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Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  1,236 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
This is not just another happiness book. In Happiness by Design, happiness and behavior expert Paul Dolan combines the latest insights from economics and psychology to illustrate that in order to be happy we must behave happy. Our happiness is experiences of both pleasure and purpose over time and it depends on what we actually pay attention to. Using what Dolan calls deci ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 28th 2014 by Avery (first published January 1st 2014)
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Lynne King
Jun 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Professor Paul Donan’s definition of happiness is: experiences of pleasure and purpose over time.

The reader is informed firstly,

that to be truly happy, then you need to feel both pleasure and purpose. You can be just as happy or sad as I am but with very different combinations of pleasure and purpose. And you may require each to different degrees at different times. But you do need to feel both. I call this the pleasure-purpose principle – the PPP.

So armed with this principle you are eviden
Will Once
Jan 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is another of those books where I want to rate it five stars and three stars at the same time. So I'll settle for four, as the arithmetic mean.

Happiness by Designs is at turns brilliant and infuriating. Let's do the brilliant stuff first. Paul Dolan clearly knows what he is talking about. He is the self-styled professor of Happy. The book is full of well-evidenced insights into what makes us happy. He doesn't just give us his opinions - he tells us about scientific surveys into happiness.

Oct 19, 2014 rated it liked it
I read this book because Daniel Kahneman wrote the Introduction, and his Thinking Fast and Slow is my favorite in the field of psychology/behavioral economics/neuroscience. Kahneman's right that Paul Dolan has really advanced their shared field with two insights, but unfortunately as a book Happiness by Design leaves a lot to be desired: Dolan's ideas are easy to grasp, and could have been summarized in a 6 page magazine article (e.g., I could see him writing a piece for The Atlantic that is 3% ...more
Apr 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2015
We are promised that many things have the possibility of making us happy, more money, children, friends, experiences and so on, and they have been countless books written claiming to have the secret of happiness wrapped within the covers. But in this book Dolan has looked at the things that make us happy from a scientific and behavioural economics perspective. It has been proven many times that material possessions up to a certain point have very little effect on you happiness state.

He defines
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book made me realize a lot of things ! Reading it brought both pleasure and purpose to my experiencing self ..!
Oksana Hoshva
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Confessing you are reading a book on happiness is hard. It kind of makes you to confess you are depressed and unhappy looking to be rescued from your misery.I have to admit I was even hiding the cover of the book myself while reading in public places :-) I believe this has to do with the rather negative connotation books on happiness have (and not without a reason). But, as being reminded one more time in ‘Happiness by Design’ you live with yourself forever, so it makes sense investing time in l ...more
Pam Thomas
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a different book from the norm which explains about pleasure and purpose in our everyday life and that by changing your behaviour can improve the happiness in your life. By understanding human behaviour why your actions, what motivates you and the feed back you get can affect your actions . Once you find out what makes you happy you have to keep doing it for self esteem, self confidence , its about changes and the way you think. You really have to experience the changes.
Oct 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction-read
I seem to be doing everything suggested in the book, shame it took me 45 years to work it out. Save time and read this book!
Feb 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
With my very basic knowledge of social psychology, I didn't learn anything new and useful from Happiness by Design.

This book describes the results of some surveys on happiness comprehensively, as if in a scientific article. It talks about many social psychology experiments and terms that have no direct relation to the main premise of the book and gives very obvious advice on how to be happier. It is unnecessarily long and the writing is average.

