Happiness and intelligence do not always go together. Like wealth, happiness can be very choosy. That’s why some highly intelligent PR and business people are still unhappy. Why?
Here are the 6 most common reasons why smart people sometimes fail to be happy — and what they can do about it.
- They overthink
Overthinking comes in endless flavors, but the three most common ones might be ruminating on the past, worrying about the future, and obsessing over solutions to present-day problems.
Dwelling on regrets is an attempt to mellow our fear of more regrets, which, of course, never works. When we’re anxious about the future, we hope to reduce uncertainty, which is impossible. And when we cycle through endless ideas on how to advance our career or look better in front of others, we refuse to acknowledge that the big questions we’re now mainly concerned with — “How do I find meaning? What makes me happy?” — can’t be answered in a day but only with slow, consistent, daily actions.
Smart PR and business people can be so caught up in chasing after new businesses, pursuing the latest fad, worrying about their clients. And they get into the overthinking mode, which saps away at their happiness.
As a smart person, you probably like thinking because you’re good at it.
- They expect too much
Intelligent people can do various tasks at a fairly proficient level. Eventually, they get used to it and thus come to expect a high standard in themselves, others, and life — none of which is guaranteed but all of which inevitably leads to disappointment.
When you expect too much of yourself, you become too outcome-focused. If nothing less than the best will do, you’ll have a hard time appreciating anything in your life, from your achievements at work to your relationships to your hobbies. You’ll also constantly criticize yourself for your mistakes.
Intelligent people know how much they don’t know, and this only gets worse the more we learn! One way to combat it is to occasionally look back and remind ourselves how far we’ve come while remembering it’s okay to not have all the answers.
For example, when they lose a business pitch, its harder for them to take the punch.
- They push people away
High expectations are only one tool intelligent people use to isolate themselves from others — another common theme and happiness-blocker.
Smart people often feel misunderstood because they crave fewer but deeper connections. So, they may sometimes be distant in their engagements and this reduces happiness.
- They sabotage themselves
At least when it comes to relying on their own intelligence, smart people are somewhat used to getting what they want. Therefore, they are taken by complete surprise when, especially for their biggest dreams and most important goals, their plans fail to come to fruition.
They can’t think of an explanation — and that’s because there is none; they sabotaged themselves. Smart people might skip the basics and thus let their ego sometimes make careless mistakes.
- They devalue happiness altogether
Professor Raj Raghunathan, a University researcher, did a study in which he asked participants what three things they’d wish for from an all-powerful genie. Their responses? Money, success, and great relationships. When the researchers evaluated people’s true goals, however, happiness topped the list — and yet no one wished for happiness from the genie.
The more smart people obsess over these extrinsic motivators, the more likely it is they’ll keep spinning their wheels in an endless cycle of expectations and overthinking. This cycle eventually leads them to self-sabotage and self-isolation which, in turn, brings them to a desolate conclusion: Being happy is not important. The only way to avoid it is to reflect on your happiness regularly.
- They easily get bored
Intelligent public relations and business people also sometimes allow themselves to get bored too easily. Everything worthwhile takes years of dedicated focus, but if you’re busy chasing new idea after new idea because hey, “you’re so good at everything,” you’ll never get the satisfaction of seeing something all the way through to the end.
The future of happiness
In the future, employers may well begin to start testing these abilities in place of IQ; Google has already announced that it plans to screen candidates for qualities like intellectual humility, rather than sheer cognitive prowess.
Fortunately, wisdom is probably not set in stone – whatever your IQ score, wisdom can be still be learned. As Socrates had it: the wisest person really may be the one who can admit he knows nothing. “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”