Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Synthesize your happiness

On the trip home from Florida, I was listening to the in-flight radio offerings, and came across their "TED" ideas channel. I heard excerpts from Dan Gilbert's TED talk on synthesizing happiness, and thought I would point it out to anyone who hasn't heard it. It is really cool, and has implications for most of life's big decisions one way or another. Check it out:

For those who don't want to watch the whole talk, the essence of it is that human beings have the innate capacity to make them-selves happy, more or less regardless of their circumstances (Dr. Gilbert calls it an "immune system of the mind"). Also, "synthesized happiness", which is the happiness your mind creates when things don't go exactly as you want them, is pretty much the same as "natural happiness", which is the happiness you experience when you get what you want. And finally, we are not very good at estimating how much the difference between two possible outcomes in our lives will affect us.

The implications for our current trip planning situation are pretty clear. Right now, we are spending a ton of time and mental energy on finding the exact right boat for our upcoming trip. But in reality (and I think I already knew this), it probably doesn't matter a whole lot what boat we end up on – we will make it our home, and it will be great for our trip.

And I could see this playing out with every boat I looked at. Just by chance, most of the boats I was interested in had owners on them when we looked at them. Alina (our boat broker) assured me this wasn't usual. As it turned out, though, I got great tours of all the boats, and you could see that every one really loved the boat they were on. They all seemed like they could talk about their boats for hours, and if there were small things about their boats that weren't perfect, they generally didn't seem at all concerned about them. Of course, they were trying to sell their boats, so that could all just have been strategic, but none of these people were professional salesmen. They were just boat owners, who had synthesized real happiness about their ownership. And I am sure we will, too.

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