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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 34: Stay happy and healthy

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


As we saw in the first chapter of this book, staying happy and healthy are critical components of academic career success. Much of an individual’s happiness may be determined by genetic character and external circumstances, such as salary, work location, office space and material possessions (Lyubomirsky, 2008; Martin, 2011) but a great deal is also affected by beliefs and behaviours. There is little we can do about our genetic make-up and the effect that has on our happiness. And external circumstances typically have fairly short-term consequences for happiness, for, as Martin (2011, p. 51) reminds us, there appears to exist a ‘hedonic treadmill’, a tendency in people to adapt to positive and negative changes in their external circumstances and revert to their longer-term, stable levels of happiness. Martin (2011, p. 51) also notes that most people ‘misperceive what will make them happier’ and continue to strive for external rewards such as a higher salary or heightened professional rank, which in the long run will do little to make them happier.1 So, rather than engaging in this futile pursuit, ‘the most reliable way to increase happiness is to change one’s own beliefs and behaviours’ (Martin, 2011, p. 51).

Though Martin’s exposition of the three dimensions of happiness is helpful – and we shall return shortly to the matter of changing beliefs and behaviours – he does appear to overlook the fascinating insights of thinkers and scholars like Pink (2009) and Duncan et al. (2015) who point to...

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