The novel premises that the author brings (alloca
Álvaro da Luz
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Um dos principais temas da atualidade é a felicidade. Meio que nem fome zero ou qualidade total (ninguém é contra e todos desejam) mas poucas pessoas conseguem definir o conceito, e mais importante, como isso pode se aplicar na vida prática delas. Digo isso porque é muito fácil você encontrar textos com fórmulas mágicas, não quantos passos para alcançar a felicidade e todo este blá blá blá que tem por aí, mas escritos por maníacos depressivos ou gente bem frustrada com sua própria vida, (é só pr ...more
Melanie Mole
Mar 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: inspiration
Quite a good book but way too many figures in it for me. Although these may inspire others.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Yas
I have slightly mixed feelings about ‘Happiness By Design’. On the one hand, it treats happiness as a commodity in a reductive and depressingly neoliberal manner. On the other hand, its suggestions are extremely sensible and consistent with my own efforts at stress management. An example of the former: ‘Once we accept that the experience of happiness (for yourself and others) is the final arbiter of the rightness of what you do, we can move away from making moral judgements based on ill-conceive ...more
Ryan Dejonghe
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
HAPPINESS BY DESIGN seeks to take Paul Dolan’s training in economics and behavioral science and offer a unique approach to overall happiness not found in other of its same-shelf counterparts. This is an interesting approach, considering Dolan is working with Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize in economics as a psychologist. (It must be nice to refer to a Nobel Prize winner as “Danny”.)

Dolan claims to make two distinguishing factors on the path to happiness: relatability and definition. Do
Chris Sampson
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why might cancer patients report lower levels of life satisfaction when their disease is in remission? Understanding such quirks can help us to improve outcomes for patients and, as Paul Dolan argues in his new book, enhance our own lives on a day-to-day basis.

Dolan describes the route to happiness as analogous to a production function. Firstly, there are inputs from various stimuli, such as the TV, this blog post or your back pain. Secondly, the production process corresponds to the allocation
Tara-Jane Headley
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
I probably wouldn't have purchased this book had it not been a birthday gift, but I'm glad my boyfriend knows me better than I know myself! This was a really interesting read and happiness is something I'm very interested in exploring. Paul divides the book into two parts: the first part defines happiness and he includes a lot of studies to back up his argument! (always a good sign). In this section he introduces the idea that happiness is based on pleasure AND purpose, and we get varying levels ...more
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My friend bought this book for me to cheer me up whilst I was stuck home sick from work. It worked! It was a pretty quick read - even in my cough syrup haze. Like the other reviewers have noted, it does a good job of blending the academic evidence with self help advice - other self help books are often missing the academic piece whilst academic books are often missing the advice portion. When I got to the part about surgical patients recovering more quickly in rooms with views I definitely opene ...more
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Die erste Hälfte des Buches ist recht theoretisch. Der Autor definiert "Happiness" und erklärt, warum wir nicht so glücklich sind, wie wir sein könnten. Dies belegt er mir Studien.
Der zweite Teil ist deutlich praktischer und vor allem relativ leicht umsetzbar für jeden Einzelnen. Am Ende läuft es darauf hinaus, mehr Aufmerksamkeit auf das eigene Tun zu lenken und auf das, was einen glücklich macht.
Phillipe Freitas
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
My first impression is that the book would be another light and boring "self-help" book, but the first chapter already proved that I was wrong. Although the author doesnt go deeply on the scientific studies, he gives the readers insightful details about how happiness is managed and generated explaining its mechanisms and suggesting strategies based on scientific approaches.

HNC Library
May 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book was read by staff member Debra Niessen as part of the Six Book Challenge - here is her review:

Oh dear. Thankfully this was a Christmas present, so not a waste of my own money. I just wonder how many millions of pounds were spent funding the research that ultimately concluded the thinking about things that make you happy makes you happy...
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a good fairly technical book on happiness research. It sometimes strays a bit into self help book territory but it has enough graphs, tables and citations to keep me convinced that it wasn't a 'The secret' for nerds.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it
He defines happiness as a mix of pleasure and purpose. Activities that produce 1 (eg watching tv) might not produce the other (eg work).

Often we mix up what actually makes us happy with what we think should make us happy, eg moaning about work but then saying we love working there.

