José Carlos Pons

WWF Mexico

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Wouldn't happiness bring about professional and personal stagnation?

I have not met a human being who does not want to be happy. However, following the argument brought forward by Shawn Anchor, unhappiness is the main driver for continuous personal and professional development, i.e. we are never satisfied with what we have.
In this scenario, would't happiness bring about professional and personal stagnation.

  • Aug 5 2012: I would submit that happiness or a lack thereof can and should be attained via paradigm shift rather than general situation. In my own life I have discovered that happiness is a mindset I CHOOSE rather than something that is entirely dictated by the circumstances and situations surrounding me. As humans, are we not dynamic beings throughout the range of existance? Don't our social, financial, familial, economic and other facets constantly change in ways entirely beyond our control. Is it UNNATURAL for our own personal priorities and reactions to change as we age and mature? Is this UNHAPPINESS or simply trying to maintain a static mindset in a dynamic situation. Like fitting a square peg in a round hole, we cannot remain static if we expect to survive and thrive, but this is NOT necessarily a measure of unhappiness. It is merely an observation that something is no longer working as expected and shows need of modification. What if one CHOOSES to be happy with the dynamism of life and therefore developes the adaptability required for constant change. Is this Unhappiness to be constantly challenged? Or is it the thrill of the chase that drives instead? I love learning merely for the challenge of gaining new knowledge that I may filter through for innovation of my own making. I'm very eclectic in my selection of knowledge base because I find it enhances my survival possibilities in a number of arenas. Amazingly I'm very happy doing it!
  • Aug 9 2012: To answer the original question... "No" It is just plain silly to assume that being happy will keep you from being motivated.
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    Aug 5 2012: I think that the most important distinction to make concerning this topic is between "happiness" and "satisfaction". One can, in my opinion (and I hope I'm not alone), be pleased with themselves and derive happiness and positive feelings from something that, simply because it was not the pinnacle of their self-perceived ability, they feel can be improved upon. An example that comes to mind is testing in schools. If I receive a 93% on a test, I am almost always happy with the score itself; however, I may not be content because I feel I could have scored higher. In this sense, I am happy with what I have achieved yet not completely satisfied, and thus look for future improvement. In other words, happiness can be found in something that is not total perfection. In many cases (at least with myself), I think that it is this feeling of joy at having succeeded mixed with knowing that I can do better that really drives me to keep improving at what I do.
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      Aug 5 2012: I agree. However, It is a fine line that separates happiness and satisfaction. An important part of the massage here conveyed is that we must be able to recognize that dissatisfaction is not equal to unhappiness. Moreover, we tend to focus on the factors that bring dissatisfaction, rather than those that bring satisfaction. It is customary to hear about the "bad" situations people go though on a regular day, rather than the "good" ones.
      I understand this bad-focusing systematic approach, as an evolutionary response. In a way that we emphasize bad experiences, as a necessary tool to survive in an constantly changing environment.
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        Aug 5 2012: The thought that "dissatisfaction is not equal to unhappiness" is exactly what I was trying to express (in so many words), but I feel that one cannot truly be driven by dissatisfaction until that person has, at least, tasted what they feel to be a degree of satisfaction and, in turn, found happiness in that. To bring it full circle and address the final sentence of the original post, I think that it is the varying degrees and different experiences of happiness, and not necessarily only the lack there of, that drives personal and professional progress/change and not "stagnation".
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          Aug 5 2012: This also has to do with time management and efficiency.

          I can spend maybe 2 hours of studying to get that 93%, but it may take me another 4 hours to try and get that 100%. If you ask me, 4 hours to get only an extra 7% is very inefficient with my time and would give me diminishing returns. I could use that 4 hours for more productive or more valuable things in my life. So then the real question here would be, is it necessary to get 100%?
  • Steve C

