Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life Paperback – 1 Jan 2015
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For Dolan, purpose and pleasure are both basic constituents of happiness. This is a bold and original move ... Among the imperfect definitions of happiness, the pleasure-purpose concept that Dolan offers is, I believe, a strong contender. It is a good description of what I wish for my grandchildren: a life that is rich in activities that are both pleasurable and meaningful.
Paul Dolan is an inveterate optimist who has overcome many obstacles on his way to becoming an internationally recognized expert on well-being. The optimism shows on every page of this book. In particular, Paul is optimistic about you, his reader. He believes that you can make your life both pleasurable and meaningful with deliberate choices, about the environment you create for yourself and about the aspects of life that deserve your attention. He offers a great deal of sound advice on how to make these choices and how to follow through with them(Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Laureate)
It tells us what matters to us. Few books change one's life; in 48 hours this has improved mine . . . Anyone who wonders if they are living their lives as fully as they might will find ideas worth thinking about in this engaging, persuasive book (Jenni Russell Sunday Times)
Dolan is especially illuminating when it comes to bigger life-choices . . . Dolan makes a persuasive case that happiness might really be simple. His book is a powerful reminder not to get caught up in overthinking things, but to focus instead on maximising what actually delivers joy . . . and most of us would benefit from listening to him (Oliver Burkeman Guardian)
[Dolan's] discoveries at once confound your expectations and provide an appreciable way of acting on that knowledge . . . full of facts that make you go: "Huh." (Richard Godwin Evening Standard)
Dolan's book is aimed at the lay reader who wants to be more cheerful without recourse to airy-fairy notions of spirituality or philosophy (Rowan Pelling Telegraph)
Outstanding, cutting-edge, and profound. If you're going to read one book on happiness, this is the one (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, bestselling author of The Black Swan and Antifragile)
Happiness by Design is the best kind of psychology book: the ideas are fascinating, understanding them will make your life happier and more meaningful, and Dolan expresses them beautifully. Whether you're a novice or a voracious consumer of happiness research, Happiness by Design hits all the right notes (Adam Alter, bestselling author of Drunk Tank Pink)
Dolan gives a comprehensive overview of the science of happiness and useful tips to achieve it. In his quest to explain what makes us happy, Dolan touches on a powerful idea: happiness need not be pursued, simply rediscovered. In other words, sources of pleasure and purpose are all around us, if only one knows where to look (Scientific American)
Dolan wants...to make us think about life in terms of a balance of pleasure and purpose. Some of us are 'pleasure machines', seeking out short-term gratification without paying close enough attention to our lifelong goals; some of us are 'purpose engines', so determined to get to the destination that we miss the view along the way. Whichever we are, we need to find a bit more of the other. (Archie Bland The Independent)
About the Author
Paul Dolan is Professor of Behavioural Science at the LSE. He is an internationally renowned expert in human behaviour and happiness. Amongst various other roles, he wrote the questions that are being used to monitor national happiness in the UK and has advised many governments, charities and corporations on how to influence behaviour to improve wellbeing. His debut book, Happiness by Design, was a Sunday Times bestseller and dubbed 'the book that will make you quit your job'.
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I vehemently disagree with both criticisms.
If you went to university or are a native speaker (which I am not), you should not struggle with the readability of this book. Dolan refrains from using jargon, and the writing style is much more like a popular science book than publications in an academic journal would be.
The second criticism is that this book does not offer new insights. People that claim this clearly struggle with reading comprehension. Dolan offers two very novel insights in this monumental piece. One is on how to design your life in order to maximize for happiness. The second is that offers a novel approach to decision-making that helps you maximize happiness. I read a lot of literature on the topic of happiness - both popular science and academic - and had never read this material before.
With this book you will make better choices in apartments, movies, jobs and romantic partners. If you think I am exaggerating, do yourself a favor and order the book. You won't be disappointed, but you will be happier - by design.
The most memorable takeaway I have from this book is the Pleasure/ Purpose pendulum. We should balance the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure with the contribution of purpose. I found this an interesting way of looking at happiness.
Where we place our attention is a key idea of the book, too and not to overestimate future happiness from outcomes we desire.
My only criticism of the book is that it’s a bit difficult to find a workable, practical use of the material. There are no bullet points or chapter summaries that may have helped with this.