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The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does by [Lyubomirsky, Sonja]
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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Exclusive Essay: “Happiness at Work,” by Sonja Lyubomirsky

Recent surveys show that more Americans than ever are dissatisfied with their jobs. Some are burned out or bored, while others feel that professional success has eluded them. Stress over financial well-being--which for many is synonymous with professional success--is a primary source of discontent. Indeed, when people are asked if they could have anything in the world right now, most report wanting "more money. " Professional unhappiness can cause us to question our judgment, industriousness, or motivation. The lure then of finding a new job can prove irresistible--but will a new job really make us happier?

A seminal study suggests that the answer is no. Researchers followed high-level managers for five years to track their job satisfaction before and after a voluntary job change, such as a promotion or a relocation to a more attractive city. The managers were mostly male and white, with an average age of 45 and a $135,000 annual salary. They were doing well. What the researchers found, however, was that although these managers experienced a burst of satisfaction immediately after the job change, their satisfaction plummeted within a year, returning to their original pre-move level. In other words, they experienced a sort of hangover effect. By contrast, managers who chose not to change jobs during the same five-year time period experienced negligible changes in their satisfaction.

We get used to the cities where we live, to new houses and new cars, to relationships, and even to sex. This capacity to adapt to positive changes in our lives is both formidable and biologically hard-wired. Even the events we are certain will bring long-term fulfillment--landing a coveted professional position, or winning an award--tend to disappoint. We feel an immediate thrill, but that thrill is often followed by satiety, elevated expectations, and even letdown.

This is true even of monetary rewards. In the beginning, greater wealth brings us a higher standard of living, and the extravagances bring extra pleasure. But economists have found that two-thirds of the benefits of a raise in income are erased after just one year, in part because our spending and new "needs" rise alongside it and because we begin to associate with (and compare ourselves to) people in a higher income bracket.

With so much seemingly working against long-term professional satisfaction, it’s important to focus on where our chance for happiness truly resides. When we feel we’ve "had it" with our jobs, should we look for job satisfaction elsewhere or is there a different path?

Research suggests that instead of fantasizing about some dream job that doesn’t exist, we focus on pursuing meaningful goals in the here and now. Typically, our professional lives are focused on material goals--more money, wider recognition--but numerous studies have shown that those of us who are striving (and not necessarily achieving) are happier.

When it comes to our careers, if we enjoy the struggle along the way, we will derive pleasure and satisfaction by simply working on our goals. By doing so, we will ideally stretch our skills, discover novel opportunities and challenges, grow, strive, learn, and become more capable and expert. In this way, simple goal pursuit will provide us with opportunities for appreciation, for delight, and for satisfying our innate need to use our potentials to the fullest. Whether our valued goal is inventing something special or finishing school, it will give us something to work for and to look forward to.

Why is goal pursuit so intrinsically rewarding? Because it imparts structure and meaning to our daily lives, creating obligations, deadlines, and timetables, as well as opportunities for mastering new skills and for interacting with others. Because it helps us attain a sense of purpose, feelings of efficacy over our progress, and mastery over our time. All of these things make people happy. And once we accomplish a step along the way (e.g., completing an internship or an article), we would do well to savor that accomplished subgoal before moving on to a new goal. Instead of focusing too much on the finish line in the first place, we should focus on--and enjoy as much as possible--carrying out the multiple baby steps necessary to make progress. The perfect job may not be the position offering the highest rewards, but rather the place where the daily work--the moments between the big promotion or industry triumph--offers the greatest personal returns.


"In this thought-provoking volume, Lyubomirsky... examines happiness and conventional notions about how it's nurtured in relationships, at work, and in one's own psyche...Lyubomirsky demonstrates that positively reframing life events can mine the best out of even the darkest situations. Provocative and fresh."
Publishers Weekly

"Informative and engaging….The author examines how the 'shoulds' of happiness not only undermine well-being, but also make it hard for individuals to cope with the sometimes difficult realities of adulthood."
Kirkus Reviews

"No matter what your personal world is like, The Myths of Happiness will change the way you approach your daily life. Lyubomirsky's thorough research and practical solutions will not only add joy and contentment to your life, but will also allow you to take on issues that you may have been sweeping under the rug for too long."
Woodbury Magazine

