The Most Forward-Thinking Business Courses of 2019

A Study of Happiness

When you think of b-school, you usually think of competitiveness and productivity.

But one b-school professor is thinking the exact opposite.

Cassie Mogilner Holmes, an Associate Professor of Marketing and Behavioral Decision Making at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, is applying the methods of business research to the study of happiness.

Holmes, who has more than a decade of empirical work, has put together a course at UCLA called “Applying the Science of Happiness to Life Design.” The course recently launched this year.

She recently sat down with the UCLA Anderson Review and discussed her research on the study of happiness.


In Holmes’ course, students partake in a number of exercises that include logging how they spend their hours, going through a six-hour digital detox, having discussions about gratitude, and even redesigning a job to fit their values, strengths, and passions.

The goal, according to Holmes, is to help students achieve greater life satisfaction and become the type of manager who can help others achieve that satisfaction.

“We are educating students who’re going to have an impact both in the business world and society more broadly,” Holmes tells the Review. “We need to make sure that, as they enter the next phase of their career, and their life, we cultivate their well-being. To the extent we can, they’re less likely to burn out, and more likely to lead in a way that fosters well-being among other individuals in their organization.”

Holmes says the exercises, such as the digital detox, are meant to help students realign their connections to the real world.

“They realized early into those six hours how amazing it was to disconnect from the realm of social media, and to connect with what they’re doing and the people they’re with,” Holmes tells the Review.


Holmes has been researching happiness for years.

Over time, she’s found that people often go about the “pursuit of happiness” wrong.

“When pursuing happiness, people tie money into that pursuit,” Holmes tells the Review. “If only I had a little more… The problem is, more and more money doesn’t lead to greater happiness; money is related to happiness only to the extent that it helps you meet your basic needs.”

Rather, Holmes says, monetary values such as income level, tend to adapt over time.

“Over time, though, we get used to things, including our income level,” she tells the Review. “This is called hedonic adaptation. We get used to what we have and think we’ll be happier if only we had a little more.”

To truly live a happy, satisfied, and productive lives, according to Holmes, people need to focus on time.

“Shifting our attention from money towards time makes us more deliberate in how we spend time, compelling us to invest in happy and satisfying ways,” she tells the Review. “With respect to variety amongst our activities, the time frame matters. We should infuse our weeks and months and years with variety. But when we try to squish too much variety into the day, it makes us less happy. We feel scattered and like we’ve accomplished less, and a decreased sense of productivity hurts happiness.”

Sources: UCLA Anderson Review, UCLA Anderson School of Management





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