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Human Potential in the Age of Exponential Tech

Ted Tuesdays: Dan Gilbert on the Secret of Happiness

[Update: I am aware it is not Tuesday, but my technological prowess apparently does not extend to understanding the magical intricacies of wordpress’ auto-post functionality. Forgive my transgression, at least it’s still a day of the week that starts with T!]

Will all this heavy talk here these past few days, I decided to focus on something that we are all chasing: happiness! Our culture has been built around companies offering products and services that can somehow deliver this magical concept. Whether it’s a new kitchen or a new body we are constantly on the hunt for that “thing” that is going to make us happy. Dan Gilbert shares some surprising insights about the nature of happiness, and how achieving it is much easier than you think!

Why you should watch:

Dan Gilbert believes that, in our ardent, lifelong pursuit of happiness, most of us have the wrong map. In the same way that optical illusions fool our eyes — and fool everyone’s eyes in the same way — Gilbert argues that our brains systematically misjudge what will make us happy. And these quirks in our cognition make humans very poor predictors of our own bliss.

The premise of his current research — that our assumptions about what will make us happy are often wrong — is supported with clinical research drawn from psychology and neuroscience. But his delivery is what sets him apart. His engaging — and often hilarious — style pokes fun at typical human behavior and invokes pop-culture references everyone can relate to. This winning style translates also to Gilbert’s writing, which is lucid, approachable and laugh-out-loud funny. The immensely readable Stumbling on Happiness, published in 2006, became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages.

In fact, the title of his book could be drawn from his own life. At 19, he was a high school dropout with dreams of writing science fiction. When a creative writing class at his community college was full, he enrolled in the only available course: psychology. He found his passion there, earned a doctorate in social psychology in 1985 at Princeton, and has since won a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Phi Beta Kappa teaching prize for his work at Harvard. He has written essays and articles for The New York Times, Time and even Starbucks, while continuing his research into happiness at his Hedonic Psychology Laboratory.

Favorite Parts:

  • I love the surprising truth about the happiness level reported by recent lottery winners and recent paraplegics.
  • I laughed out loud at the Monet: happiness synthesis experiment. So funny how we rationalize our choices and the amnesiac control groups just blew my mind!

My Take:

I love this talk. I have always believed that happiness is just a state of mind and that you are completely in control of whether you feel that way or not. It takes me back to my philosophy courses in university where we talked about the illusion of time and how the only thing you can be sure of is the present.  So choose to be happy!

What do you think?

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