In the book Stumbling On Happiness, Dan Gilbert examines how we can reach the full capacity of our brains and how that can make us happy. When we lack awareness of our surroundings, we are sometimes led to make the wrong decisions. We can make false assumptions about ourselves that ultimately result in making us unhappy. This book helps you identify the tricks your brain can play on you so you can avoid them and be self-aware. When we think like this, we are able to create and control our own happiness.
Your brain likes to fill in gaps it doesn’t know, but it’s not very good at it. The brain likes to know everything and it is always trying to fill in any blanks, even if it is bad at it, it keeps trying. Your brain even does this with your vision. You have a blind spot where you can’t see, but your brain fills in the gap for you. The brain makes guesses to figure out any missing information. This happens quite frequently and is a big trick that your brain plays on you. Another example is your memories, your memory exaggerates certain parts. It will trick you into thinking positively or negatively about the entire day based on one little event. When we are aware of this phenomenon, we can have the power to be knowledgeable and not let it trick us.
Another trick our brain does is compare products based on value rather than on past prices. When the price of something goes up, we tend to get upset and think it’s not a good deal because it used to be cheaper. But Gilbert explains that we should be comparing the price to other prices of things, not its past self. For example, if your favorite espresso used to cost $0.50 and now costs$1.00, you’ll think it’s a bad deal. But when we think about surrounding products such as a carrot that costs $1.00, we think of it as a better deal. We should think of prices with the value of money in mind, we shouldn’t think about past prices and compare them.
Lastly, our brain tends to think of positive things that never happened. It’s easy to think about all the wonderful possibilities about what could have happened if we did something different. Gilbert explains that because of this phenomenon in the brain, a bad experience is better than no experience. For example, you meet someone you like and you have two options. Would you rather marry them and they turn out to be a pyromaniac? Or would you not marry them and they turn out to be a billionaire? Most people would choose not to marry them. However, when we choose not to marry them, we no longer have that experience. Our brain would then wonder about all the possibilities when they became a billionaire. This would make us unhappy. If we chose to marry them we would learn things from the relationship and we wouldn’t be unhappy about the possibilities of marrying that person. When we are aware of these tricks our brain plays on us, we are able to use them to our advantage and be happier.