'Our intrinsic needs to compare ourselves with others can drive us to make sub-optimal choices for our wellbeing.' Distance Learning MBA participant Zeeshan Sheikh offers a fascinating insight into how the Economics of Wellbeing module helped him reshape his outlook on life.
The Economics of Wellbeing module of my Distance Learning MBA helped me a great deal in transforming my perspective on life during several triggering points, and to ignite my cognitive thinking throughout my learning journey.
The great thing about this module was its delicate balance between theories and empirical studies of wellbeing economics, including the practical implications in the workplace, and more broadly in society. I learned about the importance of wellbeing and happiness as an economic outcome, as well as ways of measuring wellbeing and its determinants. The knowledge I gained broadened my understanding of the factors that determine an individual's subjective experiences, and exploring how this knowledge can be applied in business and personal life.
Identification of the main determinants in my life satisfaction, emotional wellbeing and feelings of meaningfulness through exploring a range of empirical studies was eye-opening for me. Influence of the relative income in our lives and moods, attention and forecasting effect, social norm theory and how we adopt hedonically to different life events over time, are some of the highlights that forced me to change my standpoint towards life.
With the help of longitudinal research studies, I learnt how people use social comparisons to enhance or decrease wellbeing by following upward or downward social comparisons. Inevitably, our intrinsic needs to compare ourselves with others can drive us to make sub-optimal choices for our wellbeing, such as choosing to work longer hours and spending more time commuting, just because we do not want to be left behind by other people who are similar to us.
In my opinion, the policy makers have to redefine what it is to be successful, and to think about how we could start measuring success in a much more meaningful way than what we have been doing up until now. GDP is not a good indicator because money in its pure form does not translate to wellbeing. Monetary wealth provides some means to help contribute to enabling wellbeing, whether that be in housing, security, health or other material goods. GDP indicators encourage people to work harder whilst not looking more in depth, and place value on monetary growth rather than other factors that affect human beings. A person continuing to increase their own earning and contributing to GDP may have negative consequences on another human, which are usually reflected in GDP scores. I agree with the ‘Easterlin Paradox’ theory, which states that at a point in time, happiness varies directly with income both among and within nations, but over time happiness does not trend upward as income continues to grow.
I also learnt that I rate eudemonic (a type of subjective wellbeing) as the highest priority in my life because of my sense of connectedness and feelings of autonomy. Utilising the control and responsibility in a positive way given to me during work always generates a vibe of happiness. I would particularly like to iterate the importance of wellbeing at the workplace. Work-life balance is one of the key determinants of higher job satisfaction. However, to maximise employees' wellbeing is hardly ever on any company's mission statement. Yet there is growing evidence to suggest that employees' wellbeing is predictive of many outcomes that most companies aspire to have on their company record. During the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations suddenly have to navigate the unprecedented and thereby find new solutions to challenges arising across many areas of their operations. I’ve been blessed and fortunate in the sense that my employer has taken solid steps to invest in our mental and physical health, which is incredibly important right now. In particular, I appreciate being given additional days off to spend with loved ones.
I would like to conclude by offering a BIG THANK YOU to both Professor Nattavudh Powdthavee (Module Leader - Professor of Behavioural Science, WBS) and Dr Redzo Mujcic (Assistant Professor of Behavioural Science, WBS) for designing such a wonderful journey to propose a powerful paradigm shift that can change your outlook on life.
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