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Ch-1: Our Search for Happiness and Self-Actualization

Part 6

Tom G. Stevens PhD
Psychologist/Professor Emeritus, California State University, Long Beach
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CHAPTER 1, Part 6,  from You Can Choose To Be Happy,  Tom G. Stevens PhD
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Research Results Testing the Ideas In This Book



The "truth will set us free." My quest for understanding the secrets of happiness led me to complete a Master's of Theology degree and a PhD in Psychology. It led me to become a licensed psychologist practicing psychotherapy, teaching, and doing research. The knowledge which I gained has helped me contribute to others' happiness, and it has helped me to find more happiness myself.

I have not accomplished great things compared to many people. I wish that I could do more. Instead, perhaps my greatest success in life--that I am most certain of--is the happiness I have achieved myself and have contributed to others.

One part of my quest for truth is that I use four major perspectives to view any issue--a spiritual-philosophical perspective, a scientific-psychological perspective, a psychotherapist's perspective, and a personal perspective. Each of these four perspectives is like the blind men who felt different parts of a giant animal. One felt a leg and thought it was a tree. One felt the trunk and thought it was a snake. And so on. Each perspective could only reveal part of the truth. Only knowing all perspectives could yield the full truth that the animal was an elephant.

In reality, there is only one truth; so, ultimately, each of the different perspectives is seeking the same underlying truth. Therefore, beliefs consistent with all four perspectives are validated more than those consistent with only one. I have attempted to include only ideas in this book that I find consistent with all four perspectives. Since writing the first edition of this book, I have also completed an extensive research study that also strongly supports these ideas.  


The Success and Happiness Attributes Questionnaire (SHAQ). My previous research with the Life Skills Questionnaire (LSQ) and Stevens Relationship Questionnaire (SRQ) was a partial basis for ideas in the first edition of this book (Stevens, 1987; Stevens and Stevens, 1995). Though I received many emails telling how much the book had helped people, I wanted to more thoroughly test its contents. So I developed a free online questionnaire, the Success and Happiness Attributes Questionnaire (SHAQ). I systematically went through each chapter, taking each main idea, and turning it into questions. Thus, SHAQ is able to test the ideas in this book in a detailed way rarely found in other self-help books.

SHAQ is also used as a self-development tool and can be coordinated with the book contents so readers can get feedback about their progress and improve individual personal attributes and their overall Happiness Quotient (HQ).

This book assumes a cognitive systems model of personality and emphasizes the importance of learned-controllable cognitions (values, beliefs, knowledge, thoughts, and skills). I (and many other psychologists) believe that our cognitions are the primary causes of both our emotions and our behavior. Happiness and success of all kinds are determined by a combination of three basic types of causes. 1-cognitive/learned, 2-environmental/conditional, and 3-hereditary/genetic factors. The first two types are the most controllable.[2]  In the next chapter, I will call these factors internal and external routes to happiness. SHAQ can help readers get specific feedback and advice about these cognitive learned HQ factors.

Who took SHAQ? When I analyzed this data, more than 3400 users had taken SHAQ on the Internet (free). They were a diverse group with a wide variety of ages, occupations, locations (27% outside the U.S.), ethnic groups, religions, and other factors. When asked what they wanted from SHAQ, 72% wanted to learn more about themselves and 63% said they wanted help with a problem.

The SHAQ scales. SHAQ is composed of 81 scales and subscales consisting of those questions taken directly from statements in this book. For example the chapter on self-worth and self-confidence is represented by two scales—one with each name. Each of the nine Self-Development Plan parts listed in the box below is represented by one or more SHAQ scales.

What was tested—the happiness and success outcome scales. I wanted to test how specific values, beliefs, and skills taught in this book are related to people’s happiness and success. To assess happiness and success outcomes I created the following scales: Overall Happiness, Low Depression, Low Anxiety, Low Anger, Relationship Outcomes, and Health Outcomes. [3] The highest personal income and academic achievement measures were also used.

Understanding the meaning of correlations and predictive power. For those who aren’t familiar with research or correlations, let me explain. Correlations range from 0 to 1.00. Zero means no relationship between two variables and 1.00 means a perfect relationship. For example the correlation between flipping a switch and the light going on would be near 1.00, because when the switch is up, the light is on and when down, off.

