Highway to Happiness
Copyright 2010 Jehan-i-Seema. All rights reserved.
All material in this page is original writing of  Seema Arif. Using it in any form of publication and
print media without prior permission will be considered against violation of rights. While quoting in
research papers proper referencing should be used.
If someone would have asked Aristotle what is the most desired objective of life; he’d have replied: happiness. But
how would we secure the ‘happiness’ in life? Aristotle would have answered this question: only “wisdom” leads to
pure happiness.  It is known that wisdom is generated from knowledge and it involves enhancing one’s cognitive
capacity or rational skills, to study hard, earn higher degrees and work hard to put in practice what one has
learned. Thus, one may argue that getting a standardized formal education is vital to get into good jobs, earning
handsome salaries and adopting a quality life style and thus securing happiness for oneself. Contrarily, some
would challenge: does ‘happiness’ come that easy or it is the harder way? The people hardly educated can
manage a business very well, earn even more money and live a luxurious life and be happy. Before we know which
way is right, we are met with another challenge; we come to know that “Material wealth does not correlate with

Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association, regards ‘the pleasant life’ promising
sensual pleasures (often associated with material wealth) as the lowest level of happiness; whereas, ‘the good life’
ensured by enjoying doing something we are good at is the highest level, the most lasting form of happiness. It
gives meaning to our life and adds value to our living. We are further reminded of the sages’ advice:

“Living for yourself may be pleasurable, but pleasure is not happiness. Happiness comes from a life lived with and
for others within a framework of mutual responsibility.”

Why one should live a life for others in present selfish times and how can we cultivate a culture of mutual
responsibility? The reason for doing so is that selfish gains sets limits to mutual good and collective progress but
feeling of empathy leads us to recognize others’ needs, submit to those needs and sacrifice personal ones. When
people see their jobs as transcending their own personal needs (improving the quality of life for others or
contributing to society), the impact can be extremely powerful, such as working in fields of medicine and teaching is
rewarding in itself. A soldier is more loved who gives his life for the safety and security of his country rather than
business men who earns huge profits for one’s organization, because everybody knows that the lion’s share is
going to go in his pocket buying him even greater power to rule over the less powerful; it may earn him the right to
manipulate others’ needs and exploit others’ rights. Such feelings does not promote a feeling of trust and thus no
respect for such persons follow in the heart of people, unless the person is generous and benevolent to share
major portion of his wealth with a wider range of community.

Thus, really in Socratic terms the real gain is in giving up, because one gains in strength and courage to loose,
which builds us morally. Iqbal had said that sacrificing a lower value for the higher one builds one’s character.
Today, having lost all our greater values like sacrifice, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness and kindness, it is not
strange that we are known as ‘losers’ and recognized as ‘beggars’. What made us loose the right track leading to
success? Whether it was the poor planning and shortsightedness of our leaders or their lack of concern for their
people, which made them blind in greed, and drowned them in pits of jealousy, venom and enmity, ultimately
deteriorating few of us into wild beasts looting and plundering everything? What could have restrained them from
this brutal selfishness? Where does that knowledge reside, which can prevent such disaster and what are its
principles? Rumi tells us that it is the knowledge of heart, which helps and guides us in leading a moral and
purposeful life or to speak in Maslow’s terms, it lies in self-actualization.

Psychologists inform us that people experience a meaningful life when they have a sense of purpose or direction,
a sense of self-efficacy or control, a set of values that inform their actions and behaviour, and promote their sense
of self-worth. Meaningful work is the work that allows freedom and autonomy to the workers, enables the workers
to develop their rational capacities, supports their moral development and provides a decent chance to earn living
in a way that they can choose their own way to obtain happiness. In order to realize this dream, we need equitable
use of resources on one hand and on the other, we need to create an equal opportunity for everyone to share
those resources and/or claim those resources, and exploit those resources to maximize one’s potential. Unless this
balance will be achieved, there will be no sense of fairness and justice and there will be no satisfaction leading to

We are further informed that its not ‘always money’ that everybody is interested in but there is a deep desire to do
something more useful with their lives. However, this platonic statement does not make us oblivious of the fact that
all of us need a decent means of earning to live a life full of complex needs in 21st century. Unfortunately, caught
in their own web, business leaders have become prisoners of the system that they have inherited, and entangled
in its bureaucratic cobwebs they do not see any escape. Corporations were invented 100 years ago: they are no
longer suitable for our aspirations today. We have to rethink how we want to organise business and what we want
to replace corporations with.

Present economic system is corrupted and has lost its value and we are told by socio-biologists like Maturana and
Wilson that a system will be sustainable if it holds in itself the capacity for greater good for all rather than benefits
for the few. Therefore, it becomes imperative for us that we strive to revise our education system that serves this
economic system? In order to get respect for any knowledge or discipline giving rise to a system, it must transcend
the immanent needs of a particular society or community and must rise above to embrace the universal needs of
humanity; only then it will be able to claim leadership.

Kotter has said that “great vision emerges when a powerful mind, working long and hard on massive amounts of
information, is able to see (or recognize in suggestions from others) interesting patterns and new possibilities.” Will
any number of such minds be able to envision a better system, if their heart is devoid of the care of the poor, the
deprived and the down trodden, the people encompassing masses, greater population of the world? We need
knowledge that reminds world leadership of its moral purpose and direction in service of humanity. Thus,
Sternberg stresses the importance of ‘wisdom’ - the elixir of heart that is badly needed to restore life on earth.
Sternberg has defined wisdom as:

“the extent to which [a leader] uses successful intelligence as moderated by values to…seek to reach a common
good…by balancing intrapersonal (one’s own), interpersonal (others’), and extrapersonal
(organizational/institutional/spiritual) interests…over the short and long term, to…adapt to, shape, and select

Both knowledge and wisdom are not possible without intelligence; Howard Gardner has informed us about so many
of them, which one will suit our needs?  Will it be the high degree of intellect allowing us to achieve hallmarks in
realm of natural sciences or it will be the art of empathy and building relationships, the emotional and social
intelligence that will serve our humane purpose.  None of it can work unless it has some degree of ‘moral
intelligence’, ‘the ability to differentiate right from wrong as defined by universal principles, which is not furnished
with meta-values of efficiency and effectiveness to earn me more profits; instead it is concerned with the mega
values of integrity, responsibility, compassion and forgiveness. It is the duty of each and every individual to learn
and adorn oneself with these principles and values. It will create – ‘a dialogue between reason and emotion,
between mind and body’ – leading to ‘the balance’ – integration and unification of cognitive and emotional life of
our intellectual system. The life is in search of divine balance – the harmony pronounced by Syed Hussain Nasr as
‘Husn’, the beauty of life. A thing of beauty is joy for ever, and this search not only ends our quest but provides
‘meaning to our existence’ through realizing the goal of life – happiness.
Published in Manager Today  (April-May 2011) Edition,
Vol.3, Issue 13