Haidt provides almost a timeline of thought leadership on happiness starting with ancient Greek philosophy of Aristotle and the Stoics to modern day research and application in the field of positive psychology including the work of Csikszentmihalyi, Lyubomirsky and Seligman.
Does happiness really come from ‘within’?
The happiness hypothesis starts with the idea that happiness comes from within. Haidt provides evidence that supports this hypothesis and then provides evidence that perhaps there is more. The discussion then turns to the hypothesis that happiness can come from ‘without’ – ie., it’s not just created by ourselves internally through thought, but we can increase our happiness by external influence, acquisition and experience. The key however is to select intentional actions and experiences that support your personal ‘strengths’ to help create long term increases in happiness. (To learn more about what types of intentional actions I recommend you read Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The How Of Happiness, and to better understand your personal ‘strengths’ that you complete Martin Seligman’s ‘Signature Strengths Questionnaire’ either in his book Flourish or on line at www.authentichappiness.org)
What becomes the obvious conclusion to anyone who has studied human well being and what it takes to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life is Haidt’s final hypothesis that happiness comes from within and from without.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the summary approach and timeline discussion of thought leadership around living a happy, flourishing and prosperous life.