Wise people are not always happy
Better learning, enrichment, and success should make you happier. But often, it is not. A business school professor about what it takes to be happy
If happy people are very successful at work, as research suggests, why are successful people not always happy? In a new book by Texas, US, business school professor Raj Raghunathan explores this controversy. Prof. Raghunathan teaches marketing at McCombs School of Business in Texas and is a visiting member of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad.
In the email, he talks about his book, the description of happiness, and what it takes to be happy.
He is a professor of marketing in business school. What drew you to teaching MBA students about the pursuit of happiness?
People took it twice when they saw that I was a business school professor who taught the subject of happiness. I have been teaching general business school courses, such as Consumer Behavior and Customer Insights, but I grew up doubting that these courses — or, consequently, courses offered in business schools — helped students live happier lives. I wanted to do something about it; My responsibility as a teacher is to provide students with a set of tools and tools for living a happier, more fulfilling life. I thought that a study dedicated to the question, “What are the decisions for a happy and fulfilling life”, would help other subjects offered in B schools.
How would you define happiness?
Most people would agree that happiness is an emotionally charged quality. Otherwise, it is difficult to get everyone to agree on what it really is. I describe it as a state of “happiness and heartlessness – but not at the price of compassion or understanding. A feeling that comes from the mind to be sure that I am fully cared for and that life is perfect and imperfect.”
Is it true that happy people tend to be more successful and better in their careers?
Yes, there are many lessons to be learned from this. To give you an idea, here is what research shows:
- Happy employees may do unintentionally do better in jobs (including jobs involving leadership and the arts)
- Happy employees get more
- Happier management (optimistic) (senior management) promotes a positive work environment, which improves organizational productivity
- Happier CEOs receive high performance ratings from their board chairmen and key companies that are highly profitable in investment.
So why are the wise men less happy than the others? And do they really “hurt” their happiness?
I wouldn’t say the smart ones are actually less happy than their less intelligent counterparts: they’re just not happy at all. This is surprising because you would think that the wise (and successful) would be better at achieving their most important goals. And given that happiness is one of our most important goals, you might think that intelligent (and successful) people will be extremely happy. But it turns out they don’t exist.
There seem to be two main reasons for this. One reason is that the very things that make us wise or successful come in the form of happiness. For example, intelligent people have a wonderful ability to think about problems and challenges. But it turns out that when taken seriously, such “mental addiction” can bring happiness. Likewise, successful people tend to be cynical, but this desire for control, if taken to an extreme, contributes to happiness.
Another reason why the wise (and successful) are less happy than all of us is because they do not know what it takes to live a happy and fulfilling life. In this regard, I hold our education system accountable: As I said earlier, we have not given people the knowledge and skills to live a happier, more fulfilling life.
What are the “seven sins of deadly joy”?
These are: diminishing happiness, rushing for supremacy, longing for love, over-control, distrust of others, the pursuit of love and mental addiction.
The common theme that causes all these sins is “starvation in the mind” – the feeling that “my victory will come through the loss of someone else” or “how much life is worth”.
He was making the point that some remnants of our evolutionary tendency are holding us back from happiness. Can you explain that tendency?
Yes, there are a number of evolutionary factors that can prevent us from becoming as happy as possible. One of these tendencies is familiarity – the tendency to become accustomed to a certain level of motivation. This is what prevents us from being able to maintain happiness in self-improvement, salary increases, or health after an illness. But flexibility is needed to survive. Otherwise, we would have found 100 candy bites as delicious as ever and never ended!
The second tendency is “automatic negligence” – the tendency to focus too much on negative things and to be emotionally affected by negative events (compared to positive). It is a tendency to distrust others more than we should. Paying too much attention to negative things helps the goal of survival, but it does not help much in happiness.
The third tendency is partially complex and has a certain social connotation: mental retardation, which is the inability to block the mind from speaking and expressing thoughts one after another.
What are some ways to avoid the seven sins of mortal happiness and to increase your happiness?
There are several habits or trials that can help not only reduce the seven sins of deadly pleasures, but also develop what I call the “seven habits of the happiest”. The seven basic exercises include: describing and incorporating happiness, expressing gratitude, creative self-sacrifice (basically, random acts of kindness), leading a healthy lifestyle (good food, plenty of walking, better sleep), using “wise trust”, forgiveness and thinking.
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