When dating someone with whom you’ve become enamored, it is easy to project your life into the future. You imagine being intertwined every blissful day, moving in together, perhaps getting married. In this fantasy is embedded perpetual elation, constant joy, unbridled happiness.
Wouldn’t it be grand if we could accurately predict such euphoria? Unfortunately, humans are unskilled at foretelling what really will make them happy.
Ironically, on our first date a gentleman gave me a copy of Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. It was ironic because I then applied the author’s concepts to dating. And when I imagined a possible future relationship with this man, I couldn’t conjure up an image of us together! We parted ways after the second date.
In the Amazon.com editorial review of the book, Daphne Durham writes, “Do you know what makes you happy? Daniel Gilbert would bet that you think you do, but you are most likely wrong.”
Gilbert shares example of studies that show how humans are pretty inept at predicting what will make us happy in the future. So you think a great, loving, charming guy will make you happy until the end of time? Maybe. Maybe not. Malcolm Gladwell adds in his review of the book, “We’re terrible at knowing how we will feel a day or a month or year from now, and even worse at knowing what will and will not bring us that cherished happiness…. Our imaginations are really bad at telling us how we will think when the future finally comes. And our personal experiences aren’t nearly as good at correcting these errors as we might think.”
If we believe Gilbert’s concepts, based largely on psychological research, then what are we to do? Give up reaching for what we think will make us happy? Only live in the present without striving for any betterment in our condition, which we think will make us happier?
In “Are you a happy dater?” I discuss how my friend the late Art Berg, a paraplegic, decided to be happy every day. He didn’t focus on the past and what he’d lost before his accident, nor the future and how his life may be cut short because of his condition. By not predicting what would make him happy in the future, he avoided disappointment.
I think it takes a special mind set to accomplish not wanting to project what will make us happy. We take what we’ve learned from past relationships and couple that with who we know ourself to be now, and say, “I want a man who… and with whom I can have a relationship like….” We feel our past will inform our decisions that will create our future.
But then a man waltzes in who matches very few of our “must have” criteria and sweeps us off our feet. So much for our predictions and “perfect man” list!
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