The impact of each
Where your efforts should go
Not dependent on content (or outcomes)!
The "contents" of life
Additional reading on context, in different areas of life
Context is the most important determinant of one's quality of life. The most important thing you can do is create a great one!
In The Perspective To Create A Happy Life, there is a picture summary and some explanation of what context versus content (also adding a sub-part of context called "framework"). The text of that page was copied onto this page and modified slightly. At the center of the picture is "contents', which is contained within a framework (environment), with the outer part being the "how you hold" all this, i.e. the "context" of it all.
THE IMPACT OF EACH
The meanings above will be explained, but here we now list the importance and impact on happiness which each provides:
CONTEXT - GREATEST, almost sufficient in itself if we were to master it
FRAMEWORK - GREAT, yet people often miss this part
CONTENTS - SOME CONTRIBUTION, totally misestimated by people as
being a reliable source, but it isn't! Focusing on this as the
source is a big planning mistake that may cause you to miss
much of the great potential in life!
WHERE YOUR EFFORTS SHOULD GO
Where should you put the greater amounts of your efforts (and as soon as possible)?
It would seem readily apparent that efforts would be most productive in order of their impactfulness level. (However, people seldom do this!)
Therefore, we would recommend that you master "context" at "Level 1" (80% of the benefits, with 20% of the effort) initially, then master "framework" at Level 1, and finally, within that context and framework, determine the contents that would be desirable. Note that the contents contribute to, but are mostly not necessary for happiness. See the main Happiness module: How To Become More Happy, which has scientific evidence in it that proves the content is not the determinant of happiness!!!!
NOT DEPENDENT ON CONTENT (OR OUTCOMES)!
Also note that a happy life is NOT be determined by or dependent on "outcomes". This idea will initially be resisted strongly, as most Westerners believe (falsely) that outcomes determine happiness. Note also that part of maturing in life and getting some wisdom is realizing that we can't always create the outcomes we want.
All the great philosophers talk about not being attached to the outcome, as that attachment is the source of unhappiness; well, what we talk about here is how to actually implement that esoteric-sounding idea. Read Undesired Outcomes as a vital understanding piece leading to happiness. It is further supported by Fearlessness, which is a context for how to look at life (one that works rather well!).
Context is how we "hold" the stuff of life. It is our viewpoint about it. It is the big picture, the perspective, which in its vastness holds the framework for living life and all the contents of life. For example, we could look at what is missing and be resentful on one end of the scale or we could look at what is present and be grateful. We could look at life as something that just happens or we could look at it as an opportunity to create some true satisfaction at a higher level.
Context is determined by a set of beliefs and assumptions, so context is closely related to one's life philosophy. That is why I recommend in the Philosophy section that you spend the time and effort to develop one heckuva strong philosophical foundation, for that is what determines the quality of your life. For a happy life context we would develop positive attitudes about ourselves, about life, about people and about the world as it works. You would be committed to becoming an Intelligent Optimist (read also in that section about Helen Keller's "viewpoint").
The framework for a happy life is providing by setting it up so that life is "full of meaning and values, supportive social relationships and personally rewarding work." (Ed Diener) In such a life we set it up so that we know our values and then we insert what we value into our lives (See What Is Life About? How To Maximize Happiness). To do this, we create "on purpose" (!) a solid life philosophy and a set of "true" beliefs that are true, supportive and functional. Within this, though it borders on context also, is setting it up so that we have fresh involvement with new activities, which helps our "spirit". "Spirit" is the temper of mind, the aliveness one feels in life, anything that breaths in new life and happiness, satisfaction, joy, etc. Spiritual is not some "holy" concept, it is about the essence of what mankind feels that makes life worthwhile and meaningful. Experiencing the emotions of gratitude and compassion uplifts the spirit, so we consider them to be a part of the supportive framework for life and an essential part that we attempt to put into our lives.
THE "CONTENTS" OF LIFE
Last, and least, by far, is the contents of life.
Money, health, friends, things, family, etc. - all are items we think will bring us happiness - and they are helpful but do not have the greatest impact on happiness, often contributing very little! Studies show that we are poor predictors of what will make us happy. We operate blindly, taking what we learned from the culture and tv and then we set up false rules of how to get happiness.
Also, we cannot control all outcomes, so some outcomes will not be as desired - butwith the attitude (framework) that we can create happiness (virtually) no matter what the circumstances, life in the present moment will be fine regardless of the current circumstances or probable future undesired circumstances. (However, it is helpful, in this regard and in all of life, to learn how to anticipate the actual effects of a future circumstance as part of effective decision-making/problem-solving (discussed in the Life Management section). As cited above, you should absolutely learn Undesired Outcomes and Fearlessness, which can serve as a major part of a great context for life - actually, I would say, a vitally necessary component for a great life!
Because of our wiring, we do need the basics of living at a level at or above subsistence. The payoff above that level of subsistence, in terms of happiness, is very, very small - and, indeed, it is tiny compared to the impact of having a great context and running one's life within a happiness-supporting framework.
You may not believe this as you read this, but as we go through, on this site, the actual details about happiness and the actual studies that have been done and as we create a greater understanding this will become readily apparent and very, very clear. Understanding this is the essential component of creating a truly happy life.
Watch this video vignette (click on "see it in action") explaining "context", with a good example (click on the lower right hand picture).
ADDITIONAL READING ON CONTEXT, IN DIFFERENT AREAS
Overall in life and psychology
A life changing paradigm (map of the world and how it is, which is a part of one's context):
Changing viewpoints and results through a choice of context of "being" or role-playing:
The Personas and Roles that create a context that determines the quality of one's life: Child Adult Victim
The context of having a conversation in a relationship makes all the difference. If the context is based on the assumptions and beliefs that the other will not be cooperative and/or there is something to be feared and defended against, the conversation will be dramatically different than if it one that is based on trust, love, self-confidence in being able to handle any bumps, and idea of cooperation.