I’ve been listening to an audio book, Stumbling on Happiness
The author Daniel Gilbert is really funny and convincing in the thoroughness of his research. He believes that humans are the only animals who can think about the future and have an imagination.
I still do not know the secret to happiness, but after listening to him, I do believe happiness is not that elusive. I do not have to pursue happiness. There is no formula for happiness. I have to remember to be smart about the choices I make in life and be aware of why I’m making these choices. Accept that life is not under my full control and whatever happens in the future is just that simple, it’s part of life.
His latest blog post about why fatherhood does not bring you happiness
Excerpts from his blog
Psychologists have measured how people feel as they go about their daily activities, and have found that people are less happy when they are interacting with their children than when they are eating, exercising, shopping or watching television. Indeed, an act of parenting makes most people about as happy as an act of housework. Economists have modeled the impact of many variables on people’s overall happiness and have consistently found that children have only a small impact. A small negative impact.
Those findings are hard to swallow because they fly in the face of our most compelling intuitions. We love our children! We talk about them to anyone who will listen, show their photographs to anyone who will look and hide our refrigerators behind vast collages of their drawings, notes, pictures and report cards. We feel confident that we are happy with our kids, about our kids, for our kids and because of our kids—so why is our personal experience at odds with the scientific data?
First, when something makes us happy we are willing to pay a lot for it, which is why the worst Belgian chocolate is more expensive than the best Belgian tofu. But that process can work in reverse: when we pay a lot for something, we assume it makes us happy, which is why we swear to the wonders of bottled water and Armani socks. The compulsion to care for our children was long ago written into our DNA, so we toil and sweat, lose sleep and hair, play nurse, housekeeper, chauffeur and cook, and we do all that because nature just won’t have it any other way. Given the high price we pay, it isn’t surprising that we rationalize those costs and conclude that our children must be repaying us with happiness.
Second, if the Red Sox and the Yankees were scoreless until Manny Ramirez hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, you can be sure that Boston fans would remember it as the best game of the season. Memories are dominated by their most powerful—and not their most typical—instances. Just as a glorious game-winning homer can erase our memory of 8 1/2 dull innings, the sublime moment when our 3-year-old looks up from the mess she is making with her mashed potatoes and says, “I wub you, Daddy,” can erase eight hours of no, not yet, not now and stop asking. Children may not make us happy very often, but when they do, that happiness is both transcendent and amnesic.
Third, although most of us think of heroin as a source of human misery, shooting heroin doesn’t actually make people feel miserable. It makes them feel really, really good—so good, in fact, that it crowds out every other source of pleasure. Family, friends, work, play, food, sex—none can compete with the narcotic experience; hence all fall by the wayside. The analogy to children is all too clear. Even if their company were an unremitting pleasure, the fact that they require so much company means that other sources of pleasure will all but disappear. Movies, theater, parties, travel—those are just a few of the English nouns that parents of young children quickly forget how to pronounce. We believe our children are our greatest joy, and we’re absolutely right. When you have one joy, it’s bound to be the greatest.
Our children give us many things, but an increase in our average daily happiness is probably not among them. Rather than deny that fact, we should celebrate it. Our ability to love beyond all measure those who try our patience and weary our bones is at once our most noble and most human quality. The fact that children don’t always make us happy—and that we’re happy to have them nonetheless—is the fact for which Sonora Smart Dodd was so grateful. She thought we would all do well to remember it, every third Sunday in June.