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    Sep 4 2012: If happiness is something external that we have to find, then we may find it and want it to end that way; probably stagnating and fizzling-out.
    But if we can find that happiness is internal, (we're valuable), or a verb, then ... well, we're happy. We can do things, and if they go wrong, then ok - maybe it turned out okay from another viewpoint; maybe the process fulfilled another valuable need.
  • Aug 30 2012: HAPPINESS is a mindset...if you are content in any situation that you are placed,you would be the HAPPIEST MAN ALIVE.its when negative aspects like discontentment creeps into your mind,that you tend to be uneasy and unhappy..CHANGE YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS AND LIFE WOULD TURN OUT TO BE BEAUTIFUL
  • Aug 19 2012: Unhappiness is only one motivator, but happiness can also be a great motivator as well (usually a more productive motivator, too). There's a section here that had a good explanation of happiness as a great motivator:
  • Aug 11 2012: Jose's opinion is supported by Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. In his book "Human Action: A Treatise on Economics", he argued that the opposite to action is not inaction, it is contentment. Man acts because he is never fully satisfied, and will never stop because he can never be fully satisfied.
    When I first read this, I had a "Sixth Sense" moment. I knocked myself upside the head and thought "Duh!, of course he's right."
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    Aug 9 2012: Being happy gives you the energy you need to discover and achieve your highest priorities. Sure, there are unhappy people who appear to do well for themselves, but "appearance" is all it is. The dis-ease that occurs on the inside eventually manifests on the outside. Happiness, on the other hand, enables you lead with clarity, courage, and energy! No matter the endeavor, your efforts will be more sustainable because you will have inspired the people around you to help create your vision.
  • Aug 5 2012: Happiness would bring about the creation of different goods and services, different inventions, higher productivity, Happiness would bring about the peaceful, loving world and lives we all aspire to have. Life is simple. Happiness is good. Positive is good. I wonder what value is derived from complicating the essential simplicity of life. Good words cause good impacts. Good acts cause good impacts. People who feel good, spread the good feelings. We must all re-program ourselves from the erroneous, negative brainwashing we received from the dead people who misled us. Observe the simple cause/effect relationships and use your own mind and experiences to control your own behavior. Thank you.
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    Aug 5 2012: Happiness is a decision.
    It is a pity that some have tied happiness to the attainment of a certain status, or to the possession of some material(s); or to something that they hope would happen in the future.

    Passion should be our major drive; that is, being passionate about our jobs, our relationships, and our hobbies.
    There is a difference between contentment and complacence. We should be happy with our current 'best', but we should not rest on it; we should strive to take that 'best' to the next level.

    Because we are still alive.
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    Lejan .

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    Aug 5 2012: I have seen many people stuck in unhappiness in their professions and personal lives yet it formed resignation and frustration instead of this mentioned 'main drive' for a personal and professional development.

    I have also seen many people who flourish in doing what they are doing, because they just LOVE what they are doing.

    I have met people which were satisfied with what they have and which did not strive for a change or more possessions.

    So I think this topic is as individual as we are and can not be cast into a single statement about it.
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    Aug 5 2012: For some reason, I can't figure out how to respond directly to James Zhang's comment concerning time efficiency. So here it is as a general post: The notion of this 100% versus the 93% was a poor analogy on my part, because many of the pursuits through which we discover happiness, and in which that happiness in turn drives us to succeed, are not measured numerically and thus have no level of "perfection" (i.e. 100/100). In this sense, we ourselves define what we see to be as the ultimate goal, meaning that whether it is an active decision or not, we have some measure of control over our happiness. If nothing else, this tells us that happiness and satisfaction are completely relative. While I'm not saying that environmental pressures such as societal expectations and cultural values don't play a significant role in determining personal choice, I feel that at least some small degree of self-determination is exercised in the pursuit of happiness (it's also a good movie). Once personal happiness can be put into this context of relativity, I feel that we will truly be able to tap the full benefits of balancing ambition and progress with a deep, personal contentment.
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      Aug 5 2012: True dat

      Not everyone should be "efficient," trying to strive for the 93%. There needs to be people who go for that 100%. So you're right, it really just depends on what each of us values the most. If I could get make a sustainable income doing nothing but posting on Ted forum, I'd do it without question and probably and spend almost 100% of my time here lol.

      I really don't want people to become sheep, the followers. People need to think for themselves, know what they like and what they're capable of, and that's how we become a much more advanced society. Societal pressures are necessary, but sometimes they create too many sheep.
  • Aug 31 2012: Happiness cannot. Be obtained by only making money will come only from good. Heart.
  • Aug 28 2012: The idea that human beings create better out of some degree of suffering is age-old. Nietzsche practically made this a corner stone of his philosophy. There is a seeming counter-argument that says that people only create the truly worthwhile when inspired. Inspiration and suffering are opposite conditions. Can the two be reconciled?

