Stumbling on Happiness

By Daniel Gilbert,

Book cover of Stumbling on Happiness

Book description

Bringing to life scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, this bestselling book reveals what scientists have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, and about our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there. 

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Why read it?

8 authors picked Stumbling on Happiness as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book argues that humans do not know what makes them happy because we inaccurately perceive our unconscious emotional states. Gilbert makes the case that we consistently habituate to our circumstances and our happiness bounces around a genetically-drive set point. Over our lives, we stumble toward accepting that to thrive, we must seek out small moments of wonder and surprise. This book directly inspired my research on the neuroscience of happiness. My research extended Gilbert's book by showing that peak immersion experiences not only make us happy in the moment, but can train our brains to experience greater happiness throughout…

Knowing what we want can be tricky. In order to do that, we need to imagine our future selves and guess what they will be satisfied with. Surprisingly, knowing what you want might be much trickier than you think. Gilbert's book is full of insights and scientific discoveries about human nature that are fascinating, witty, and many times insightful. Happiness is a state of mind, and the mind is full of surprises.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a great deal of our happiness in relationships depends on our own ability to be happy as individuals. Almost invariably, our instincts about what will make us happy are not particularly accurate. Gilbert's book is a great introduction to the mistakes we make about happiness and how to do it better. He does an excellent job of bringing to life the latest scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, and in exploring our foibles as we engage in that all-American pursuit, the pursuit of happiness. 

From Andrew's list on to help you have better relationships.

I used to spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out why I wasn’t happier in my life and how I could change my life so I could be happier. Then I read this book and realized that in many ways happiness is an illusion, and that chasing after happiness was actually making me less happy, not more happy. It’s not that everyone around me had figured it out and I hadn’t. Instead what I learned from the research that Gilbert covers in the book, is that, like everyone else, I’m really bad at predicting what will…

From Susan's list on understanding human behavior.

Do you know what makes you happy? This best-selling book by social psychologist Daniel Gilbert will reveal surprising answers to that question. Incredibly well-written, you will laugh along with Prof. Gilbert as he uncovers hidden sources of happiness and why we overlook them. (Full disclosure: Daniel Gilbert is my long-time collaborator. But you need not rely only my advice; millions of people have read and loved this book.)

From Timothy's list on self knowledge.

Most books carve out a small part of existence to examine. Gilbert has done a remarkable job of looking at virtually all of life through a neglected lens: emotional forecasting. This is the prediction of future mood states given the various choices we make. Despite making hundreds of such decisions each day, human beings are remarkably poor at guessing what will ultimately prove fulfilling. He argues that many of our trusted instincts are fundamentally untrustworthy - but that there are other ways of making these decisions in more effective ways.

From Randy's list on building adulthood in your twenties.

Most people take the Declaration of Independence’s assurance that we are all entitled to the “pursuit of happiness” literally, and off they go, pursuing it in all directions. But do they capture it? Dan Gilbert weaves the scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics into an engrossing story of why we humans are so bad at predicting what makes us happy—or miserable, for that matter. After the first flush of excitement, why doesn’t winning the lottery make people happier? After the first shock of disappointment, why doesn’t failing to get into the college of their dreams…

From Carol's list on navigating the road to the good life.

Happiness was all the rage a couple of decades ago and book stores had whole shelves devoted to it. This is the only one I found that induces the state it writes about – Gilbert actually makes you laugh out loud as he explains the science behind feeling good. Makes you wish you’d been one of his Harvard students.

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