Stumbling on Happiness is a book written by Daniel Gilbert, a distinguished Harvard psychology professor and winner of numerous awards for both his teaching and research.
In this book, Gilbert examines the capacity of our brains to fill in gaps and simulate experiences, shows how our lack of awareness of these powers sometimes leads us to wrong decisions, and how we can change our behavior to synthesize our own happiness.
The book explores the idea that humans may be the only animals that think about the future, and how our brain makes predictions incredibly quickly and about nearly everything in life.
Gilbert also suggests that science already has a reliable source to measure when it comes to happiness: The people who report being happy. He hypothesizes that this can be an accurate measure, as the individual is the only person with the potential to truthfully report feelings and experiences of happiness.
Gilbert acknowledges and suggests that remaining in an imaginative state can be fun, but it may not result in a perfect or pleasant experience.
He also notes that it can be hard – if not impossible – to compare happiness between individual experiences. That’s because happiness happens for most on a very individual basis, and may range in its experiences and manifestations.
What I Liked
I loved the format, anecdotes, and explainers of the current state of the study of happiness in psychology. The book is really amazing.
I also appreciated how much of the book is directly useful to everyday life (unlike all too many nonfiction books). Great read.
The big, single sentence takeaway is that day to day happiness is not something that the human brain can achieve. Day to day happiness is a by-product from good relationships and being a part of something bigger than yourself and having agency in your daily movements.
What I Did Not Like
Nothing! All around solid book.