Recently, I read Daniel Gilberts latest book: Stumbling on Happiness.
The title describes accurately the content of the book, but also reveals the uncanny truth that distinguishes humans from animals – the ability to predict the future, or at least, our interest in predicting the future.
The Illusion of Predicting
Most, if not all, of us have been asked to ‘imagine’ what our dream job is? Or what truly makes us happy? Such questions are meant to be a thought experiment to help us think about the myriad possibilities that the universe holds and from that infinite supply, choose the one’s the we think would make us most happy. Despite our great efforts to live the lives we desire, fate always seems to have an ace or two up its sleeve that prevents us from living the lives we think we want. Or is it really just our own mishap and we stumble on happiness willy nilly.
Each day we spend a great deal of our waking life imagining what it would be like to do this or that, or to buy or experience some particular thing. We do that for good reasons, it is what allows us to shape and control our life. It is by trying to exert some control over our futures that we attempt to be happy. I mean how could we achieve happiness if we took a back seat to our own lives? When it comes to objectively measuring our lives however we are really bad at predicting the unknown. We’re terrible at knowing how we will feel a day or a month or a year from now, and even worse at knowing what will and will not bring us that genuine happiness.
Our desire to control is so powerful, and the feeling of being in control so rewarding, that people often act as though they can control the uncontrollable – Gilbert
In short, our ability to predict may be ruining our lives.