    Perhaps unhappiness can lead to inspiration. When we are unhappy we can be strongly motivated to do what we see as potentially fulfilling us, and this can drive us to intense focus, hard work, and productivity - even excellence.

    Yet surely there is a better way. The idea that we have to be at least a bit miserable to "do well" is a dismal idea and reflects a fundamental confusion about human motivation. Yes, we are motivated by the prospect of improvement in our state of being when unhappy. But a need for some form of unhappiness or suffering as a motivator only occurs from a certain state of consciousness.

    When we start off in life we are highly egocentric. Our concern is with our wants and needs, our happiness, and our safety. Other people have significance only insofar as they affect our perceived happiness and safety. But with emotional maturity comes true empathy, connection to others, and deep care. The recognition of how deeply we care leads to a sense of devotion to the world and it's collective well-being, and this gives rise to inspiration. The beauty of an idea or effort is seen in terms of it's significance to the world. The potential impact is then sufficient to drive us to greater heights of achievement. And the pursuit of excellence is then characterized by joy. This is what it means to live a life of purpose, and it requires an inner shift based on the recognition of how much we really do care, and how impassioned we actually are about other people.

    Generallly by the time we are adults we are so emotionally scared that this care and commitment is obscure to us, and so we need to heal to find it. Or so it was for me.
  • Aug 28 2012: José, I'm having difficulty with your interpretation of Shawn Anchor's argument, which is actually the foundation for the question you posed here (and this entire thread). Let me explain:

    You say that "however, following the argument brought forward by Shawn Anchor, unhappiness is the main driver for continuous personal and professional development"... The problem I have with this is: When exactly does Shawn Anchor say (or imply) that "unhappiness is the main driver for continuous personal and professional development" ?

    I don't think he ever does.

    I've watched the video 4 times, trying to glean this as either verbatim or implied, and I am not deducing your interpretation of Shawn Anchor's argument from what he actually said/implied.

    Go back to 9:04 in the video, and carefully listen again to what he says.

    I think you've got your cause and effect mixed up. I don't think he's saying that unhappiness causes the drive for personal and professional achievement. I believe what Shawn Anchor is actually saying, is that the human mind turns our results from achieving personal/professional development into unhappiness because we keep changing the goal posts "of what success looks like". Watch and listen again starting at 9:04 if you're still not convinced.

    After watching that again, I think you will agree that he is not saying that unhappiness is the driver for personal/professional development, what he's saying is that we as humans have been conditioned to turn our successes into unhappiness.

    And if my analysis of your (mis)interpretation is correct, then that would make this whole thread a moot point, but not one without value, as apparently there are many other people here who mistakenly assumed your interpretation of Shawn Anchor's argument was on point.
  • Aug 7 2012: Can you be happy while hungry?

    I recently saw an episode of the TV show Shark Tank. An investor rejected an entrepreneur because the entrepreneur was not hungry enough. Specifically, the investor thought the entrepreneur expected too much personal income from the business while he was growing the business. I think the investor made the right decision.

    Also, I think you can be happy while hungry, if the hunger is not extreme. Happiness is over valued and should never be a goal. Happy is what happens every time I kiss my wife, or hug a child, regardless of everything else.
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    Aug 5 2012: People whose happiness derives from a sense of competency and the 'flow" that comes with that (in the sense of TED speaker Mihalyi Czikzentmihalyi) or from the realization that they can make a difference may well be highly productive and inventive over a lifetime. I agree with others who have argued in this thread that a positive outlook is not the same as a complacent one.
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    Aug 5 2012: It's not happiness or unhappiness....what I know complacency brings such stagnation.
    Moreover it is being said people perform better when the goal is stretched.......and that brings development in both professional and personal life..
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    Aug 5 2012: I guess this is kinda true to some degree. Big corporations imo generate quite a bit of unhappiness, but the pay is good and they were great catalysts to our technologies and services. However, I don't think people should be as motivated for money as they are to the job itself. As in your work itself should bring you happiness while giving you some good pay, that should be ideal. But I understand that getting a good paying job can be great for supporting your family. But sometimes reserving more time for the family is even better support for the family, than good pay.
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      Aug 5 2012: I agree, the average paradigm of success is associated with a degree of unhappiness. But that is precisely what needs to change, as argued though this talk, there are plenty of benefits that come from fostering happiness in our daily lives.