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Lions Roar : January 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 76 “I want to invite people to have a healthy skepticism about their own intuitions. Distrust your brain and trust your eyes a little bit more.” when that truth is not the truth you wanted to know. The book describes, as best I could, the truth about the human mind and its pursuit of happiness. Now, some of the things it describes aren’t what we want to hear, but I think we’re better off hearing them than not. I want my book to invite people to have a healthy skepticism about their own intuitions. When they look forward, think- ing that winning the lottery will make them happy, perhaps they will rethink that. In addition to being skeptical, I would encourage people to observe. If you think winning the lottery is going to make you really happy, for a long time, check out some lottery winners. What you’ll find is that some of them are really happy, and some of them are really unhappy. If you look at enough of them, you’ll find that on average, they are exactly as happy as the people who didn’t win the lottery. So distrust your brain, and trust your eyes a little bit more. Ultimately, the way to overcome the foibles of imagination is to circumvent imagination entirely. Instead of closing your eyes, open them. Do you use the findings of your work to make yourself happier? Most of the errors and mistakes I describe in my book almost have the status of optical illusions; that is, you can know all about them, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t fool you. So I think I make all the same mistakes everybody makes when they’re prospecting, looking forward in time, making decisions, pursuing happiness. The difference is, when I’m making them, I know their Latin names! With that said, I do think the work has had some effect on me. For example, I’ve been involved in work on “impact bias,” research that shows that negative events don’t have the pervasive, long-term, power- ful effects people think they do. Knowing that has made me braver in my life. I take more risks because I’m much more confident that no matter how things turn out, I’ll probably do pretty well. Even if I get the bad outcome, there will be a way in which it turns out to be the good outcome. A year ago, for example, my wife and I were house hunting. We were asking ourselves which of two houses would work: the bigger one far out of the city or the smaller one in town. I turned to her and said, “It doesn’t matter. We could take either