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Book Review – Stumbling On Happiness

Stumbling_on_HappinessDaniel Gilbert does a fine job educating the reader on how to think about happiness. A great example is when he gives some rather positive and happy quotes like the ones you’d read from a satisfied customer’s testimonial. When you turn the page, you find out the quotes come from people you’d least expect. In other words, one of our perceptions of happiness is derived from looking at a person from our perspective, not theirs.

A few examples of this are given throughout the book. One in particular is the example of being a conjoined twin. Most of us would think that particular situation would be a horrible outcome in our lives. But we are looking at it from the perspective of not being a conjoined twin. In fact, conjoined twins would have it no other way. They are happy. We would argue that they’re really not happy because they don’t know what it feels like to not be conjoined.

Mr. Gilbert also talks a bit about diminishing marginal utility which is the economic concept that as we get more of something, we feel happier at a decreasing rate. For example, if you have two people; person A makes $30,000 annually and person B makes $300,000 annually. A raise of $10,000 annually will likely increase person A’s happiness quite a bit while person B will feel only slightly happier. The $10,000 has more of an impact on person A as it’s 33% of his annual income while person B receives a raise of only 3%.

This concept (any many others) from the book can help individuals realize that more money doesn’t mean more happiness. Once a person is receiving enough to be secure, often more money may bring more happiness, but at a decreasing rate.

Stumbling on Happiness is written by an academic (he’s a professor at Harvard) and cites plenty of academic evidence. The beauty of this book is it’s not written academically. Mr. Gilbert’s sense of humor and clever examples will keep the reader interested while knowing the information is backed by research.

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