Trend of the times
A man shall do all the rational things but only after exploring all other possibilities” — famous words from Keynes spoken long back. But it seems people are now doing the rational things. Of course, they are doing it after exploring all other possibilities. So the most popular course in Harvard University is the one on how to be happier, a course that teaches positive psychology. The topics discussed include happiness, self-esteem, empathy, friendship etc. Similarly the most popular course in the Yale, another famous US university, is again one on happiness, which discusses psychology and the good life. Certainly these are the trends of the time as the once highly popular course MBA is losing its sheen in the US, the very place from where it was popularised. They are now discussing the validity of the MBA curriculum as debates in classrooms centre around corporate misdemeanours in organisations that shot to prominence due to the overnight growth in profitability, whatever way. It is now being realised that what management education should focus on is values, ethics, integrity, and character. This is what one of the most prolific writers of management, Peter Drucker, would have perhaps meant when he said, management is doing right things. Though he never categorically mentioned what those right things are, yet the indications were clear. As we move ahead in this age of commerce anxiety, stress, unhappiness, greed and envy become the defining features. Anxiety as your purpose in life is misplaced. And this causes stress resulting in unhappiness. Greed and envy are the emotions that act like fuel in fire. There was a time when most people were driven by a mission. What is my purpose in life? It was not an existential crisis but a definite objective to do good in this world. But the times changed and the driving force became vision. Where do I go from here? That is, my status, my position in years to come. Envy thus gained preponderance and conflicts of choice started arising. These are different times. The motivating force that has become prominent is commission. How much do I get? So it is now both envy and greed that dominate. In the process the casualty number one is happiness. Children are unhappy. Parents are unhappy. Families are unhappy. Societies are unhappy. Slowly but certainly the futility of our objectives and actions are becoming obvious. So we are trying to find that elusive happiness which we kept on chasing like a mirage in our quest for material gains. There is apparently nothing wrong in seeking material prosperity. But the point is at what cost? The hankering for material prosperity has made man impatient and he is always on tenterhooks. This is dangerous. The medical science also accepts this even though many medical practitioners carry on their business as usual. But that apart, let us examine this happiness business. Can happiness be taught? Well both yes and no. Yes for those whose minds are humble and amenable to reason, and who believe what they learn. And no for those whose egos are so powerful that they block all rational knowledge. Nevertheless, if what is happening on the happiness front is not just a fashion but realisation, we may take this as a step forward for humanity. A quest for some higher level of consciousness. Yet, it is still a long way to go. How long? Well, let us wait and see.
The writer is a Professor of Management at IIT (ISM), Dhanbad. He can be reached at email@example.com
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