Stumbling on Happiness

date Jun 24, 2011
authors Daniel Gilbert
reading time 2 mins
  • Title: Stumbling on Happiness
  • Author: Daniel Gilbert
  • Comment: Insights to what truly makes us, the people happy! Loved it ;-)
  • Extracts:

Thinking too much about the future…

Indeed, thinking about the future can be so pleasurable that sometimes we’d rather think about it than get there… Although imagining happy futures may make us feel happy, it can also have some troubling consequences. Researchers have discovered that when people find it easy to imagine an event, they overestimate the likelihood that it’ll actually occur.

gaining control…

Gaining control can have a positive impact on one’s health and well-being, but losing control can be worse than never having had any at all. Our desire to control is so powerful and the feeling of being in control so rewarding that people often act as though they can control the uncontrollable.

Imagining near and far futures…

Vivid details of the near future makes it much more palpable than the far futures, thus we feel more anxious and excited when we imagine events that will take place soon than when we imagine events that will take place later.

… most people would rather receive $20 in a year than $19 in 364 days because a one-day delay that takes places in the far future looks to be a minor inconvenience. On the other hand, most people would rather receive $19 today than $20 tomorrow because a one-day delay that takes place in the near future looks (from here) to be an unbearable amount.

The future is now…

Clarke’s first law: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible. he is probably wrong.” In other words, when scientists make erroneous predictions, they almost always err by predicting that the future will be too much like the present. habituation…

wonderful things are especially wonderful for the first time they happen, but their wonderfulness wanes with repetition. … another way to beat habituation is to increase the amount of time that separates repetitions of the experience. challenging facts…

whether by choosing information or informants, our ability to cook facts that we encounter helps establish news that are both positive and credible… you’ve already discovered that even when people do encounter facts that disconfirm their favoured conclusions, they have a knack for ignoring them or seeing them differently thatn the rest of us do.


explains why we believe some things about happiness that simply aren’t true. the joy of money is one example. the joy of children is another that for most of us hits a bit closer home.

Three short-comings of imagination:

  1. its tendency to fill in and leave out without telling us
  2. its tendency to project the present onto the future - when imagination paints a picture of the future, many of the details are necessarily missing, and imagination solves this problem by filling in the gaps with details that it borrows from the present
  3. its failure to recognise that things will look different once they happen