Later this week, I’ll be meeting, along with a small group of fellow consultants, with Dan Gilbert, a Harvard psychology professor who has written extensively about happiness. You may know Dan from the Prudential Insurance commercials on TV where he talks about planning for retirement.
Gilbert’s early research was in the area of synthetic happiness. His research suggests that “Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we wanted”.
You’ve heard people describe their own synthetic happiness when they’ve had some kind of setback but then report being happier then ever. Pete Best, who was the original drummer for the Beatles, was replaced when Paul and John decided they wanted Ringo to join the Band. When the Beatles became successful, Best went into a deep depression that even included a suicide attempt. He want on to form his own band and when asked 25 years later about this lost opportunity said that he’d never happier in his life and that he didn’t think he’d feel that good, even if he had been a Beatle.
Gilbert’s work emphasizes that natural happiness comes from external events and that synthetic happiness comes from our internal mindset. My dad had a unique ability to believe that everything he possessed was the best in the world, especially me. He just told himself that it was the truth and that helped him to find his own form of happiness. I think we should all find some more of it.
© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2017