Director’s Monthly Note

By Jeanette M. Roe, Executive Director

I recently came across an article written by Josh Walker in January 2016 called The Surprising Science of Happiness. Turns out there’s truth in the old adage ‘you gotta make yourself happy’. I hope you enjoy this valuable insight in Happiness.

Harvard psychologist, Dan Gilbert, has a simple question for you: Would you rather win $314 million in the lottery, or would you rather lose the use of both of your legs in an accident?

Seems like an easy question to answer, right? But before we get to lottery winners and paraplegia, Gilbert wants to tell a quick story about The Beatles.

“Pete Best was the original drummer for The Beatles,” Gilbert says, “until they snuck away and picked up Ringo on a tour.” Tough break, right?

Lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy with their lives.

“Well, in 1994, when Pete Best was interviewed,” Gilbert says, mentioning that Best is still a drummer and a studio musician, “he had this to say: ‘I’m happier than I would have been with The Beatles.’”

That can’t possibly be true, you might think to yourself.

Now, back to the lottery winner and the paraplegic. “A year after losing the use of their legs, and a year after winning the lotto,” Gilbert says, “lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy with their lives.” That finding isn’t merely anecdotal, Gilbert says. It’s backed by actual research.

Again, you might ask, “How could that possibly be true?”

It comes down to something interesting Gilbert gleaned from his research: Human beings are often very bad at predicting what will create true, lasting happiness in their lives. Not only that, but research suggests achievements or luck * the big promotion, or a surprise sack of cash * aren’t necessary to generate genuine happiness.

NOTE: Josh Walker is the social media manager at Next Avenue and a longtime social media expert.

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