There are many self-help books that discuss happiness. One of these is Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert. The book was released in the year 2006 and instantly became a New York Times bestseller. The author is a psychologist who lectures at Harvard University. He imparts his wisdom to help the readers learn how to find happiness in their lives. Readers, reviewers and analysts indicate that Dan has a great sense of humor. He keeps you smiling or laughing as he shares nuggets of wisdom with you throughout his book. This publication really provokes you to wonder why a wealthy, powerful society like ours is unable to find contentment despite all the resources surrounding us. Our minds are built such that we make make the wrong guesses, have unrealistic imagination as well as make predictions that are very inaccurate. After that, we follow these assumptions and after they fail, we are disappointed and wonder what went wrong. In Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert shows us why we think like this and how we can correct it so as to enjoy abundance in our lives. Here are some lessons we learned from this book.
Your brain is not perfect at filling in blanks but keeps on doing it
Daniel Gilbert points out a very interesting scientific fact in his book. We all have a part of our eye that does not record any vision. It is known as our blindspot. It is caused by our nerve fibers blocking the retina as they exit the eye heading to the brain. Despite the blindspot, we never notice anything wrong with our vision. This is because the brain completes the images for us. It fills in the blanks. By doing this, your brain invents a completely new image and therefore a new reality for you. The sad thing is that it is often wrong when filling in this blank. Moreover, the images that are created to fill in this blank have a profound effect on our emotions and memories. For example, if you are having a great time at a party and towards the end something goes wrong, you will remember the disaster at the end more than the earlier part of the night that was splendid. In this way, you will judge the entire party as being bad while in real sense, it was not. Therefore, whenever you find yourself judging a situation to be negative due to one small detail, remember the trick that your brain plays on you and take a second look.
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Compare products and experiences based on their value and not their price
One of the behaviors of humans is comparing items based on their prices instead of their value. When a beverage you love increases in price from $0.50 to $1, you complain about the increase. Instead of doing this, Daniel encourages us to do some research so as to find out the value of $1 in other situations. More often than not, you will find that the $1 is not even enough to purchase a small item such as a sock. After making this discovery, your perception on the value of the $1 changes and you are able to appreciate your beverage more even after the increase in price. This perspective should be applied to all the products and services that we invest in.
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It is better to have a bad experience than no experience at all
We face choices every day. Some of us are great at making choices while others agonize over them. Some choices lead us to have a good experience while others lead us to have a bad one. Professor Daniel introduces a situation where you meet an attractive, eligible person. If you decide to marry them, they will turn into an abusive spouse. If you decide not to marry them, they will become a billionaire. Which of the two options will you regret more? Many would say that they would regret marrying them because this makes the person abusive. However, Dr. Gilbert indicates that the option that you would actually regret more is not marrying them. This is because they turned into a billionaire. Your brain is accustomed to hearing about abusive relationships and how people emerge from them more empowered. However, many of us have no idea what it is like to be married to a billionaire. Therefore, whenever you are presented with an opportunity, strive to take it. It is better to perform an action than not to do anything at all. This is even if performing it leads to a bad experience.
Your present is your future
The author conducted extensive research on the psychological capability of the brain. After this, Dr. Gilbert discovered that the brain joins up yesterday and tomorrow with today. The concept of today is simply an effort by our brains to join up the past and the future. According to the doctor, we use our imagination to guide the joining process. The imagination accomplishes this by referring to the past that we remember and the the future that we hope for. This makes up our idea of today. He also found that we normally have a difficult time thinking of tomorrow being drastically different from today. Moreover, we are unable to imagine that we could ever want, think or desire anything different from that which we do today. Therefore, your concept of today is a result of your brain trying to use yesterday to create tomorrow. This means that your attitudes and actions today can literally shape your future. As such, make sure that you invest your time and effort wisely in the present.
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The Important Take Away
Dr. Gilbert is highly accomplished in the field of psychology. His work on the subject has been quoted by other instructors and authors too. His understanding of the human brain makes Stumbling on Happiness an exceptional read. When you understand yourself, you are able to perform better in life because you know your capabilities and your limits. The lessons indicated above can help you to achieve this understanding. By putting them into practice, you can utilize your brain to create a better present and more promising future.