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    If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy?

    By just about anybody's definition of success, ophthalmologists are successful:  intelligent, well-paid, able to make people’s lives better and held in high esteem by the public. Not to mention good-looking. 

    So they must be happy—right? Not necessarily. 

    According to Raj Raghunathan, author of "If you're So Smart, Why Aren't You Happy?" highly successful people are not more likely, and may actually be less likely to believe they are leading happy, meaningful and fulfilling lives. 

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    But if intelligence results in better decision-making, shouldn’t the logical expectation be that smart people would make better life choices and reap happiness as a result?

    The author’s analysis of smart, well-educated "successful" people points to at least two reasons for this phenomenon.

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    One is the tendency for these individuals to be competitive, comparing themselves constantly to others to judge whether things are going well. As a result, they might feel happy only if they outcompete others in some way. Their happiness, or lack thereof, is therefore only relative to others.

    The author says that another characteristic of these smart but unhappy people is that, highly educated though they may be, they have never taken a course on how to lead a happy, meaningful and fulfilling life or seriously asked themselves what it would take for them to conclude that they have achieved such a life.

    The poster child for this person is the straight A student who works hard in school to please her teachers, parents and other authority figures, becomes a highly paid professional with the nice car, home and other material accoutrements, perhaps a spouse and children, only to ask herself "When will I become happy?"

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    So instead, these successful people pursue the usual surrogates for happiness (e.g. money, power, a biweekly column in Ophthalmology Times).

    If you had 3 wishes...

    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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