The Importance of Individual’s Frame of Mind
People’s activities are divided into physical behaviors and mental behaviors. With their hands, they can do everything they want to do. However, without the support of mentality, these physical behaviors are meaningless. People’s happiness derives from their mind. When they are willing to do something, even it is insignificant, they can also be cheerful. Compared to the transient mind, to form everlasting frame of mind is meaningful for people’s life. However, different frames of mind bring people into different situations.
In “On Habit”, Alain de Botton uses the example of De Maistre who experiences room-travel to recommend a frame of mind called traveling mindset, which is to observe any common events with traveling view. Compared to habituated view, an invariable attitude to treat daily life, traveling mindset brings more changes and creative imaginations in boring physical environment. Through forming active lifestyle, people can share enjoyable and meaningful life. However, some frames of mind have negative influence in people’s happiness. As in “Bumping into Mr. Ravioli”, Adam Gopnik finds that his daughter has an imaginary playmate called Ravioli. Then he notices the general frame of mind of people in New York through Ravioli and the conversation with his sister, a psychologist. Ravioli, the same as New Yorkers, always lives in a busy status. Even though people have spare time out of work, the atmosphere in New York makes them form a frame of mind that they need to be busy all the time. Due to this “busyness”, people in New York spend most time in their own space, which leads to a crisis in people’s relationship.
In general, the existence of individual’s frame of mind, as a result of people’s psychological demands and the pressure of life, creates appropriate methods to adapt for challenges and make happiness. Since people have unique and meaningful experience, they can cultivate their individual frame of mind through their expectation of life. Like a lifestyle, once the frame of mind has been formed, it is hard to change. However, people need to keep on improving their frames of mind to seek for a sense of well-being in life.
The reason which people cannot be happy is that they do not find a rational frame of mind to treat their life. As de Botton mentions, “the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room” (qtd. in de Botton 60). Treating the same thing with different frames of mind can lead to different results. Observing the common furniture and structure in the room, people with habituated mindset can feel weary about their room since they face the same objects all day. Then, habituated mindset becomes a kind of negative frame of mind and makes people upset.
However, De Maistre decides to lock his door and make a room-travel. He reobserves details of furniture and makes imaginations. For example, when he walks by the bed, he can recollect the night he spends in it. He changes his mind to observe familiar room and get cheerful with traveling mindset. Opposite to habituated mindset, traveling mindset, as a positive frame of mind, corresponds with people’s demand in their boring life. In addition, people can also form a specific frame of mind because of their surrounding.
As the situation faced by the daughter of Gopnik, “it [seems] obvious that Ravioli [is] a romantic figure of the big exotic life that [goes] on outside her little limited life of park and playgrounds…like imitation of the words she hears her mother use when she talks about her day with her friends”(Gopnik 154). She feels tired of her living environment. Then, she needs a method to express her expectation outside her limited space. To satisfy her aspiration, she imagines a friend who she can talk with like the relationship between her mother and her mother’s friends.
She wants to be independent. However, she is too young to contact with the society. Therefore, this frame of mind becomes imaginary form and her mind relies on the existence of the imaginary friend. With different environment, people have their own frames of mind. These frames of mind can be positive and negative, but it is the way to think and live. Once the frame of mind makes people enjoyable and reflects the hope of future, it can have beneficial influence on people’s life.
Different frames of mind lead to different perceiving about same thing, so people’s sense of well-being is influenced by their frames of mind. For a piece of leaf, some people can feel regret because it falls from the tree and loses its life. However, others can be delightful when they see the fallen leaves, because they become nutriment absorbed by the soil to support the growth of new life. It is the same in “On habit”, De Maistre spends time on enjoy the beauty of the sky at night. However, for the same sky, most people neglect its fantasy.
As de Botton explains, “the reason they [do not] looking [is] that they [have] never done so before. They [fall] into the habit of considering their universe to be boring…”(62). De Maistre has different view about the life and the world, so his frame of mind brings happiness and pleasure to him. The same sky, considered to be boring by others, is redefined by his creative mind. He can be affected by the broadness and the power of the universe. This kind of frame of mind makes him joyful rather than boring.
Therefore, the sense of well-being derives from people’s attitude toward their life. Keeping positive way of thinking is an approach to get happiness. Apart from this, people’s living environment can be a factor to influence the cognizance in people’s mind. Cars and televisions are inventions to bring people convenience. They can watch news around the world on television and travel for a long distance by cars. They are signs of modernization. However, considered through another part, these inventions are detrimental to the relationship between people.
As Gopnik describes, “the car and the television pulled people apart-taking them out to the suburbs and sitting them in front of a solo spectacle”(158). On the one hand, the speed of the car is fast, so people can ignore their friends who come by. On the other hand, drivers have to pay attention to the roadway; then, they have no time to care about whether there is a friend around them. The car always takes people away. Due to its limited space, it restricts people to contact with others. Since Gopnik lives in New York, the crowed traffic can be one reason for her to resist the car.
In busy lifestyle, it is necessary to create some chance to stay with friends. “Busyness” affects New Yorker’s frames of mind. Compared to drive cars, walking is more suitable for New York’s environment. Similarly, when people watch television, they do not want to chat with others. Moreover, once they get knowledge and information from television, they do not need to learn from others. In this situation, the topic between people can be less and the relationship slowly drifts apart. The busy atmosphere changes people’s frames of mind in New York.
Therefore, individual’s frame of mind can be affected by many factors such as people’s attitudes towards life and their living environment. It can influence people’s lifestyle because it origins from people’s experience and expectations. The positive frame of mind can create happiness for people through changing their ways of perceiving things Individual’s frame of mind is a sign in life and a reflection of spirit to help people find their own way to achieve happiness. A beneficial frame of mind represents a ifestyle and a myth which can be followed by others, so people with the same frame of mind can be a group. In addition, people have impetus to try to imitate this mind when they notice that it can make their life better. As de Botton behaves, “I force myself to obey a peculiar kind of mental command: to look around me as though I [have] never been in this place before”(63). He finds that traveling mindset can make life different and interesting, so he wants to form this frame of mind. At the same time, his behavior “bears fruit”.
He can see “a restaurant [becomes] filled with dinner rather than shapes”. By setting traveling mindset as a habit, he forms another view of the world and life in his spirit. He dose not feel the life boring any more, and this frame of mind in his spirit can remind him that he needs to treat his normal life creative and imaginative. Therefore, it is the power of individual’s frame of mind. Additionally, once a kind of frame of mind is identified generally, it can be more influential. As Gopnik highlights, “busyness is our art form, our civic ritual, our way of being us”(160).
In New York, busyness can be considered as a sign of a country. People all indentify that “busyness” is the expression of their frames of mind. They live in busy life and contact with busy friends and colleagues. No matter whether they are truly enjoyable in this busy situation, they are used to it and become one part of it. Under the pressure of the society, people need to keep a appropriate frame of mind to deal with the challenges and create happiness. People can experience many kinds of frames of mind in their life. However, only some of them are beneficial for people to find happiness.
Indeed, life is a process of seeking for felicity. Like de Botton, he hates his living environment when he returns to homeland from traveling. Therefore, he tries to think with traveling mindset, so that he can be happier than before. The same as Gopnik, he finds the essence of the culture in New York, so he can understand about his daughter’s imaginary friend and have an insight into the “busyness” in his life. Attempting to find suitable frames of mind in order to face trouble rationally, people can finally realize that happiness is around themselves.