Why so many smart people are not happy

In an interview, Raj Raghunathan, a professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, talks about his latest book. The book is smartly named, “If you are so smart, why are you not happy?”

He refers to the proven research that Mastery, Belonging and Autonomy are the three cornerstones of a happy life. Yet, he observes that there is no way for us to understand how we can judge our mastery in a subject. Most people, he claims, judge their mastery by extraneous criteria like rank, salary, awards etc. Any of these give us immediate pleasure but that of a temporary nature. And we are unhappy, back in the seeking happiness game.

He recommends an alternate approach:
“What I recommend is an alternative approach, which is to become a little more aware of what it is that you’re really good at, and what you enjoy doing. When you don’t need to compare yourself to other people, you gravitate towards things that you instinctively enjoy doing, and you’re good at, and if you just focus on that for a long enough time, then chances are very, very high that you’re going to progress towards mastery anyway, and the fame and the power and the money and everything will come as a byproduct, rather than something that you chase directly in trying to be superior to other people.”

To do this, he says, you need an alternate view of life which is based in abundance rather than in scarcity. That worldview does not put you in a contest with other people to get the stuff that you want. In several experiments, a simple reminder for focusing on the wellbeing of people put them in a much happier state.

Happiness makes us less creative

Happiness is the goal for most of the humankind. Several people believe that it is the be all and end all of all human efforts. But does everything related to happiness give us something positive?

The article happiness makes us less creative claims that there are downsides to happiness. Happy people are less creative to start with. The article claims that creativity calls on persistence and problem solving skills, not positivity.

The article further claims, “But rigor is the key to overcoming obstacles and completing tasks—and good mood doesn’t improve problem-solving, which involves judgments that almost by necessity won’t feel good: critique and evaluation, experimentation and failure. The stress that arises from problems may be unpleasant but it also motivates us to complete tasks, Davis says. In other words, negative emotions are actually beneficial to the creative process.”

Artists have claimed that for a long time. Pain is the core input for artistic creativity, they say. Happy people do not create art as there is no motivation for them to look inside their hearts and make it bare for other people to see. But is this true for other people whose work needs intellectual output? The article claims that problem and challenges that are a requirement for business creativity do not necessarily create positive states in the employees, but they are essential for the creative spark.

America’s obsession with happiness is creating unhappiness

According to Ruth Whippman, America’s obsession with happiness is creating a lot of anxiety and is making people unhappy in the end.

“In her new book, America the Anxious, Whippman explores the multibillion dollar happiness industry, and the question of why Americans always seem to be searching for contentment and never finding it. She began researching the book when she moved from always-cynical Britain to always-sunny California, and found that her new friends seemed constantly stressed but were obsessed with talking about happiness. ”

The key concern in the modern age when the basic necessities of food, shelter and clothes is satisfied, is a desire for fulfillment. The main questions that the modern human is asking is does not have anything to do with basic survival but is to do more with the higher needs. And the core higher need is to figure out if one is doing justice to one’s potential. Is one leading an appropriate life?

“Am I with the right person? Am I following my passions? Am I doing what I love? What is my purpose in life? Am I as happy as I should be?” are the questions that come up in every conversation.

“Their answers range from the mundane to the mind-boggling. Yoga and meditation. Keeping a “gratitude journal.” A weekend seminar on how to Unleash the Power Within. Keeping your baby attached to your body for a minimum of 22 hours out of every 24, and, most bafflingly, not least on a practical level, the drinking of wolf colostrum. ”

With so much focus on getting that elusive entity called happiness, it is no wonder that it just slips away. All that these efforts give you is anxiety that comes out of wanting something desperately, trying hard for it and yet being away from it.

Use your unique talents to create happiness

Here   is a great article that tells you how you can use your unique talents to create happiness in your day to day life. The problem with smart people is that they are oversensitive. They tend to focus too much on what they lack thereby becoming unhappy. The article gives a great solution to this problem. Most smart people are talented in multiple things. They can focus on those talents and use them in an appropriate scenario. It is proved time and again that using your skills appropriately puts you in a blissful state.

If you are brave, seek a new adventure like caving or whitewater rafting.

If you are a leader, volunteer to head up a new project or social committee.

If you are a learner, read a book about a new topic, take an online class, or join one at your local community center.

Some other things I can think of:
If you are a good sportsman, take out 15 minutes every day to practice with someone who is your level or up.

If you are a good writer but if your job does not include writing, try and write up some answers on Quora.

All the best in becoming happy.