The correlation squared (R2) measures the amount of effect or degree of predictive power (EffectSize). The light switch position might predict 99% of the time whether the light was on or off (EffectSize = .99). Another example is that some people think that IQ scores are about 40% caused by hereditary and 60% caused by learning/environmental factors (of a possible total effect of 100%). If that were true then the 40% causation by heredity would equal an EffectSize of 0.40 and the 60% causation by learning/environment EffectSize = 0.60.[4]


The Happiness Quotient (HQ) as a Predictor of Happiness

What if you could combine the predictive power of all of the SHAQ scales together to predict people’s chances of being happy and successful? I created the Happiness Quotient (HQ) to mathematically combine all SHAQ’s scales. The HQ yields a score analogous to an IQ score (which measures intelligence). The research results show that the SHAQ-based HQ is a powerful predictor of happiness, depression, anxiety, and anger. SHAQ users can obtain their HQ score free on my website and improve it by reading this book.

Evidence that You Can Choose To Be Happy

I used a combined score[5] similar to the HQ score to test SHAQ’s (and the book’s) overall predictive power. The SHAQ scales had moderate to high positive correlations with almost all outcome measures. SHAQ’s scales had surprisingly high correlations with the emotional outcomes. SHAQ’s 56 subscales correlated with Overall Happiness, R = .87. SHAQ’s EffectSize of .75 means SHAQ can predict Overall Happiness with about 75% accuracy. That high degree of predictive power is very unusual for psychological factors and supports the book’s premise that happiness is largely determined by learnable cognitive factors. You can choose to be happy! SHAQ also correlated with Low Depression, .73 (EffectSize, .53); with Low Anxiety, .67 (EffectSize, .43); and with Low Anger-Aggression, .70 (EffectSize, .49). These numbers are also high for psychological research.

Some people believe that they cannot choose to be happy. They think that biological or environmental factors are so powerful, they cannot influence their own emotions. That belief alone can become a self-fulfilling prophesy—helping doom them to unhappiness. Our evidence strongly contradicts their belief.

No one can be happy all the time. However, we can all choose to maximize our happiness—given our unique biological and environmental situations. Thus, we can all choose to be happy and then try our best to maximize our happiness. You may truly not know how to influence your own happiness right now. However, you can learn how to maximize your happiness—as many others have. This learning strengthens your cognitive system and gives it more control over your emotions. Read this book and apply what you learn! The evidence from SHAQ strongly supports these statements, as does evidence from many other sources.

Relationship of SHAQ Scales to Success in Relationships and Health

SHAQ’s correlation with the Relationship Outcomes scale was .69. The predictive power (EffectSize) was 47%. The factors identified in this book that make people happier also tend to help them have better relationships, which in turn help people be happier.

SHAQ correlated with the Health Outcomes Scale R = .82. The predictive power (EffectSize) was 67%. So the implication is that living by the same factors that make you happier also makes your healthier!

SHAQ’s Predictive Power for Income and Academic Success

For the users over age 25 completing all of SHAQ including the learning-academic scales, the SHAQ correlation with highest personal income was .62 and the predictive power (EffectSize) was 38%. The correlation with highest education completed was .58 and the predictive power, 34%. SHAQ correlated with college grade point average (GPA),.56; the predictive power was 32%. Learning motivation and skills were particularly important factors for predicting both highest personal income and educational achievement.[6] 

So while SHAQ was not as good predicting income and academic success as it was emotional, health, and relationship outcomes; it was still a good predictor and better than most found in other research.

Summary: the factors identified in this book proved to be strong predictors of happiness, health, and success. Several thousand correlations were computed in this study, which in some respects is one of the most comprehensive studies ever undertaken on the relationship between cognitive factors and human emotions. SHAQ’s non-academic scales consist of 71 independent scales-subscales.[7]

Of the several thousand correlations computed, almost every one was statistically significant in the direction predicted by this book—a remarkable consistency not often found in research. The size and predictive power of the relationships was surprisingly high--even to me.

In each chapter, I will summarize research results for the scale(s) developed from that chapter’s contents. You may want to complete SHAQ yourself (free) to test yourself as a pretest before you read this book. You may view my paper describing this research study in detail on my website (Stevens, 2009).

To go to the next section of Chapter 1, click here.

For a summary of the research conclusions, go to Chapter 10.

To view a professional research paper summarizing the results, click here.


The BOOK (free download): Go to Contents of Dr. Stevens'  book,  You Can Choose To Be Happy: "Rise Above" Anxiety, Anger, and Depression.

FREE SELF-HELP materials available on this web site (click here to see list)  

  How to ORDER You Can Choose To Be Happy  

Success and Happiness Attributes Questionnaire (SHAQ)  to assess self on many factors  including HQ-Happiness Quotient 

Email feedback to Dr. Stevens I welcome your comments about my web site or any of its contents.           

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