Solutions for Higher Education engages in deeper reflection of critical issues in the world of colleges and universities
In Episode 33, President Scott L Wyatt and Professor Steve Meredith are joined by Grant Corser to discuss self-evaluation and how setting and achieving goals combined with introspective self-analysis can lead to happiness. Corser is a research psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Southern Utah University, whose research is focused on human emotionality and senses of self.
“It turns out that we as humans don't like to spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves, and part of the reason for that is we're really the most happy, the most content, when we have a slightly exaggerated sense of our skills, capacities, and abilities,” said Corser. “Often taking a close look at who and what we are can knock some of those things down and put them into a state of reality that we then are equipped to fix.”
There are several forces working against each other when it comes to pursuing happiness. When one does not undertake introspective analysis, they tend to overestimate their own abilities. This can lead to happiness and contentment in the moment, but prevent growth over time. Introspection creates a sense of dissonance between how one views oneself and reality, which can lead to a desire to set goals and improve.
“The research tends to indicate that while we're making progress towards a goal, we experience that as happiness, and then in reflection upon the goal, we tend to also experience that as happiness,” said Corser. “Oftentimes, as many of us have experienced, the actual accomplishment of the goal doesn't seem to be all that satisfying. The before and after processes seem to be pretty important, and we tend not to reflect on those as much as we might.”
Introspection creates the opportunity to set goals and improve and increase happiness in the long term. The immediate act of introspection, however, can create pain and cognitive dissonance as the reality of personal shortcomings and weaknesses collides with the internal narrative about oneself.
“If I have a success, I automatically give myself credit, but if I have a failure, I automatically find an external cause, ” said Wyatt. “It just seems like a ridiculous human condition, but, it actually helps protect us. We have to find a balance somehow for all of the students at our school who have so many anxieties and self-doubt, wondering if they can survive school. Those kinds of things are helping protect their self-concept, but we are also happy when we have an understanding of where we are and we're making progress towards improvement.”
Listen to Episode 33 here.