If you’re happy and you know it

If you're happy and you know it

SOURCE: Flickr user seanbjack.

Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman knows a bit about happiness. And his research suggests that we’re easily confused about what will make us happy. Kahneman calls this the ‘focusing illusion,’ which leads us to overemphasize a whole series of factors that might make us happy, while ignoring the factors that really matter (watch his Big Think videos to learn more).

To encourage a longer view and a deeper focus, we humans have designed a wide range of decision processes (and, come to think if it, spiritual practices). But a first step is admitting you have a ‘focusing illusion’ problem. And, of course, the focusing challenge isn’t only in our personal lives and in our personal happiness, but in our families, our communities, and our work as cultural managers.


  1. Anna says

    Have you read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin? She’s much like A.J. Jacobs, as her entire book is a self case study on factors in happiness.

  2. says

    This reminds me of Daniel Gilbert’s research on affective forecasting. He suggests that we’re really bad at predicting how we’re going to feel, especially about something bad that’s happened to us. In reality, we get over divorce, death, and tragedy much faster than we anticipate. We’re even bad at predicting whether our meal will hit the spot.

    I wonder if this applies to organizational psychology as well. Are we bad at predicting how we’ll feel about change? About letting go of our old way of doing things? Do we get over our fear and discomfort much faster than we anticipate?

    Here’s a great NY Times Mag article on Gilbert’s research: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/07/magazine/the-futile-pursuit-of-happiness.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm