The Myths of Happiness Book Summary - The Myths of Happiness Book explained in key points
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The Myths of Happiness summary

Sonja Lyubomirsky

What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does

4.4 (167 ratings)
28 mins
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    The Myths of Happiness
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    There’s no recipe for happiness.

    When will you be happy? Will you be happy when you meet and marry the partner of your dreams? When you finally make it to the corner office?

    We’re conditioned to pin our hopes for happiness on reaching socially prescribed milestones like these. It’s true that attaining these milestones might bring an initial thrill and even have a net positive effect on our lives. But they rarely bring lasting happiness.

    The key message here is: There’s no recipe for happiness. 

    A joint experiment conducted by Harvard University and the University of Virginia concluded that we have a tendency to overestimate the degree of happiness a positive event will bring into our lives. At the same time, we have a tendency to overestimate the negative impact that a misfortune – like illness or financial stress – will have on the trajectory of our lives.

    In other words, we arrange our lives around milestones, both positive and negative. We strive toward the positive milestones, believing they will bring us authentic happiness. And we do everything in our power to avoid the negative milestones, believing they will devastate us. 

    But the reality is, our positive accomplishments can quickly turn anticlimactic when they don’t live up to our expectations. Meanwhile, we avoid taking risks and making changes because we’re desperate to avoid life’s negative events. 

    In truth, these events are rarely as irrevocably bad as we imagine them to be. In fact, recent studies suggest that people who’ve experienced some degree of trauma and adversity in their lives are, on the whole, happier than those who haven’t. 

    There are two key explanations for this. The first is that surviving hardship once equips us with the skills to overcome it again. The second explanation is that profoundly negative events, like losing a job, can catalyze beneficial changes in life, like finally pursuing a dream career.

    While we could work toward positive events or strain to avoid negative events, neither approach brings true happiness. Instead, we need to abandon the harmful myth that happiness, or unhappiness, hinges on achieving or failing to achieve superficial milestones. 


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    What is The Myths of Happiness about?

    The Myths of Happiness (2013) takes aim at the idea that happiness – or unhappiness – can be tied to significant life events, like marriage or job loss. It argues that happiness doesn’t come from attaining socially approved milestones, such as snagging a promotion or buying a big house; this is just one of modern society’s great myths. When we buy into this myth, we prevent ourselves from finding authentic happiness.

    Who should read The Myths of Happiness?

    • Couples feeling bored in a long-term relationship
    • Employees who just can’t seem to find job satisfaction
    • Anyone who’s scared to make big life changes

    About the Author

    Sonja Lyubomirsky is a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside who is focused on uncovering the science behind human happiness. In her acclaimed books The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness, she translates her research for a general audience – illuminating how readers can use scientifically proven strategies to build happier, more rewarding lives.

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