Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan

Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan – Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life – is a short book about happiness, from a psychological perspective. Dolar is a Professor of Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics and his approach is clear and scientific, measuring happiness, thinking of what makes us happy, and how this influences our behaviour. While I was reading the book, I stopped and reserved his next book, just to make sure I will read that one too.

At the same time, the book can be enjoyed by everyone, as he recounts fun anecdotes that happened to him and his friends. Those short stories are fun even if they are not relatable (e.g. he talks about his two children, but I’m child-free).

Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan

I’m going to talk about a few ideas from the book. With my background, most of the things he talks about come naturally to me. I analyse how I feel, I observe others, I take time off to consider my options and how important something actually is. While these things can’t transform anybody into a happy-go-lucky kind of person, they still have a positive impact.

One example he gives is about a car. Your car gets dented in the car park. You can fix the car immediately or you can wait for a couple of weeks to see how much that dent really affects you. If you don’t care, you can leave the car as it is, and fix it if you want to sell it, as it might get other scratches in the meantime anyway. If you care, you can fix it and that’s it.

MINDSPACE is what government advisors think about when they are assessing the opportunity of new legislations:
Messenger – we are heavily influenced by who communicated information
Incentives – our responses to incentives are shaped by mental shortcuts
Norms – we are strongly influenced by what others do
Defaults – we “go with the flow” of preset options
Salience – our attention is drawn to what is novel and seems relevant to us
Priming – our acts are often influenced by unconscious cues
Affect – our emotional associations can powerfully shape our actions
Commitments – we seek to be consistent with our public promises
Ego – we act in ways that make us feel better about ourselves

If we think about all these things, if we analyse why we do something, we can “trick” ourselves into changing our patterns. For example, if we want to lose weight, we can look at someone we trust for advice, like on the NHS’s website, we can “reward” ourselves with dancing classes because it’s more fun than going to the gym and we ask a friend if she is interested in joining the classes too. We can pick a class which is on route from work to home, so we don’t have to have big changes in our daily schedule. And the list can go on. The problem is that we set up some idealistic goals which are not realistic and we fail, making us it less willing to try next time. But, if we would try to set up small goals and make our lives easier, then we might succeed without having to work as hard as we thought.

I hope my short review made you curious. Get the book, you might enjoy it.

Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan

Details about the picture: I picked a happy-looking background
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Allen Lane
Year it was published: 2014
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): Psychology
Pages: 256

About the author: Paul Dolan is Professor of Behavioural Science at the LSE. He is Head of Department in Psychological and Behavioural Science and Director of Executive MSc Behavioural Science.
Dolan is doing research in two topics, how to measure happiness and subjective well-being, data that can be used in policy and by individuals looking to be happier. The second one is looking at ways in which the lessons from the behavioural sciences can be used to understand and change individual behaviour. He uses methods as surveys, big data, lab studies, and field experiments.
Books by Paul Dolan: Happiness by Design – Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life; Happy Ever After – Escaping The Myth of The Perfect Life
Website & Social Media Links: pauldolan



3 thoughts on “Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan”

  • It does sound interesting. In some ways, your thought process reminds me of that of my younger daughter. I’ve always teased her about having sociopathic tendencies since she rarely makes decisions based on emotion. 😉 I’ll admit I’ve seen a new side to her since she had a baby (something I honestly never thought would happen).

    Good review, and I’ll look at this book more closely.
    Kelly recently posted…Cozy CabinMy Profile

    • Thank you. The problem with making decisions based on emotions is that those emotions end rather fast and behind them are expectations that might have nothing to do with reality. 🙂

      • Oh, I understand that and for the most part, I’m a realist and lean toward logic (I love Spock in Star Trek)… but sometimes emotions can get the better of me. 😉
        Kelly recently posted…Cozy CabinMy Profile

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