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Book-loving blogger-cousins Penny and Rich review Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.
RICH’S REVIEW: THE FUTURE AND THE SUBURBS AND THE GOOD LIFE AND OLIVE GARDEN
I’m intrigued by this idea that imagining our future selves, or the future overall, generally doesn’t work. So, Gilbert claims, the best thing to do is to ask others because people more or less reliably report their own happiness in the present.
When Mrs. Rich read this book a few years ago, it really stuck with us that humans are not good at predicting / imagining what their future selves will want. So, we try to be careful when making decisions that will lock us into certain circumstances in 10 or 20 years.
For example, this is why we’ve questioned the conventional wisdom of buying a house in the suburbs. Can I really say that I’ll want that place at age 60? So much so that I’ll spend half a million dollars to get it? People we know who moved out there were happier in the city and are not as happy in the suburbs and hate their commute. And, people say a long commute is the worst thing in the history of man, basically. So, there’s no reason to think we’d be happy buying a house out there based on our current lives (we’re happy renters) or our friends’ experiences.
What do you make of the part about having kids? Gilbert says people gloss over how kids make them miserable. Well, I won’t dispute that kids are hard, and there are some unhappy days. But i was thinking about the basic assumption here, and a basic assumption underlying a lot of this “science of happiness,” that the ultimate goal of life is, in fact, happiness. Maybe i will agree that happiness is one goal, but happiness is not the entire point of life or what gives life meaning.
Survival, for example, is another goal.
To get mushy, love is probably a better indication of what gives life meaning, more so than happiness. This is why people will sacrifice happiness for love. Happiness is a goal, but love is a more important consideration. This is true in my experience, too. Loving my kids outweighs being happy with my kids.
Actually, browsing around the interwebs, I think there’s another term that does justice to what I’m looking for in existence, and that is The Good Life. The idea of The Good Life encompasses happiness as well as virtue, love, authenticity, dignity, well-being, morality and so on.
I think people make some dumb choices chasing happiness.
They leave marriages because they’re not happy in that moment. They leave jobs because they’re not happy paying their dues. They use happiness as a justification for selfishness or silliness.