Naval: “Happiness is for stupid people.” That’s a common complaint I hear from smart overachievers. They think only dumb or lazy people can be happy. Entrepreneurs will say, “I don’t want to be happy because I want to be successful.” They worry that if they get too happy they’ll lose their desire and won’t work hard anymore.
Can you increase happiness without losing your drive?
Like everything else, there is some truth to this. Generally, the more intelligent you are, the more you can see behind the façade of everyday life being easy or safe. You see all the risks and downsides—the calamities that await us. You see the cynicism and manipulation behind so many things portrayed as being good for you or society. You become cynical, and you signal your intelligence through cynicism. Very smart people often communicate in purely cynical observations.
It’s OK to not want to be happy. But we’re going to explore whether you can increase your happiness without significantly lowering your drive or intellect.
Let’s take the first objection: “I’m not happy because I’m smart.” This is partially true. You are unhappy partially because you know and understand too much. You’ve been exposed to too much. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be happy and retain your intelligence.
Figuring out the truth will lead to happiness
But don’t get it backwards: You’re not smart because you’re unhappy; you’re unhappy because you’re smart. You can be happy and smart—it’s just going to take more work. The good news is, smart people are good at figuring out the truth. The more you dig into certain deep truths, the freer and more peaceful you will become. That peace will lead to happiness.
If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy? I absolutely believe that is true. The beauty of being mentally high functioning in our society is that you can trade it for almost anything. If you’re smart, you can figure out how to be healthy within your genetic constraints and how to be wealthy within your environmental constraints.
If you’re smart, you can figure out how to be happy within your biological constraints. But your biological constraints are a lot larger than you might think.
The dynamic range of happiness is quite large
If you’ve ever gotten drunk or achieved an altered state of mind on psychedelic drugs or through meditation, breathing or other hypnotic techniques, you have experienced brief moments of happiness beyond what you feel on a typical day.
Of course, some of this is a fake, pleasure-driven happiness. But there’s truth to it; otherwise, you wouldn’t desire that state.
Achieving these brief states of happiness can show you how dynamic your range is—and that range can be quite large.
How do you nudge yourself in that direction on a perpetual basis, as opposed to visiting it by stunning your mind into submission and silence?