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.