How Smart People Can Stop Being Miserable

By George Cooley

It’s a common notion that intellectual people often find themselves in the abyss of unhappiness. But can they overcome this misery? This article takes a deep dive into the subject of how smart people can stop being miserable, exploring the root cause of their unhappiness and offering practical solutions to break the cycle.

Is being smart a curse.

Is Intelligence a Curse?

The idea of intelligence being a curse rather than a blessing is not new. A character in Ernest Hemingway’s novel ‘The Garden of Eden’ even remarks, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know,” which echoes the well-known saying, “Ignorance is bliss.”

This notion is further supported by psychological phenomena like the Dunning-Kruger effect, where individuals with limited skills and knowledge underestimate their incompetence, and the illusion of explanatory depth, where people overestimate their understanding of complex topics.

Intelligence and Happiness: A Complex Relationship

The relationship between intelligence and happiness is complex and not straightforward. While it’s common to assume that higher intelligence, whether it’s emotional intelligence, musical talent, or high IQ, should logically lead to more opportunities and enhanced well-being, the reality is often different.

Research has shown no direct correlation between general intelligence and life satisfaction at an individual level. A study conducted in 2022 by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and Fordham University found that only certain components of intelligence, such as spatial visualization, memory, and processing speed, were positively related to happiness, and these relationships were often fleeting and age-related.

The Vocabulary and Happiness Paradox

Interestingly, the same study revealed a strong negative association between happiness and vocabulary. Those with a large vocabulary often find themselves in more challenging environments, leading to increased daily stressors and reduced positive affect. In other words, eloquent individuals may inadvertently complicate their lives and find themselves in numerous precarious situations, leading to increased misery.

The Pursuit of Success Over Happiness

One of the cruel mysteries of life is our innate drive to pursue success rather than happiness. Mother Nature propels us towards the four goals of money, power, pleasure, and prestige with the promise of happiness. In reality, though, the correlation between these rewards and happiness is often positive, the causation is likely reversed.

Individuals who use their intelligence for personal gain, seeking praise and admiration from others or an edge in work and dating, often find that happiness eludes them. Instead, it’s those who use their intelligence to serve and love others who are more likely to find happiness.

Intelligence as a Resource for Happiness

Viewing intelligence as a resource akin to money or power provides a fresh perspective on how to use it for happiness. Just as sharing money and power and using them for good can bring joy, using intelligence in the same way can also lead to happiness. Here are two practical ways to do this:

1. Share Your Ideas

Many successful individuals are willing to donate to charity but hesitate to share their ideas. In a world driven by ideas, withholding them is a form of stinginess that can lead to personal suffering. Instead, freely sharing your ideas and insights to help others succeed can bring immense happiness.

2. Use Your Intelligence Positively

Using intelligence to put others down through sarcasm or snark can be damaging. While such behavior might earn laughs or followers, it can cause misery to the target and the person using it. Instead, use your intelligence to lift others up and bring laughter without causing harm.

Questions to Ponder

Do intelligent people tend to be unhappy?

While there’s no direct correlation between intelligence and happiness, certain studies suggest that intelligent individuals might be more prone to unhappiness because they often find themselves in more challenging environments and are more likely to overthink, leading to anxiety and worry.

Are highly intelligent people more depressed?

Research has shown a strong negative association between happiness and vocabulary, suggesting that highly intelligent individuals might be more prone to depression due to their tendency to self-select more challenging environments.

Why do intelligent people stay unhappy?

Intelligent individuals often use their intelligence for personal gain, seeking praise and admiration from others or an edge in work and dating. This can lead to unhappiness as it often results in increased stress and reduced positive affect.

Can intelligent people be happy?

Yes, intelligent individuals can be happy. However, the key to happiness lies not in using intelligence for personal gain but in using it to serve and love others.

Why is life hard for smart people?

Life can be hard for smart people because their intelligence often leads them to more challenging environments, and their tendency to overthink can lead to anxiety and worry.

Are highly intelligent people less emotional?

Intelligence and emotional capacity are two different aspects. While some highly intelligent individuals might be less emotional due to their analytical nature, others might have a high emotional intelligence, which allows them to understand and manage their own and others’ emotions effectively.

While intelligence can sometimes lead to misery, it’s not a life sentence. By shifting the focus from personal gain to serving others and using intelligence as a resource for good, smart people can stop being miserable and find greater happiness in their lives.

About the author
George Cooley