This book will always hold an important place in my heart, not only is it a fascinating and mentally stimulating journey into how we confuse ourselves about happiness but it was a key step for me in diagnosing my ADHD. Whilst reading about our frontal lobes purpose in plan our future, I started to realise how little of this applied to me. I seldom dwell upon the future, not next year, not next month, not even tomorrow. So I was just hoping happiness would find me, without giving it a moments thought!
In his book, Gilbert brings a great sense of humour and a wealth of experience of research into what makes us happy. He argues that we each have different views of what comprises happiness and that projecting it on others is an error. The development of our frontal cortex, which began two million years ago, gave us the power to imagine and to create a mental image of the future. Humans (me excepted!) have an ability no other creature possesses, to consider options, imagine scenarios, consider paths to follow.
The problem is we are able to consider what will make us happy but have minimal skills for choosing reliably. Attempts to forecast what will bring us happiness usually prove inaccurate, as the brain is often busy with sensory inputs and our body functions resulting in our concious making positive estmates and judgements based on poor or insufficient information. Gilbert suggests the best approach is to find people who had similar choices and circumstances in the past see what impact on their happiness their choices made. So in fact its best not to use our frontal lobes to plan happiness at all, thank goodness for that!