We rarely consider our life satisfaction in day to day life. That means survey Qs asking this tend not to be accurate. It can be hugely influenced by whats just been asked in the survey. Different people also have diff
David Ramiro
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
I would like to warn you that this book will not make you happy. Happiness is not a recipee; happiness depends on too many factors to control it and definitely is not something easy to achieve in 3 steps.
The book provides hints, too obvious in many cases. It stresses time after time that happiness is a combination of pleasure and purpose and that both should be taken into account in equal measure. It also stresses that your mind should not be distracted by unhealthy thoughts (as if they were eas
Chris Staffa
I'm not sure why I'm still reading self-help books at 48, so I probably get what I deserve; but this book was a bit of a disappointment. My only good take-away from it was to pay attention to paying attention - put my attention on happy things. That's a slightly novel way of looking at it. Unfortunately, not much else here was novel. It boiled down to, do things that make you happy. Pay attention and figure out what those things are, and do them. Hit myself in the head! Of COURSE! Why didn't I t ...more
Dimitrios Mistriotis
Jun 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
Comparing it with other similar books on the subject Paul Dolan's "Happiness by Design" made me more sad, which is kind of against the purpose.

While in many tomes the general approach is "try this and that, experiment, and you will reach happiness or improve at the end", Paul projects the wrong sense of British authoritarianism: "I know what makes you happy and I am going to tell you what to do.". The fact that he advices/influences NHS (for non-UK residents: National Health Service), which he m
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
To cite the author, this book definitely felt like "all purpose" and "no pleasure". Scattered with some brilliant facts and research examples, most of it is boring and obvious. When I reached page 134 a very nice paragraph about "breaking commitments" successfully convinced me to abandon this book and stop reading (which I never normally do). So, I guess it has not been useless at all, having prompted me to undertake an action that immediately made me happier.
On a side note, there is a comment
Julieanne Thompson
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was a laborious read, the crossover between an academic text and jovial personal exemplars was clunky. Nuggets of truth were embedded in dry studies. Take home messages for me included becoming aware of attentional scarcity, balancing purpose and pleasure and that happiness lost is lost forever. Designing in micro changes to one's life is probably helpful and the economist's framework for understanding happiness appealed to me. By doing the right purposeful and pleasurable things and reallo ...more
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pop-psy
AUDIOBOOK (Jonathan Cowley): narrator has an excellent use of inflection and calming at other times.

The book itself is an amazing... flood of PRACTICAL information about happiness. The research is mixed in like a fruit salad which can make it seem overwhelming and requires due criticism of the study conditions.. but the actual book itself is an excellent read.

I'm [listening to] it again, just to reiterate some of the key points as there was so much given that is contrary to popular self-help and
Caroline Clark
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-improvement
It's hard not to find Dolan's book an enjoyable read, whichever government agenda on productivity he's peddling. Currently it's how do we become more happy, because if we're happy it follows we're more productive, and also costing the economy less in terms of lost days sick, etc.

However cynical I am though, I have marked it highly as there were some nuggets of advice I took to heart, particularly around our ability to make choices (to do things that make us happy) and also, just getting on with
Dolan provides the practical capstone to all of the latest happiness research. Despite the classical debate between meaning and hedonism, people can actually derive happiness from both purpose and pleasure. The relative importance of these depends also on the person, so it's helpful to get intentional and aware about it. Much of happiness is driven by what we choose to focus on. Maximizing happiness is a function of deciding, designing, and doing happiness.
Bryan Peterson
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting read comprehensively backed up research with several actionable recommendations. The first section is a little heavy going as it is mostly a literature review but it provides a solid foundation for the following sections. A good balance between science, psychology and 'lifestyle tips'. It would have perhaps benefited from a summary of key points toward the end.
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“Optimism research teaches us that we should expect the best and have a contingency plan for the worst.” 2 likes
“Self-improvement is important, but it needs to be conducive to your happiness. If an ambition will not make you or those you care about any happier, then there really is no point in striving to be someone else. You should carefully consider your reasons for the ideal self you construct and then select goals and ambitions that are sensible and conducive to your happiness.” 1 likes
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