Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Synthetic happiness is every bit as real and enduring as the kind of happiness you stumble upon when you get exactly what you were aiming for." (Dan Gilbert)

 Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong -- a premise he supports with intriguing research, and explains in his accessible and unexpectedly funny book, Stumbling on Happiness.

 When we got a new brain and tripled in size, we got a new structure with a new part called the prefrontal cortex.
It does lots of things but most importantly it is an experience simulator.
Therefore we can have the experience before we actually experience it.
Lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy.

Impact Bias – the tendency to belief different outcomes are more different impact and duration that people have; to overestimate the hedonic impact of future events.
Happiness can be synthesized.
But we think it is to be found.
 “I am the happiness man alive. I have that in me that an convert poverty to riche, adversity to prosperity, and I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.” ~ Sir Thomas Browne (1642)

Synthetic vs Natural Happiness:
Natural Happiness is when you get what you want.

Synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we want
We think synthetic happiness is of less of a quality than natural happiness.
But synthetic happiness is as real and enduring as when you get what you want. “The one I got is better than the one I got.”
Happiness is synthesized.
When you don’t have a choice, people find a way to make them happy
. The irreversible condition (when you can’t change your mind) is not conducive to the synthetisis of happiness.
But we opt for the opportunities that will us to change our mind.
“Tis nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” ~ William Shakespeare Turgid Truth saying ~

Adam Smith from The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759
Somethings are better than others. We should have preferences that lead us to one future over another But when those preferences drive us too hard and too fast, because we have over rated the difference between these futures, we are at risk. When our ambition is bounded, it leads us to work joyfully. When our ambition is unbounded, it leads us to lie, cheat, steal, hurt others and to sacrifice things of real value. When our fears are bounded we are prudent, caucus and thoughtful. But when our fears are unbounded and overblown, we’re reckless and cowardly.

The lesson to leave with us: Our longings and worry are to some degree overblown because we have within us the capacity to manufacturing the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.

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