Synthesized Happiness, Anyone?

Just finished watching Dan Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness presentation at TED. Professor Gilbert’s research on happiness shows that there’s no difference between synthesized happiness and actual happiness. Furthermore, he points out that when given a choice, humans inevitably end up less happy than if they are not. In other words, having choices in life makes you unhappy.

If Dan’s conclusions shock you, welcome to the club. But first, download his presentation and watch it first before you reject his thesis.

Reflecting on myself, I realised that all my life, I’ve been primarily motivated by the need to give myself more choices. I studied hard so I can choose to where and what to study in university. I worked hard so I can choose not to stay in a HDB. I re-learned programming recently so I can choose to freelance if I want more personal time.

Learning that choices make you less happy certainly turns my values upside-down, forcing me to re-evaluate them. To tell you the truth, I’m addicted to motivation. I enjoy working hard towards a clearly defined goal. I thought reaching those goals will make me happy. Now, research has proven that it wouldn’t.

So, how does this work now?

The axiom for my being motivated is happiness. Now that this is yanked from beneath me, I’d have to look for another source of motivation. Is that it?

Or, should I just switch off the booster engines now and coast from here. And like Prof Gilbert says, synthesize happiness from whatever I have now.


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