The videos and content in Week 2 of the Science of Well-being course mostly focused on dispelling misconceptions we have about happiness. Professor Laurie Santos talked a lot about, and referenced studies to back her point, how a lot of things we perceive will make us happy, or sad should we not get it, don’t have nearly the impact we think they have. That’s because our intuition for predicting happiness is terrible! Professor Santos didn’t frame it in the following way, but it seemed to me our intuition for what would make us happy is very much based in the amygdala that’s the emotional centre, and reptilian part, of our brain that’s old, more animal-like and limited. Emotional intelligence, as a concept, is the ability to control this amygdata with the rest, and more rational part, of the brain, the part that knows waiting 20 minutes for 2 marshmallows instead of taking 1 now will bring you greater benefits when you are as young as 4 years old. That was the key to the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment that showed having delayed gratification as a trait in a 4 year old who first starts to think, is a better predictor of success in life compared to any other tests like SAT scores, education attainment, BMI, etc. That animal instinct suggesting what might make us happy is a very simple and basic form of processing that gets predicting happiness, and especially lasting happiness, all wrong.
Signature Strengths and Happiness at Work (including MY Situation)
In the Science of Well-being course on Coursera, Professor Laurie Santos referenced a small study in 2012 called When the Job is a Calling, by Harzer & Ruch, that suggested those happiest at their jobs (in the sense of considering it a calling) were those who used 4 (up to 7) of their Signature Strengths (Top 5 or 7 Character Strengths). There were only 111 participants in that survey, which is hardly enough to be convincing for most people, even if the statistical derivations show there is “statistically significant” difference (i.e. on the graph, the thin vertical lines on the dot relating to 4 on the horizontal axis does not overlap those of dots for 3 or smaller). The mind just doesn’t buy into the math at some point, and just 111 participants is way below that point for me. Why they only had 111 participants is not known but I’d never publish anything with just that few numbers if it were only a matter of taking a survey rather than having to do heart surgeries!