their definition of happiness? (See Phase 3 for more details)
I think age wise, younger people would be more inclined towards more materialistic items, while elderly people would put more thought into their actual health and wellness. The 20-30-year-olds would probably dedicate much more time into work and chasing after the very thing that makes them happy. In contrast, for older people who have settled down, they will be more excited about family and relationships.
General Impacts on Happiness:
9. What is the most significant factor that contributes to the concept of happiness?
I would say the most important contributor to our happiness are the values we have in our lives. Once we learn to value one thing greater than another, we begin to focus on the more important things. We know what type of mindset and beliefs can harm ourselves, and we begin to invite positive things into our life. Values are the key foundation to nearly everything that adds to happiness. Our values help determine who we let into our community, the people surrounding us, and the people we attract. Our values help shape the paths we end up taking, and the overall quality of our lives.
10. Do specific environment conditions/circumstances greatly impact one's happiness?
Personally, I do believe that environmental conditions influence a person's happiness, just not as much as other components. If, for instance, natural disasters continuously occur where one lives, one might feel stressed out most of their days thinking a storm might appear at any second; while if one lived in sunny, nice weather, there might be a difference in their happiness rates. Yet even though I think environment conditions make a difference in one's happiness, I do not think that it greatly impacts it. If someone with an amazing mindset lives in a stressed environment and someone with pessimistic views lives in a nice environment, most likely the person living in the worse environment would end up being happier than the person in a better surrounding.
Above, I have listed 10 major questions to direct me during my research process. Before I embark on my Microcampus journey, I would like to do more specific research by narrowing down the general topic of "happiness" to "happiness in China". Now that I have completed Phase 1, I will be moving on to Phase 2, where I will be looking for resources that will hopefully help lead me to my answers.