Why Are We Happy?
I always get stuck in my head. I think to much. I worry to much. I feel everything that I do. When I make a decision I have this “spidy” sense, this gut feeling that I always fall back on. However in the process of making a decision I visualize almost every detail before I do it.
Which is what If found especially interesting about Dan Gilbert’s talk. He refers to this idea how as humans we have a unique capacity to be able to experience something in our head, an experience similar to what pilots do during a flight simulation.
As humans we use this mental simulation while in our everyday pursuits. We need to try things out before we fully commit to the real lived experience. Gilbert argues that we as human’s believe that “happiness is something to be found.” I would agree that this is a miss conception.
If I complete this task it will lead me to happiness… or I must experiences this in order to know happiness… We use the simulation’s as a road map for the lived experience. We imagine our dream job to have certain characteristics, we imagine our dream partner needing to fulfill all these idealized qualities. Yet there is often a disconnection between the mental simulation of the dream job or the dream partner and our actual job and our actual partner.
Gilbert highlights that there are two types, synthetic and natural happiness.
Synthetic is the happiness that develops when we realize “that we can’t always get what we want”. Were as natural happiness is the part “were you get what you want”. His research however shows that synthetic happiness can be just a gratifying as natural.
Gilbert argues through his research that if a person is shown six Monet paintings and the person is ask to rate them on a scale of 1-6 from like to dislike. The person is then given a painting that was rated either 3 or 4. When asked at a later date to re-rate the paintings it appears that people change their rating scale and they actually like the painting they were given better. He further highlights this case by using the same process with amnesia patients. Therefore the end result is happiness be it synthesized happiness, but happiness none the less.
It appears that regardless of the type of happiness it is, synthetic or natural the end result is that we as humans accept it and we are in are turn happy. We also seem to respond better when we are back up against a wall and are forced to make a quick decision.
In a way I can see that a quick decision still gets you to the place you need to go, the decision between a and b. However what it seems to eliminate is the excessive worry when we draw out the decision making process.
I’m not necessarily advocating that all decisions need to be make super quickly but I do relish in the idea that if we do, less worry equal’s less stress and perhaps it can allow us to enjoy the moment more.
We have the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.