Photo: Sustainable Development

Photo: Sustainable Development

This is the first installment of the much anticipated (at least by me) TED Tuesdays where I’ll be reviewing and recommending a choice TED Talk ( or other video for our mutual enjoyment and edification.

Today’s installment is a talk by Dan Gilbert titled “The Surprising Science of Happiness.”

The Nut:

The development of our prefrontal cortex was an important upgrade from our ancestor’s brain – because it includes an experience simulator. You don’t need to try liver and onion ice cream to know that it would likely make you hurl. You can try it out in your brain first and realize that it would likely make you hurl – without having to clean up after yourself.

The problem is, the simulator doesn’t work all that well. For example, what would make you happier: Winning the lottery or becoming a paraplegic? Easy question right? Not so fast. Research shows that after one year, there is no difference between the happiness of people in these two groups. Huh?

It turns out we are able to synthesize happiness. And synthetic happiness is every bit as good as the real thing.

Ask the guy who spent most of his life in prison for a crime he didn’t’ commit. He says he wouldn’t change a minute of it. Pete Best, who was bumped from the Beatles, says he was much happier as a result.

My good friend Stan who died from ALS – arguably one of the most hideous diseases you can contract – said that those last two years were the best of his life.

Best quote

I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity and I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.”
-Sir Thomas Browne, 1642

You have that same power. We all do. We think we need to find/acquire happiness, but we can synthesize all we need. And it’s good stuff.

Don’t take my word for it. Check out the video: