Happiness by Design

I was looking through my bookshelf and came across a book on happiness I had almost forgotten. Paul Dolan, an LSE Professor of Behaviour Science, a government policy advisor, and a bodybuilder, wrote Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and purpose in everyday life. The book is full of science-based facts about happiness and practical advice on exploiting this to become happier.

Outstanding, cutting-edge, and profound. If you’re going to read one book on happiness, this is the one.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Here are ten of my favourite lessons from the book:

  1. Happiness is a noble and serious pursuit for all.
  2. Happiness is all that matters in the end, happiness also causes a range of other good outcomes, and it is contagious. 
  3. Happiness should be measured according to feelings (experiencing self) over time rather than from the constructed evaluative self; listen to your real feelings of happiness rather than to your reflections of how happy you think you are or ought to be.
  4. Love, life, and the universe are about the pleasure-pain principle. We should all be seeking to maximise the sentiments of pleasure and purpose for ourselves and all those we care about. We care about the suffering of the worst off in society.
  5. If you are not expecting to benefit from your current course of action, and don’t expect others to, either, then the answer is actually quite straightforward-change course; giving up happiness now for later happiness that never comes is truly tragic.
  6. Your attention (‘reach forward’ in Latin) is the allocation of a scarce resource (economics); your attention will be unconsciously pulled around by specific contexts as well as being allocated consciously (psychology). The production process of happiness allows you to reallocate your attention to become happier by deciding, designing, and doing.
  7. It is easier for you to nudge yourself happier in small but effective ways than it is to try to “shove” yourself into becoming a whole new person or adopting a wildly different lifestyle.
  8. Much of what we do is governed by contextology and not just your own internal psychology; you can approach situations that will make you happier and avoid those that make you unhappy. We have some control over the situations we place ourselves in and much less control over our predisposition to act in particular ways once we are in those situations.
  9. The more time you spend attending to the things that make you happy, the happier you will be. And stop doing things that make you miserable. Change what you do, not how you think. You are what you do, your happiness is what you attend to, and you should attend to what makes you and those whom you care about happy. 
  10. Future happiness cannot compensate for current misery; lost happiness is lost forever. Powered by your own supercharged attention production process, there is no better time than now to crack on with finding pleasure and purpose in everyday life.

I highly recommend that you pick up this book and give it a read.