The title is quite misleading – this is by no means a self help book! It will not tell you how to become happy. In fact, I’d say that Daniel Gilbert truly appreciates the uncertainty and ambiguity that is happiness, its subjective uniqueness in each human’s mind, and therefore, even when he gives us his perspective on how one can predict the chances of one’s happiness, he underplays it!
I found the book to be a systematic deconstruction of happiness which takes it into realms such as cognitive science, psychology, behavioural economics and even philosophy to a certain extent. Right from the explanation of the literal ‘blind spot’ in our optical mechanism, the ‘deal’ between the eye and the mind, and then using this blind spot as a metaphor for the lacunae in our perception and imagination, it is a fascinating step-by-step analysis of how we perceive happiness, with studies and examples to back it all up. He is also able to point out why our own predictions of happiness regularly go wrong, even on events which are repeats of our own earlier experience!
Arguably, one of our biggest abilities is imagination, a phenomenon that allows us to travel across time and ‘experience’ the future. But it also has shortcomings and it leads our mind to telling us stories that are not entirely true. Unfortunately, even if we do realise these shortcomings, it is pretty much impossible to factor them in! Having said that, I think this understanding will help me be a little more conscious about thestories my imagination/mind will tell me.
The narrative is quick and to the point, and what raises it beyond the normal is the fantastic wit. I think he employed it even in the title of the book – a very clever take on it appears right at the end.