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Happiness By Design

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,773 ratings  ·  167 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, 235 pages
Published August 28th 2014 by Avery Pub Group
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  1,773 ratings  ·  167 reviews

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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.

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 evid
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
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
John Dennis
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, economics
This book is very good and actually deserves more than a 4 star - maybe 4.25 or so. It tells the story of research done by the author and several collaborators on happiness, as well as aligned research. It tells you how to design, decide and do happiness and it does that well.

The best part of this book? It’s exquisite definition of happiness - it’s that glorious mix between pleasure and purpose.

It is a bit academic some times, and has transitions between paragraphs that are, at times, stilted.
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 ..!
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
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
Jocelyn (foxonbooks)
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really interesting view of how we can practically change areas of our lives, and where we pay our attention, in order to improve our overall happiness. I think I need to read it again to be able to lean into the practical suggestions. A very solid thesis.
Andrew Bertaina
This book has the virtue of being slightly different than all the other books about happiness. It even includes charts.
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.
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
Zinnia Sheoran
Mar 20, 2019 rated it liked it

Dolan defines happiness as our experience of pleasure and purpose over time. He calls it the Pleasure-Purpose Principle (PPP). What it means is that we need both pleasure and purpose, in different degree at different times, to stay happy. It all begins with the production process. And most important ingredient to produce happiness is ‘attention’ and how we allocate it. The same life events can affect your happiness a lot or a little depending on how much attention we pay to them. Most impor
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
An Te
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A surprisingly good read. It's main thrust is that the attention is paramount. Attending well to whatever we do is critical. And that we can, to an extent, shape the environments we are in (for some this is not at all possible). But a case can be made that we would all work better if happier and Paul demonstrates why and how to broach the chasm. There's no doubt about it. It's simultaneously erudite, simple and playful.
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
Alex Shrugged
This is a great book and very practical. There were some aspects of it I didn't like, but over all, if you are an individual who is looking for a plan to stay happy or become happy, then this book is for you. On the other hand, if you are a government official who enjoys passing laws to force people to be happy whether they want to be or not then this is a terrible book. Stay away! :-)

This book is also partly autobiographical. He begins with his own problems with finding happiness and the ways h
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 warm glowing, purposeful and pleasurable starz because often the most complex things are best expressed in a straightforward manner.

A (pretty) short book with a simple message> the Pleasure-Purpose Principle is the real deal when it comes to happiness. And a "sentimental hedonist" will know that happiness is what life is all about. Change what you do, not what you think, is not only the subtitle, but also the mantra of this book. Does this mean living impulsively? Not really. The author infuse
May 23, 2020 rated it liked it
It took me a while to finish this book. I actually had a reading slump while reading it and I can't really tell if the slump came about because the book was boring to me or because I just didn't feel like reading lately. Or both.
While there are some points in the book that are worth noting, most of the things mentioned are nothing truly novel. Maybe because he mentioned a lot of Kahneman's work and I've read Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow. Maybe also because I'm already a hedonist myself who
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
Alex Large
Oct 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book was such an incredible slog. It's titled 'Happiness By Design', but you don't get to the part about how to improve happiness until about halfway through. And Paul is constantly throwing studies at you, quickly touching on lots of minor ideas rather than focus on a few major themes.

I didn't enjoy Thinking Fast and Slow (this might be sacrilege to say), and I feel like I didn't enjoy this book for a similar reason. It is a book of mini-chapters, constantly moving from one idea to anothe
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
Giuseppe D
Feb 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I found the first part a bit slow to be honest, it could have been shorter.

However there are some messages I found interesting: from his research, the author managed to show that we are happy when we engage in activities that give us some sort of overall balance of pleasure and purpose.

We are happier when we are completely focused and engaged in an activity rather than getting distracted, so multitasking is not really a good idea. This is a recurring theme in many of my reads and reminded me of
Dimitrios Mistriotis
Jun 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: avoid
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.
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