"In her new book, The Myths of Happiness, Dr. Lyubomirsky describes a slew of research-tested actions and words that can do wonders to keep love alive."
—Jane Brody, New York Times

Product Details

  • File Size: 1325 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 3, 2013)
  • Publication Date: January 3, 2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A6WOR1A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,058 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize - sometimes with astonishment - how happy we had been."
¯ Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

Happiness, that eternal yet elusive goal of man, is indeed full of paradoxes as many writers have eloquently noted. In an increasingly crowded field of books on happiness and positive psychology where it is getting more and more difficult to say something original and meaningful, I feel the author has made a very worthwhile contribution. She considers some of the universal assumptions about happiness and explores, analyzes, and reframes them to show us how very naive, thoughtless, and just plain wrong is our thinking about what "makes us" happy.

These assumptions - the "Myths of Happiness" as her title defines them - include cliches almost all of us never pause to doubt, ideas such as the idea that we can't be happy without a wonderful marriage, we can't be happy unless we have children, we can't be happy because we don't have enough money, we can't be happy because we're not as young as we used to be, we can't be happy if we have health problems, and a few other common beliefs. It turns out that people find a way to be happy in spite of unwanted life circumstances, and many people who are blessed by wealth and good fortune aren't any happier that those who lack these fortunes.
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Format: Hardcover
I was excited to start reading this book, but that quickly changed.

I was expecting newest research with potentially life-changing implications, but while the book contained references to many studies, the conclusions and research findings were not really new to me(I keep updated with Psychology Today and other sources)

Her writing style was good, but became very repetitive. The chapters' introductions are lengthy and add no real value. In addition, the chapters' summaries (called "The prepared mind") have turned out to be a huge third repeat of the same ideas, worth nothing, only more 'fluff' (to make the book longer?)

Some of her practical solutions were completely absurd, in my opinion. Example: How to appreciate your current job more: If you previosuly worked night shift, you should stay up some nights to try to remember how that feels. Lol. She offers more "practical" solutions of this kind in the book. Frustrated with parenting? When you're old you'll have fond memories, so just think of 50 years from now, how great life will be then. Hahaha! Diagnosed with terminal cancer? Just think of yourself as a three legged table, which is actually stronger than a four legged one. I know, I am simplyfying, but the ideas, examples and anecdotes she uses are NOT life-altering, they are interesting, at best, and more often than not, just silly.

To be honest, I felt like in order for any of us to be happy, we have to constantly keep "brainwashing" ourselves back into the past. Look at old pictures of your vacations, you'll feel happier. Remember that horrible boss you once had, but now you're free of him, so be happy. Her suggestions felt 'plastic', inorganic, fake, inauthentic, forced or some type of "let's pretend" game.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved this book. The organization and writing was well executed. The only part missing for me would have been more case examples. Whether it is to peer into the lives of others for comparative or voyueristic reasons, we learn from others mistakes. I wish there had been more stories of people realizing their lack of happiness and how they changed their perception of happiness.
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Format: Paperback
Reading Sonja's first book The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want made me very happy. [☺] And, her current gem of _The Myths of Happiness_ made me very, very happy. [☺ ☺]

Beautifully weaving together scores of scientific research (we're talking over 700 journal articles!) into blissfully readable prose, Sonja dispels the myths related to what does--and doesn't--make us happy. As she describes:
"The goal of _The Myths of Happiness_ is to draw on the latest scientific research to expand readers' perspectives about the crisis points they are confronting, dismantle the false beliefs about happiness driving their initial reactions, and introduce the tools that they can use to draw their own verdicts and develop new skills and habits of mind. Fortified with counterintuitive wisdom and instructive distance from their problems, their next crisis point will be met with a prepared mind." (pp. 12-13)

She goes through ten common happiness myths one-by-one--first dispelling them, and then offering ways to power through them with a prepared mind. Key strategies used to fight all of these myths include: slowing adaptation, coping with adversity, pursuing new goals, and striving to glow and flourish. You'll have to read the full book in all its glory to get the maximum effect, but here's a quick synopsis of the wisdom she offers for dispelling these ten myths:

Part I Connections
Myth: I'll be happy when...I'm married to the right person.
Reality: Marital grievances, qualms, and discontents are natural and commonplace, and are often attributable to hedonistic adaptation.
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