Happiness Part 1: Do We Really Have Control Over Our Happiness?

Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong — a premise he supports with intriguing research, and explains in his accessible and unexpectedly funny book, Stumbling on Happiness.

You need to listen to this 21 minute lecture (link below) to understand the message but here are some important points:

– What makes humans unique is our capacity to create experience in our brain/mind.
– We have control over our happiness. We (our brain) can synthesize happiness.
– Not getting what we want makes us as happy as getting it. (In other words, getting things or not getting things we want does not have effect on our happiness after sometime.)
– With a few exceptions, a trauma does not have any impact on you after (about) three months.
– Years after winning multimillion dollar lotteries or losing the ability to use their legs, both groups of people were equally happy with their lives.

Here is the quote from Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, at the end of this lecture.

“The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquility of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.” ― Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Here is the Professor’s message at the end:
When our ambition is bounded it leads us to work joyfully. When our ambition is unbounded, it leads us to lie, cheat, steal, hurt others and to sacrifice things of real value. When our fears are bounded, we are prudent, cautious, and thoughtful. When our fears are unbounded and overblown, we are reckless and cowardly.

Our longings and worries are both to some degrees overblown because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.

Real Happiness—the Experience You Create in others

Here I want to add what I learned from Professor Daniel Robinson in one of his audio lectures:

Science is or will be able to create any kind of experience in our mind and we cannot tell the difference between happiness created in our minds and real happiness. So if you want to become the most powerful and richest king in the world, Science (a drug) can make you think you are. But most people will not like to get this kind of happiness. So most people really do not want to be happy through the experience they create in their mind through a real or synthetic experience. The happiness we really want is what we get when we create positive experience or happiness in others. That is real happiness. That is the happiness we experience when at PC AGE Career Institute we help our students learn the skills for an IT career that can literally change their lives.

Zafar Khizer
PC AGE Career Institute