Educators as Entrepreneurs of Happiness and Well-Being

That “Educators should be entrepreneurs of happiness and well-being” is so obviously true to me that it is almost a self-evident axiom.  Yet almost one almost never hears even the tiniest inkling of such a notion in either public debates on education nor in the world of academic research on education.  Am I crazy?

Today I finished reading Dunn, Gilbert, and Wilson’s article (which I previously mentioned here), “If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right.”  The article is a summation of consumer research that shows that people are typically made happier by:

1.  Buying experiences rather than things.

2.  Helping others rather than helping oneself  (give gifts to friends and to charity).

3.  Buying many small pleasures rather than a few big ones.

4.  Buy less insurance (most losses turn out not to make much of a difference over the long haul).

5.  Pay now and consume later (anticipation is great, immediate gratification is not so good, debt is not helpful).

6.  Think about what you’re not thinking about (often people fantasize that x, y, or z would make their life better, but if they really thought about the reality of x, y, or z they would realize that it really wouldn’t).

7.  Beware of comparison shopping (one might say beware of shopping in general).

8.  Follow the herd instead of your head (this is the one I disagree with as a general principle, but there are certainly cases where the opinions of others are valuable in making decisions, as their example illustrates).

Over all, after reading it I find that they are way more focused on the relationship between consumption and happiness than I would be – but that is to be expected from an article in “The Journal of Consumer Psychology.”

But the great thing about creating a market in education is that thousands of educational entrepreneurs can create their own mixes of habits, attitudes, experiences, etc. in a competitive attempt to create the greatest foundation for happiness and well-being for young people.  Some would focus on flow, some on meaning, some on optimizing consumer pleasures (as described in the article above), some on relationships, some on religion, some on physical fitness and diet, some on intellectual pleasures, some on vocational fitness, some on a sense of inner peace or cultural integrity, etc.  And over time we would see deep and sophisticated blends of different approaches to happiness.

What makes all of this so difficult to understand?  Why don’t others see it as important?

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About Michael Strong

Co-founder, Ko School + Incubator, Conscious Capitalism, Radical Social Entrepreneurs, lead author of Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World's Problems, author of The Habit of Thought: From Socratic Seminars to Socratic Practice.
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2 Responses to Educators as Entrepreneurs of Happiness and Well-Being

  1. Greg Linster says:

    Do you think focusing on fostering happiness and well-being in students should be the single most important objective in our educational system though? In my opinion, students need to learn things that may not necessarily make them happy per se, but will help make them better people and citizens. Overemphasizing happiness could, then, be detrimental because it could lead to a narcissistic focus on the individual’s happiness at the expense of other important things. I think we are already seeing this phenomenon in our culture today.

  2. Hi Greg,

    As I outline here, based on the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and other positive psychologists,

    https://thepurposeofeducation.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/why-in-a-sane-world-educators-entrepreneurs-of-happiness-and-well-being/

    The two most important paths to happiness are meaning and flow. When you suggest that students should learn things that “will help make them better people and citizens” I would say that you are promoting a specific meaning frame that will, in fact, make them happier. The positive psychologists are rediscovering the ancient wisdom traditions, in essence that virtuous behavior makes us happier. Virtuous behavior can, and should, include making the world a better place for other people.

    For the connections between modern research on positive psychology and the ancient wisdom traditions, see Jonathan Haidt, “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.” For a first sketch of how I see a world in which everyone is engaged in entrepreneurial activity that makes the world a better place – and makes each individual happier BECAUSE they are engaged entrepreneurial (or intrapreneurial) activity that makes the world a better place, see “Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World’s Problems.”

    I don’t believe that narcissists are actually happy, and one of the great sicknesses of modernity is that all too many people believe that self-indulgence leads to happiness. It does not. None of the ancient wisdom traditions thought so. No aspect of modern psychology has come to such a conclusion either.

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