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Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life Paperback – 1 Jan 2015

4.0 out of 5 stars 143 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (1 Jan. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141977531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141977539
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

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)

Review

'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.' (The Sunday Times)

'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.' (The Guardian)

'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) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think this book is a really good read, and I have recommended it to a lot of friends and family. I do love a good popular science book anyway, so I really liked that this book is not framed as a 'self-help' manual, but is an accessible drawing together of the research that the author has undertaken on the subject. I found some of the themes within the book to be incredibly useful, from the perspective of changing how one feels about (and perceives) happiness. For me, the two key things that came out of the book were: 1. that you need both pleasure and purpose in your life to be happy (and obviously the correct balance of these for the individual concerned); and 2. that thinking you can only be happy if/when you have achieved the 'big-ticket' item (be it relationship, house, money, job etc etc), is wrong, and results in an unhappy lot, as your perception of how happy you are actually reflects the aggregate of those small moments of happiness you experience each day. So after having read this book (a number of times!) I now make sure that I get a measure of 'pleasure' in my day (to balance out the 'purpose' - which I have too much of, unfortunately!), and I make sure that I recognise and seek out small moments of joy each day (that delicious coffee, speaking with a friend, looking at my children sleeping...) and I am so much happier for it. And those big-ticket items no longer stand in the way... I feel quite liberated! Thank you so much, Paul Dolan - keep up the good work!!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has two main parts. The first part defines happiness and says what the current thinking is about it. It's by no means the first book to describe the ingredients of happiness but the emphasis on purpose is an interesting idea. We are all aware of the psychological bias we have towards current versus future pleasure (e.g. having some cake now, before we start our diet). The author highlights another bias which is that we wrongly assume that simple pleasures such as watching TV will make us happier than purposeful activities such as work. It's a useful perspective.

The second part offers some advice about how to put these ideas into practice. Unfortunately (for the reader!) the author has a successful career, a well-balanced life and is naturally a very happy and active person. If you have real problems, many of the ideas will comes across as trivial and patronising, such as "spend more time with people you like", "improve your commute", "spend less time on the internet" and "stop procrastinating". He even goes into his own experiences of owning a high-powered sports car and bodybuilding. Anyone lonely, jobless or ill is liable to be thoroughly depressed by the time they get to the end of that lot!

Further thoughts:
Well, at least the book got me thinking, but I suspect that the effect of making tweaks to one's life is likely to be short-lived. I recall an experiment in which office workers' morale improved when their lighting was changed... up or down! Of course the morale boost wore off quickly and was likely caused by the novelty factor plus the feeling that someone cared about their wellbeing.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
ver nice book
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Arrived safely and in good condition. A quality paperback.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
No further comment at this stage, other than that the headline above is a subjective view on how I felt after reading this.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An amazing read, so inspiring. It's on my bookshelf ready to be picked up again. Really put my negative thoughts into focus.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I chose this book because I'm interested in both psychology and happiness, however I was a little disappointed and felt that there wasn't much new in here. I read Daniel Kahnemann's brilliant book fairly recently and felt there was a lot of overlap in some areas. Many of the anecdotes I knew from other publications (the fisherman and the business man for example). The personal examples about bodybuilding were really tedious to me, sorry! This is certainly a well researched book and the bibliography takes up about 25 percent of the pages! Not for me I'm afraid.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The subject matter of this book is really intriguing - in an era where everyone constantly seems to be striving for happiness, this offers the tantalising prospect of how you can achieve it.

And I can imagine some people really enjoying this book. To do so, though, requires you to be fairly analytical in nature and happy to wade through a lot of chaff to find the wheat.

The likes of Dan Ariely, Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Kahneman (who the author has worked with and who supplies a cover quote) have made psychology 'cool' in recent years, without necessarily dumbing down or ignoring the science bit.

And there's no way you could accuse Paul Dolan of dumbing down. Far from it.

And this is the book's main failing. It is so overloaded with science and data that it's far too tough going.

Added to that, the writing style is simply not engaging enough to propel this into top-seller status.

I'm sure Paul Dolan is a first-class scientist and I possibly don't have the intellectual rigour to truly do this material justice, but he's not a compelling enough writer which is why I can't rate the book any higher.
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