Happiness: A Courage to go beyond the Nature and the nurture Essay

Happiness is like a butterfly

The more you run after it

The more it runs away from you

And as you sit quietly doing your work

It comes and sit on your hand


The above thought was written on the back
cover of a notebook. It is a beautiful thought and quite provoking. Is it really true? That if a man just sits quietly doing his work, happiness will come to him? Or does this thought have some deeper meaning to it?

Is happiness a thought, a personality trait or a state of being? Everyone wants to be happy and everyone has his or her own way of trying to get it. But most of the times the trying does not work. When we think about this aspect of our life, we realize that it is not a simple thing. There are hundreds and hundreds of things involved in the whole make up of the happiness. Your birth, your health, your parents, your achievements, your relationships etc. And as if all these things were not enough, now it is clear that your genes are also involved in the level of your happiness.

Scientists say that your genes are
responsible for your happiness [1] . The studies conducted on twins and animals show that genes matter a lot when it comes to happiness. However, at the same time these studies have also revealed that it is not just the genes but also the environment that is instrumental in shaping the personality of a human being [2] . This is a good news as it makes us hopeful that we do have a chance of being happy no matter what genes we are carrying. But it is not that easy.

To achieve happiness, first of all, we have to understand what happiness is. Only after understanding what happiness actually means will we be able to be happy. Can happiness be taken out of the clutches of scientific studies and taken to a different dimension altogether? Isn’t happiness something beyond the understanding of science? And if not, then can we be courageous enough to be independent of the scientific studies and make our own way towards happiness, no matter what scientists say about our genes? Can we, in short, go beyond nature and nurture and be happy? The answer is ‘Yes’. The only need is to go beyond the strength of the genes and free ourselves of the environmental influence and take a courageous step to embrace the happiness. It is just a matter of decision, that’s it.

To understand happiness, we have to understand the different aspects involved in it. We can divide this in three aspects: 1) Nature, 2) Nurture and, 3) Beyond the nature and the nurture.

To understand happiness only on the basis of nature and nurture will be like being unfair to the things that are beyond the understanding of the science yet.

Scientists in different parts of the world, when studying the nature and the behavior pattern of the human being, have realized that happiness is the result of the genetic makeup. The personality traits like hard working nature, mental stability and extroversion are inherited [3] . And these are some of the traits that makes human being happy. Scientists believe that the traits like depression and gloominess are also inherited. [4] . The study of genetic structure and how it affects the human behavior pattern reveals that genes do have a great role to play as far as the happiness of the human being is concerned. However, at the same time the world of science is not sure as to what amount of percentage should be assigned to the genes as far as the happiness and the whole personality structure is concerned.

Scientists differ in the result of their studies of the relationship between genes and the personality traits. Some scientists say that fifty percent of the happiness depends on the genes [5] . while others says that only one third of the happiness factors depend on genes [6] . One thing is very clear from the findings and that is, genes are not the only determinants of our happiness.

Scientists have carried out experiments and from the real life cases, have realized that the experiences we have make a lot of difference to how we feel about life. And hats where the nurture part comes in [7].

Nurture :
Let us take a hypothetical example to
Understand the role of nurture in making my life happy. If I am someone who is born with the genes carrying the happiness traits like stable, outgoing, creative and hard working, but born in the family that is unstable, sluggish, aloof and depressive. How will I end up being? Or lets say that I am someone born with the unhappy genes that carry depression, instability and dull mind but born in stable, sociable, happy, creative and active family. Will this make any difference to my genes? The scientists have concluded that yes, it will make a difference. Because even if we consider that fifty percent of our personality make up depends on the genes, the remaining fifty percent depends on our surrounding and our environment [8].

From the moment the child is born, he is accumulating the experiences, the feelings and the moods of the people around him [9] . Children learn mostly from their parents. They like to do everything that their parents are doing. They imitate the vocabulary pattern, body language, habits and even the thinking patterns of their parents [10] . When they grow up and are able to move around in the society, they try to get influenced by people around them, their friends, teachers etc [11] . This shows that the environment plays a great role in the molding of the personality of that child.

Children have the habit of grasping and accumulating the behavior pattern from the surrounding. The family structure plays a major role in the way we express our emotions, the way we talk, the way we behave and the way we take our decisions. One very striking example as to how much a family environment can shape your character was that of the emotional control that Prince Williams and Prince Harry of Britain displayed at the time of their mother, Princess Diana’s death. Millions and millions of people were sad and were shedding tears during Lady Diana’s funeral procession, but Prince Williams and Prince Harry were walking quietly with no tears in heir eyes and no sign of the agony they must have gone through [12] . Does it mean that they don’t have heart or did not feel sad at their mother’s death? Absolutely no. The answer is the environmental makeup. Prince Williams and Prince Harry are brought up in such way that they know that their social status does not allow them to express their true emotions. They are well trained by their family to control themselves when they are in the public eye.

Scientists also say that happiness is a personality trait. And if that is true then it is a good news. That’s because personality traits can be changed with the practice of techniques. Even though our genes play most of the part in the personality structure, we do have a choice to make changes by having a positive interpretations of the events that take place ( Goleman, pg. 101). How we interpret an event or a small incident makes a huge impact on how we are going to make choices in the future
( Goleman, pg. 101). A girl having positive outlook will interpret a breakup with her boyfriend saying that, “ someone better must be waiting for me!”, while a girl having negative outlook may interpret the similar incidence saying that, “ I am no good. No one will ever love me.” And these differences in interpretations will make them to react differently in the future relationship.

