book: Stumbling on Happiness

ShlStumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

It is my great pleasure that I listened to this book. Yes, I loved it. Loved it. One of the best books I have EVER read. Read it now.

I have been evangelizing this book ever since I was 1/3 of the way through … and have convinced a lot of people to make the leap … and the read.

Happiness is not what is seems. It is about predicting your future self and understanding your past … things we, as humans, do not do very well. Even kids do not make us as happy as we think.

We tend to justify things to ourselves. If we spend a lot of time on something, we think it makes us happy.

We accent endings. The book discusses an experiment of men getting rectal exams (not something very pleasurable). The control group was given a normal exam that took X time. The experimented group had an exam that took 20% longer … but the last 20% was not as bad or as painful (though it was still bad). … amazingly enough, patients from the experimented group claimed that their exam was not as bad as patients from the control group — even though the experimented group had the same exam and then an extra 20%! And the proof was in subsequent behavior: the experimented group had a much higher rate of getting future exams than the control group.

And people are really bad predicting how things will make us feel. We tend to over-emphasize how bad things will make us feel sad or how good things will make us feel happy. There was a great experiment at USC where they asked students how they thought they would feel if the football team lost on an upcoming Saturday. Students tended to think that they would be really sad or really happy depending on the outcome. What they did not realize was that there are other factors (fun parties: happy, studying for tests: sad) that also factor into one’s happiness. In fact — even if a really horrible tragedy happens (like your child dies), you will likely eventually get over it. Humans bounce back well.

Even more interesting … people tend to remember events as they thought it made them feel … not as they actually felt. These students from USC who were asked about the football game and then followed-up with … when asked about the event many months later they tended to remember the event as they thought it would make them feel. This is really amazing.

And these thoughts are from just a few pages in the book. Read this now. The book it thought-provoking, easy-to-read, very witty, and funny too. (and thanks to Gwen Campbell, Courtney Smith, and others for convincing me to read it). You’ll love it. Definitely my favorite book of 2006 and one of my all-time favorites.

2 thoughts on “book: Stumbling on Happiness

  1. Ben Casnocha

    I also listened to the audiobook a couple months ago and loved it too. Gilbert was hilarious and had a good voice for it.
    Chris Yeh tells me, though, that “The Happiness Hypothesis” is better.


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