Watch this great TED talk to understand what will really make you happy. Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling Upon Happiness, says basically that we aren’t that great at predicting what will make us happy or unhappy. And he backs it up with different research that has been done to prove this.
I watched this talk a number of years ago. And I still remember what it was about. That’s how much of an affect it had on me. It wasn’t the first time that I had heard about focusing on your attitude and thoughts to be happier. But it was the explanation of how our mind isn’t able to predict our future happiness very well that really struck me. And the examples he used to show how we don’t really predict very well how happy we will be as a result of different things happening.
Because we overestimate how much positive and negative changes will affect our happiness, he thinks that we should focus more on changing our thoughts. He calls it synthetic happiness, which probably isn’t the best word for it. But nonetheless this was such an amazing TED talk that I think anyone would benefit from watching it.
From field studies to laboratory studies, we see that winning or losing an election, gaining or losing a romantic partner, getting or not getting a promotion, passing or not passing a college test, on and on, have far less impact, less intensity and much less duration than people expect them to have. This almost floors me — a recent study showing how major life traumas affect people suggests that if it happened over three months ago, with only a few exceptions, it has no impact whatsoever on your happiness.
Why? Because happiness can be synthesized. Sir Thomas Brown wrote in 1642, “I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity. I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.” What kind of remarkable machinery does this guy have in his head?