Maggie Campbell's Reviews > Stumbling on Happiness

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
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Aug 20, 08


"No one likes to be criticized, of course, but if the things we successfully strive for do not make our future selves happy, or if the things we unsuccessfully avoid do, then it seems reasonable (if somewhat ungracious) for them to cast a disparaging glance backward and wonder what the hell we were thinking."

"This is when I learned that mistakes are interesting and began planning a life that contained several of them."

"Surprise tells us that we were expecting something other than what we got, even when we didn't know we were expecting anything at all."

"Studies such as these demonstrate that once we have an experience, we cannot simply set it aside and see the world as we would have seen it had the experience never happened."

"Nothing more than feelings? What could be more important than feelings?...Indeed feelings don't just matter- they are what mattering means ."

"And the thing that's wrong with both of us is that we make a systematic set of errors when we try to imagine 'what it would feel like if.' Imagining 'what it would feel like if' sounds like a fluffy bit of daydreaming, but in fact, is one of the most consequential mental acts we can perform, and we perform it every day. We make decisions about whom to marry, where to work, when to reproduce, where to retire, and we base these decisions in large measure on our beliefs about how it would feel if this event happened but that one didn't. Our lives may not always turn out as we wish or plan, but we are confident that if they had, then our happiness would have been unbounded and our sorrows thin and fleeting."

"Your mistake was not in imagining things you could not know- that is, after all, what imagination is for. Rather, your mistake was in unthinkingly treating what you imagined as thought it were an accurate representation of the facts. You are a very fine person, I'm sure. But you are a very bad wizard."

"We cannot feel good about an imaginary future when we are busy feeling bad about an actual present."

"Presentism occurs because we fail to recognize that our future selves won't see the world the way we see it now. As we are about to learn, this fundamental inability to take the perspective of the person to whom the rest of our lives will happen is the most insidious problem a futurian can face."

"If negative events don't hit us as hard as we expect them to, then why do we expect them to?"

"The world is this way, we wish the world were that way, and our experience of the world- how we see it, remember it, and imagine it- is a mixture of stark reality and comforting illusion. We can't spare either. If we were to experience the world exactly as it is, we'd be too depressed to get out of bed in the morning, but if we were to experience the world exactly as we want it to be, we'd be too deluded to find our slippers...We cannot do without reality and we cannot do without illusion. Each serves a purpose, each imposes a limit on the influence of the other, and our experience of the world is the artful compromise that these tough competitors negotiate."

"No one likes to feel that they are being duped, even when that duping is a pleasure."

"In the long run, people of every age in every walk of life seem to regret NOT having done things much more than they regret things they did...Because we do not realize that our psychological immune systems can rationalize an excess of courage more easily than an excess of cowardice, we hedge our bets when we should blunder forward."

"The fact that the least likely experience is often the most likely memory can wreak havoc with our ability to predict future experiences."

"In short, the production of wealth does not neccesarily make individuals happy, but it does serve the needs of an economy, which serves the needs of a stable society, which serves as a network for propagation of delusional beliefs about happiness and wealth."

"Because if you are like most people, then like most people, you don't know you're like most people."

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