Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan (Book Review)

Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan vs Optimal Happiness: The fastest and surest way to reach your happiest potential by Roman Russo

Today, we are reviewing Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life, by Paul Dolan. 

About Author

Paul Dolan is a researcher and practitioner of happiness. He is a professor of Behavioral Science in the Department in Psychological and Behavioral Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He conducted extensive research in measuring happiness and even worked with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in the UK to create a questionnaire to measure well-being in the UK. Besides Happiness by Design, Dolan is the author of Happiness Ever After (which we will review in upcoming posts so stay tuned!).

Mail points

  1. Pleasure and Purpose: Happiness is composed of two elements: Pleasure and Purpose.
  2. Attention: Our happiness or unhappiness is a result of what we pay attention to.
  3. Measuring happiness: One of the biggest ongoing questions is how to measure our happiness for personal, academic, or practical purposes. Dolan presents few alternatives, such as:
  • Day Reconstruction Method (DRM): Divide previous day into several episodes and rate them in accordance to their level of enjoyment. 
  • American Time Use Survey (ATUS): Like DRM it measures our time at and outside work, attaching enjoyment level to these practices.
  1. Happiness statistics: Dolan presents many interesting statistics about happiness, such as:
  • Weather does not affect our happiness, unless we think about it (which we usually don’t).
  • Biologically speaking, we want to have children, but they don’t really affect our happiness level after we have them.
  • We are less likely to regret something we have done than never trying to do it.
Box of book title of Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan

What I learned

Perhaps, the most interesting points for me were the above mentioned statistics about happiness, such as:

  • Taller people are happier (and everything else)
  • Nature improved life satisfaction
  • 3/4 of people in the EU are not satisfied with their work/life balance, etc. 

I am planning to write an extensive post about happiness statistics in the near future, as I too have accumulated a lot of them, which is why it’s time to publish them.

Favorite quote:

“Lost happiness is lost forever.” – Paul Dolan

Sacrificing current happiness does not guarantee future happiness. 

What I disagree with

Above everything else, I disagree with Dolan’s definition of happiness. As we have seen above, he defines happiness as a combination of two factors: Pleasure and Purpose. In turn, I define happiness as a composition of 6 components, of which 1 of my components is the 6 Pillars of Happiness, of which 1 is Purpose. Furthermore, Dolan states that happiness is pleasure, which is a short-term pursuit, which contradicts my perspective which states that happiness is a long-term emotion (see full happiness definition article here). 

As for the link between attention and happiness, I’m not sure how useful or applicable this piece of research is for someone who is trying to be happier. Yes, pay attention to things that make you happier and don’t pay attention to things you dislike, but in practice I imagine it is hard to do.

Easy to read?: Yes

Overall grade of the book: I’d grade Happiness by Design as 4 out of 5 points. I like the book because it was easy and interesting to read, and it was nice to review some of the happiness statistics. However, once again, I was not sure how applicable was the advice of Paul Dolan for someone who wants to change their life for the happier. 

Roman Russo: Author of Optimal Happiness

Roman Russo: Author of Optimal Happiness

Roman Russo wasn't always happy and struggled with his own negative emotions, anxieties, and depression, until one day he pledged to resolve this part of life, whatever it took. The journey took 6 years, but it was worth it. Today, Roman considers himself to be one of the happiest people alive, part of the 1% of the happiest elite, and he now teaches others a working and universal happiness formula to reach a similar goal. He offers his best advice on Optimal Happiness social media, newsletter, blog, and books, and teaches a complete and unconditional happiness formula in his online courses.

Leave a Reply

“The problem is that of optimization,” states Roman Russo, author of Optimal Happiness: The Fastest & Surest Way To Reach Your Happiest Potential. There is plenty of advice on how to be happier or less sad, but no one is speaking about how to become the happiest we can be. And this is the difference that makes all the difference. By not looking at our maximum potential for happiness, we fall short of achieving it. After all, we all have hundreds of ideas on how to be happier or less sad, but most people still feel like they are not living their best lives. As such, Optimal Happiness explores the question of how to be the happiest we can be, regardless of who we are, where we are from, and what our life circumstances are. It proposes a complete and unconditional formula for happiness and explains how you too can become happy today and forever, inviting you to join the 1% happiness elite and become one of the happiest people alive.

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