Intelligence Does Not Determine Happiness



Is smart a criteria for happiness?

Not at all.

It’s your frustration tolerance.

This point rings true.

I think the meta-point is that it’s not about lowering your expectations about things.  Instead it’s about improving your ability to deal with things that don’t go as planned.

Another way to put it is, raising your bar over what you choose to let frustrate you, goes a long way for your happiness.

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes that it’s not your intelligence, but your frustration tolerance that’s the key.

Irritability Quotient (IQ) and Your Happiness

Raise your frustration tolerance.

Via Feeling Good:

“What’s your IQ? I’m not interested in knowing how smart you are because your intelligence has little, if anything, to do with your capacity for happiness.

What I want to know is what your Irritability Quotient is.

This refers to the amount of anger and annoyance you tend to absorb and harbor in your daily life.

If you have a particularly high IQ, it puts you at a great disadvantage because you overreact to frustrations and disappointments by creating feelings of resentment that blacken your disposition and make your life a joyless hassle.”

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • Don’t lower your expectations.  Happiness isn’t about lowering your expectations.
  • Raise your frustration tolerance. Learn to roll with the punches.  Improve your ability to deal with things when they don’t go as planned.

Who wants to live a joyless hassle?

Choose to raise your own Frustration Tolerance bar.

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  1. Can’t agree more. I started to develop teflon like apporach to anger and annoyance. I started to absorb much less of it and i started to feel much much better. The mind is clearer, vital energy now is spent on much more important things. I think yes – i am becoming happier each and every day with such approach

  2. Everyday I run into annoyances from software and computers when they don’t behave the way I think they should. I seem to have a disproportionate string of challenges. When I used to think “geeze, why me … yet, again,” it was particularly frustrating. Now, every single time I hit an issue, I think, ah, it’s a test and another chance to not sweat the small stuff.

  3. im sorry but you cat just go making things up that sound right and pretending its true. irritability quotient means NOTHING. all that has been described here is that neurotic people arent happy, which goes without saying really. It aso contradicts alot of Diener’s work (a psychologist dedicated to the study of happiness) which suggests that when people are happy they use their resources to build on culturally praised skills (such as intelligence) and that this resource building also helps create happiness.
    David D Burns is a PSYCHIATRIST – they have a relatively small amount of psychological knowlegdge as their job is mainly to diagnose and prescribe medications – that is to be able to tick boxes in a diagnostic tool and understand the biochemical elements of the brain.

  4. @ Juan — No need to apologize. If your argument is that you have to be intelligent to be happy, that sounds tough to justify. I think Dr. Burns has a simple argument — it’s not what you’ve got, it’s how you use it.

    It’s only contradictory if you frame it so. There’s plenty of space both for Diener and Dr. Burns. If you’re interested in some of the key science behind happiness, I recommend Dr. Martin Seligman, a psychologist, who has a lot of key insights. His book “What You Can Change, and What You Can’t” shares some deep insights from a lifetime of his learnings in the field.

    If you want patterns and practices for happiness, check out my post, “Keys for Skilled Happiness” for actionable ways for better days.

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