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The Happiness Problem is out now!

I'm back! And it's time to buy my book :-)

So it’s been a while! I last posted a blog in August, saying that my aim was to continue posting regular blogs, but on more topical issues related to the Happiness Problem. Well, I didn’t manage to do that – life got in the way. A few months later and the book has just been published – The Happiness Problem is out now! You can get yourselves a copy here and here.

The publication of the book has inspired me to start blogging again. So this will be the first of regular weekly blog posts, many of which will be inspired by current affairs related to the issues discussed in the book. From writing the final draft of the book, much of my thinking about happiness changed (though I have kept the old blog posts up on the website for the purposes of transparency). Previously, I was interested in the function of happiness. Instead of thinking about how to be happy, we need to think about what happiness makes us do. I still think this is important. But, in finishing writing the book, I became interested in one problem in particular: How the way we think about happiness blinds us to what really matters.

We tend to think we know what makes us happy. It’s the next promotion, the loving relationship, or seeing our kids do well at school. Or it’s living in the moment, doing what we love, or trying new things. The idea that we don’t know what makes us happy and fulfilled in the long-term seems crazy. And yet, I think that’s exactly what is the case. Our lives are too messy, complicated and uncertain to know what makes us lastingly happy. In fact, it is the list of things in our head – the things we think we need to be okay – that make us stuck. Our ideas of happiness are merely the tip of the iceberg – they blind us to the things that matter most, including the things we already have.

In the book, I show how this problem is wider than we tend to think. We don’t just seek certainty and control in our personal lives. We also want simple narratives, quick fixes and easy solutions on a social and political level. We think that a particular policy or politician will make us all better off, in much the same way as a particular job or relationship will make us happy. Both kinds of stories are too simple, and potentially harmful. Life is too complex to understand so easily. Instead of explaining away uncertainty, we need to embrace it, with humility, curiosity and compassion.

I’ve read a lot of books about happiness over the past 12 years or so. To my knowledge, this is the first book that shows how we are thinking about happiness and social progress in the same way – why that is a problem and what we can do about it. If you end up buying a copy, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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