If You are So Smart, Why aren’t You Happy?

If You are So Smart, Why aren’t You Happy?

Meet Raj Raghunathan who has studied happiness for two decades at the University of Texas, Austin. See our video chat here.


I was recently in Costa Rica – right when COVID19 hit in Central America – at the University of Peace Centre funded by the United Nations to provide humanity with an institution of higher education for PEACE. I gathered some good advice and notes from the Global Gross Happiness Summit. In this post, I’m focusing on Raj but will follow-up with others.

What is UPeace?
Created by UN General Assembly Resolution 35/55, the University for Peace has been training leaders for peace for the past four decades. It is a unique global academic institution with over 2,000 Alumni hailing from more than 120 nations.

The keynote guest speaker was Raj Raghunathan who has spent two decades researching and studying happiness at UT Austin and wrote the book “If You are So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?”. This book focuses on the means of Happiness.

1. BAMBA – Raj’s Framework for Happiness
2. Increase the positivity thoughts over negativity. Force yourself to think positive when negativity arises.
3. Avoid downs and seek uppers. Write down what makes you happy and just do more of it day to day. It sounds simple but it works.
4. Make building blocks of happiness into your life. If you like to sing, the sing every day. Raj likes to do stand up comedy as humor is so very important.
5. Check out his course here. https://www.coursera.org/learn/happiness/home/welcome

Raj asks the simple question, “Why not be happy?” Happy people are more creative, resilient, objective, and have a higher earning power. But negativity weighs us down. Humans have negativity bias – due to our animal instincts – and so it outweighs the positivity. In fact, in a survey, people said when they are unhappy 88% of thoughts are negative but when they are happy, positive thoughts are only 33%.  How strange is human nature!

Then he went on to discuss BAMBA, a framework of happiness.

B – Basic needs. We can skip this because for most of us, we are ok.

A – Autonomy. Autonomy can encompass both external and internal. People in dictatorships are less happy than in democracies. So we focus on internal autonomy. Can we control our feelings and emotionally regulate them?

In autonomy, there is also a sense of spirituality. Spiritual people are happier. Sometimes they understand to let the universe deal with it. You can only do so much.

M – Mastery or Mission. This can occur by finding something you have competence in or achievement-oriented goals. Mind you, finding flow in your work is key so finding the right work for you is important. The more flow states the higher the happiness. We work ½ -1/3 of our waking hours so we should find flow.

To achieve flow, challenge yourself just above your ability. So if you rate a 4 then challenge yourself to 4.1/4.2. Don’t go to 4.5. Then you’ll be unhappy, especially if you don’t succeed.

B – Belonging and Connection. Recognize others with a positive influence on your life. Associate with people who are positive and want the best for you. Please note, in business and especially in entrepreneurial endeavors, most entrepreneurs don’t want the best for you so it’s your job to draw boundaries.

A – Abundance mindset – Read, learn and be with people you can grow with. Its very important
Four keys to this
1. Journal 3 good things that happen every day
2. Minimize social media
3. Nature – life is bountiful
4. The supportive company who lifts you up

His Recommended Resources and Books
1. “Happy” Documentary comparing Calcutta slums to people with net cash worth of $25M. The biggest fear of the millionaire is that they have enough money.
2. The One Thing
3. Flow
4. Give and Take


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