Context is the most important determinant of one's quality of life. The most important thing you can do is create a great one!
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 set up the "framework" to a Level 1, and finally, within that context and framework, determine the contents that would be desirable (contributing to, but not necessary for happiness; a happy life would not be determined by or dependent on the "outcomes", which are often not something we can always create as we wish; 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).
This 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.
For a happy life context we would develop positive attitudes about ourselves, about life, about people and about the world as it works. We become Intelligent Optimists.
The framework for a happy life is a setting it up so that life is "full of meaning and values, supportive social relationships and personally rewarding work." (Diener, as cited) 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 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.
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!
Also, we cannot control all outcomes, so some will not be as desired - but with 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).
Because of our wiring, we do need the basics of living at a level at or above subsistence. But the payoff above that, in terms of happiness, is relatively small - and, indeed, 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.