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Why Southeast Asian Founders Need to Take Yale’s Most Popular Class

Happiness can be taught

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 03 May 2018


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The question is deceptively simple: How can I be happy?

You can start to discover the answer for free. Yale University is now offering its most popular course in the school’s history to the public through Coursera, an online education platform. The fee is $49 if you’re looking to get a certificate. When the course was first introduced in January, nearly a quarter of all Yale undergraduates enrolled. The class, Psyc 157 “Psychology and the Good Life,” will be available in its adapted version, “The Science of Well Being.”

The online course, taught by psychology professor Laurie Santos, will tackle misconceptions about happiness, how to overcome our biases, and what we can do to bring lasting satisfaction to our lives.

Southeast Asian founders may find this course particularly helpful. In the flurry of the day-to-day operations of a start-up, it’s easy to lose sight of one’s mental and emotional well-being.

“The start-up world is not for the faint-hearted,” says Seph Mayol, co-founder and CEO of Philippine-based tech firm Hoy in this article. The ups and downs of running a business can take a toll on one’s spirit over the long run.


Happiness precedes success

American positive psychologist and author Shawn Anchor challenges the notion that success can bring about happiness. It’s the other way around, he says.

“Research shows that when people work with a positive mindset, performance on nearly every level — productivity, creativity, engagement — improves. Yet happiness is perhaps the most misunderstood driver of performance,” Anchor writes in a 2012 Harvard Business Review piece.

Anchor says most people believe success precedes happiness.

“But because success is a moving target — as soon as you hit your target, you raise it again — the happiness that results from success is fleeting,” he says.

Happiness not only makes one successful. It also contributes to overall health.  

A comprehensive review published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being makes the case for happiness having a real effect on physical health. One theory, Time reports, is that happy people are likely to take better care of themselves and choose healthy behaviors — exercising, eating well, and getting adequate sleep.

The study’s lead author Edward Diener, professor of social psychology at the University of Utah, says achieving real happiness goes beyond reducing stress and anxiety.

“Learning to enjoy your work, being more grateful and having really positive relationships are important, too,” Diener says in the Time article.

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