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Why Being Happy Can Earn You More Money

Red McComb's School of Business by Kumar Appaiah via Flickr

In an ideal world, we’d all enjoy our jobs and be happy to go to work each morning. However, that’s not always possible.

It’s easy to tell ourselves that we have to work hard and be miserable for a while before eventually becoming successful and happy, but a scientific study has actually found this isn’t the case. Happiness can actually lead to career success, rather than just being the result of being successful.

Recognizing the close causal link between happiness and career/business success, the University of Texas at Austin - McCombs School of Business has launched a new, free online course – Happier Employees and Return-On-Investment.

Participants on the four-week course will be taught by award winning professors Raj Raghunathan (author of If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?) and Marshall Goldsmith (world-famous CEO coach and author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There). The course covers five main topics:

  • Why does happiness at work matter?
  • What are the five most important determinants of happiness at work?
  • What is holding me back from feeling happy and fulfilled at work?
  • What can I do to enhance my own happiness levels at work?
  • What can I do to enhance the happiness of my co-workers?

We caught up with professor Raj Raghunathan to find out a little more about the massive open online course (MOOC) and how it differs from other business programs.

Raghunathan is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin (specifically the marketing department) with a successful MOOC already under his belt, and so, co-creating and teaching ‘Happier Employees and Return-On-Investment’ was a no brainer.

He said: “About 12 years ago I realized a lot of students go on to have great careers and are very successful but are not necessarily happy. So, I started offering the course on happiness that was very much a course on personal life happiness.

“I started offering it in the spring of 2009 – and every year there was a waiting list to get into the class. So, I realized there’s a great deal of hunger for this topic.”

Raghunathan wrote a book off the back of this, and went on to release the course ‘A Life of Happiness and Fulfilment’ in 2015 which was crowned one of the top 50 MOOCs of all time (265,000 students have taken the course so far).

He said: “I realized that happiness is not just something that feels good, it’s also very useful to be happy. Happier people are healthier, so they show up for work more often. They have better relationships with other people, so they’re better in team projects. Happier people are more objective, more creative, more productive, and so they end up making more money.”

Even though Raghunathan started with the assumption that happiness was relevant for life, not necessarily for your career, he said: “I ended up discovering it’s actually useful and ended up revising my course to be more about organizational happiness and employee happiness.”

As part of that initiative he launched UT of A’s course about two and a half months ago and he’s already had 4,000 students take part.

Why happiness is beneficial to your career

There was a common misconception for a long time that unhappy people are more successful – people who were more stressed were earning more money. Raghunathan said: “These were not necessarily good people, but mean-spirited people, people willing to step on other people’s toes to get ahead in life.”

Research has now completely debunked this mentality though. Happier people, nice people, people who are givers as opposed to takers are the ones who are more likely to succeed in the real world – The Wharton School’s Adam Grant wrote a 2014 bestseller Give and Take pointing this out.

Raghunathan said: “There is more triangulating evidence that gives us more confidence that happiness doesn’t just feel good, it’s also useful to be happy, you’re more likely to succeed.”

What Will the Future Bring for MOOCs?

Utilizing MOOCs

There are thousands of MOOC courses available today, as well as a number of different MOOC platforms (UT of A’s course is on edX). Raghunathan said: “The dust is yet to settle on exactly how impactful these MOOCs are or are going to be in the future, but they’re certainly here to stay – and for good reason.”

For example, a potential student in Ghana who doesn’t have access to a leading university can easily access the course without it costing them thousands of dollars. Raghunathan said: “The videos are completely free for my course, it’s only when you want somebody to grade your deliverables you need to pay. It’s not a lot, it’s about $50 per person.”

MOOCs have a global audience, and since its launch, UT of A’s course has seen people from over 50 countries take the course.

But does Raghunathan enjoy being a part of the program? He said: “Right now, most of the instructors are doing it for free.

“It’s a bit of a labor of love for me. I really believe in MOOCs, I really believe in democratizing education, and disseminating information that might be useful to people and I’m very thankful to be in this position.”

You can read some of the program reviews here.

Niamh Ollerton, Deputy Head of Content at QS
Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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