280 of 286 people found the following review helpful
Before you try to get happy, read this to get smart,
This review is from: Stumbling on Happiness (Hardcover)
I love a quote by Dr. Richard Feynman, the late Nobel Prize winning physicist: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool". If you want to be happy, happy with your choices and the outcomes of your efforts you should buy and read this book to at least understand why you are pretty much hard-wired to break Dr. Feynman's first principle while you are trying to do so.
Until recently, when someone asked me "what do you want from life?" I would survey the myriad wishes and desires floating around in my mind and pull out some random musing to do with creating a family or making more money than I knew what to do with. I have certainly worked towards these things and had varying levels of success with love and career and material wealth. But I have always been baffled by why virtually nothing could make me happy in a lasting and predictable way. I am not baffled anymore, even though I am still unhappy in a lot of ways. "Stumbling on Happiness" has educated me to the ways that people exhibit self-delusion when looking forward to predict how happy some future experience will make them happy.
Gilbert is wickedly funny at times as he describes the mechanisms that lead us to distort our thinking; our projections about what will bring about our future selves happiness. This is the kind of information (why we're so deluded) I expected to get from the book. But he goes further and explains how we often don't even know how we feel in a particular moment and how we can have an *experience* of something, without it ever bubbling up into our conscious *awareness*. The onslaught of the information demonstrating the failures of human imagination in achieving contentment is a lot to take in... I felt myself a little depressed at my chances at choosing any future path that was any better than what I'd done up to this point.
But I came to a realization about what I'd learned here: if you are like me and are actively looking to increase your level of happiness, while this book is not directly practical in accomplishing that, it is an essential base upon which to evaluate other materials. Having this book as a counterpoint to other, more practical books (say in the field of Positive Psychology) will increase your chances of not fooling yourself (at least not as badly or for as long). And to be fair, he does offer one suggestion.
I heard about this book listening to an interview with him on the CBC Radio program 'Tapestry'. I highly recommend taking the 24 minutes to listen to that interview (Google: 'tapestry daniel gilbert' to listen online) if you want a preview of the fascinating content of the book.
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Initial post: Jan 15, 2012 3:19:16 AM PST
Thankyou for an intelligent and useful review. It is most helpful to me when a review reveals something of the writer which allows me to feel some small insight (or connection) which suggests that my own thinking may be harmonious and thus to decide whether or not to buy a book (the purpose of reviewing after all).
Posted on Feb 18, 2014 5:41:49 AM PST
He also has a series of talks on the TED radio hour on npr. It's online...60 min. a program.
Posted on Apr 19, 2015 12:47:29 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 19, 2015 12:48:37 AM PDT
Dr. X says:
Thanks so much for your excellent review and for the tip on the 'tapestry' talk, Richard. I'm now watching/listening to him on TED.
Posted on Aug 4, 2015 12:19:15 PM PDT
Andrea Pursch says:
"But I came to a realization about what I'd learned here: if you are like me and are actively looking to increase your level of happiness, while this book is not directly practical in accomplishing that...he does offer *one suggestion*." Do tell, do tell!
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