In the same way, a person who is creative and is involved in some activity has better chances of experiencing happiness (Goleman, Pg.104). Children are good at imitating people around them. In their early life, they are open, enthusiastic and are willing to learn anything that you teach them. And more than that, even if parents do not ask them they will unconsciously imitate them [13] . This is the time when they can be trained to be happy, actually happy. Happiness is a habit and it can be cultivated. People who do not worry and are content with themselves are happiest in the world [14] . And these traits can be taught.

Scientists and the thinkers believe that
If children are trained to develop a habit of experiencing positive emotions and healthy feelings, they have great chances of growing up to be happy adults. Scientists also say that those people who practice a particular activity that they like and get engrossed in that activity to such an extent that they actually forget themselves, are very happy people (Goleman, Pg.104). The word used by the scientists and the thinkers for such activity is ‘flow’. It is believed that if children are taught to be in flow and are nurtured to understand that being slow and calm is a better way of living than being a victim of cut throat competition of the world, the children will grow to be the happy human beings [15].

However, the question remains, what then is stopping people from being happy? Why is the world so unhappy despite of such a leap in scientific world and the modernization of life? Do we really want to be happy or is it that misery gives us more pleasure? Some studies have shown that people are resistant to change. Their comfort zones are narrow and so they are not quite motivated to move out of their misery [16]. And this makes us to look at a completely different aspect of the life which is, spirituality. And this aspect is something that science has not been able to explain. When scientists talk about ‘flow’, they are talking about nothing else but a state of meditation, a thoughtless mind. And that’s when we realize that even though science has achieved a lot through its discoveries and inventions, the only path that can take up to happiness is the path of the soul.

Beyond the nature and the nurture :
Man has invested a lot in his miseries. Misery brings attention. When you are crying, everyone around you come and asks you ‘what happened?’ and when you are happy, people get jealous and start avoiding you. And this sort of experience is enough to get you hooked to your miseries and most of the miseries are self created.

There is a very beautiful truth in the ancient Indian text called Vedas. It is as follows:

You are what your deep, driving desire is.

As your desire is, so is your intention.

As your intention is, so is your will.

As your will is, so is your deed.

As is your deed, so is your destiny

– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad iv/ 4.5 ( Chopra, pg.96)

How can the above truth help us to gain happiness? Does it not indirectly say that I have chosen to be unhappy and so I am unhappy? Well, it does say something like that. If we try to understand the roots of our misery, we will realize that it lies somewhere in our expectations. The human race has become so mind oriented that they have completely forgotten the language of the heart, language of the feelings.

Insanity is the result of being a split personality. Our goals, our career, our desire to have more and more and more of everything is driving us crazy. We have started saying ‘yes’ when we actually want to say ‘no’, we are trying to be strong when we feel weak, we flash a miserable smile when what we actually feel is to cry. All these manipulations with our own life is making us miserably sad. And the worst thing is in the deepest core of our heart we know that we are living an absolutely fake life. That is what is making us go in depression. We are not whole but are miserable fragmented beings. We desire a rosy life and rosy things and this desire in itself is a root of the sadness that we are experiencing. We are not facing the facts of the life and are trying to run away from it. When we accept everything that we experience, who we are and display an authentic personality, we are in harmony with ourselves. This wholeness is the beginning of the happiness. How can we be happy when we know that we are not what we are pretending to be? The integration of the heart and the mind is extremely important for the happiness of our being ( Osho, Pg. 854)

This is an understanding that comes to you with experience, maturity and learning. Science has been failure when it comes to understanding the depth of the heart and the power of the intuition. Science needs a proof and a reason ( Osho, Pg. 739). But the experiences of miracles and intuition cannot be explained. Scientists are doing their best in understanding the communication mode the birds and fishes use when they fly or swim respectively in such a synchronized way. But they are not yet successful ( Chopra, Pg.60). Science, no matter how sophisticated and advanced it has become, is yet in its infancy. So for happiness, we have to go beyond science, beyond mature and the nurture.

What we need is the courage to take a step towards the open sky, no matter what genes we are carrying and no matter what family we are born in. We have a choice, either to listen to what scientific studies say and remain where we are blaming our genes and the family or to listen to the heart and be responsible for our own lives. As Ravindranath Tagore, a Bengali Poet has beautifully said, “The winds of grace are blowing – it is you who must raise your sails.” [17]


  • Chopra Deepak, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of desires, Three rivers Press,
    New York, 2003
  • Osho, The Book Of Secrets, ST.Martin’s Griffin, New York, 1998
  • Goleman Daniel, Emotional Intelligence, Bantam Books, New York, 1995
  • Citations:

    • [1] Genes and happiness
      < http://www.topnews.in/health/half-our-happiness-lies-our-genes-21332 >, 12 march’09
    • [2] [7] The identity Dance,
      < http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-20040302-000001.html > 12 march’09
    • [3] [4] Inherited Traits
      < http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23502931/ > 1st march’09
    • [5] [8] [16] Key to happiness
      < http://www.livescience.com/health/060227_happiness_keys.html > 12 march’09
    • [6] Genes and happiness
      < http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/2007/1854134.htm > 12 march’09
    • [9] Osho times, November 2006, page 27
    • [10] [13] Osho times, November 2006, page 28
    • [11] children imitate the parents
      < http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_n24_v91/ai_19381854 > 12 march’09
    • [12] Princess Diana Funeral
      < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86MQSbZo28Y > 17th march’09