Happiness By Design Book Summary By Paul Dolan

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Happiness By Design is a book written by Paul Dolan, an economist with extensive experience in his field.

In this book, Dolan dives into the concept of happiness and explores how we can achieve it through our surroundings.

He delves into the relationships between our behavior and environment, discussing traps that people fall into when attempting to be contented and outlining various tools for adapting your environment to feel happier without having to totally transform your identity or mindset.

With insightful analysis of economics and research gathered from his own experiences, this book is a must-read for anyone seeking true contentment.

Happiness By Design Book

Book Name: Happiness By Design (Change What You Do, Not How You Think / Finding Pleasure And Purpose In Everyday Life)

Author(s): Paul Dolan

Rating: 4.2/5

Reading Time: 17 Minutes

Categories: Mindfulness & Happiness

Author Bio

Paul Dolan is an accomplished scholar whose research on happiness, well-being, and behavior has been widely acclaimed.

He is a Professor of Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and his work in those fields is highly valued by governments in the United States and United Kingdom for its public policy implications about healthcare and economics.

His accomplishments include writing his best-selling book Happiness By Design: Find Meaning, Live Better, and Change The World.

In this book, Paul Dolan gives readers insight into how to design a life that is both meaningful and satisfying.

He provides evidence from around the world that can help us better understand the psychological pathways to lasting wellbeing.

Unlock Your Happiness: How Our Brain And Surroundings Affect Our Moods And What We Can Do About It


We all strive for happiness, but sometimes it can seem harder to achieve than we think.

Part of this is because there are certain barriers which prevent us from being truly content.

Unbeknownst to us, our environment and our brain can play a major role in diminishing our happiness levels; however, learning how to overcome these factors will help us gain greater joy out of life.

In Happiness by Design, readers will be able to learn about the powerful effects of our surroundings and mind on our levels of joy.

Sections include information on why hearing French music could encourage you to buy French wine and how using phones can prevent the cultivation of contentment.

With advice for overcoming such barriers, Happiness By Design allows readers to understand their inner minds and outer worlds in order to better control their well-being in life.

The Key To Happiness Is A Balance Between Pleasure And Purpose In Your Everyday Life

At the end of the day, you are happiest when you experience your daily activities as both pleasant and purposeful.

This means having a mix of activities that make you feel joy as well as those that give your life meaning.

To get the most out of each day, try to alternate moments of pleasure (like taking a break to have lunch with a colleague or going for a short walk) with more purposeful moments (creating presentations, completing work tasks, etc.)

Your preference to focus on more pleasure or more purpose in life largely depends on your personality type – some people require more fun than others to be content.

That’s why finding the right balance of joy and meaningfulness is key – it will differ from person to person!

Lastly, remember that happiness is about feeling good in the moment: while feeling satisfied with one’s life situation is great, it doesn’t automatically guarantee absolute daily fulfillment.

Actively engaging in pleasurable and purposeful activities will help ensure true happiness throughout each day.

Stop Making Attentional “Mistakes” To Enjoy Life And Feel Happier

When it comes to happiness, it isn’t just about doing things that make you happy, it’s also how you pay attention to them.

Our attention is a limited resource and often our thoughts drift away from the activity at hand and dwell on doubts and worries.

We are more likely to focus on unfamiliar or novel experiences instead of the routines that so often make up our days, forgetting to give these activities their due appreciation.

Happiness isn’t directly caused by what we do, but rather by what we pay attention to.

It can be tricky sometimes to control our focus, but with some effort, we can all recognize typical attentional “mistakes” and implement strategies to combat them.

Changing what we think about requires practice and a conscious effort on our part, but can be achieved with time and patience.

Our Unconscious Decisions Can Lead Us To Unhappiness Rather Than Fulfillment


Our behavior and attention are largely driven by unconscious mechanisms that can lead to mistakes and decisions we regret.

This is because the majority of what we do is driven by System 1, or our primitive brain that operates on impulse and habit.

Without even being aware of it, our environment can influence how we think and act.

Evidence shows this in action in a study about sales of French and German wines – 70 percent of the sales could be attributed to French accordion music playing in the background, even though only 14 percent of customers were aware of it.

These instinctive decisions can lead us down harmful paths, too.

For instance, when you feel tempted to grab an unhealthy snack despite your intention to eat healthier, then you experience intense guilt afterwards and don’t feel happy.

It’s important to understand how our unconscious systems work so that we can make more conscious decisions and find real life happiness.

The Power Of Behavioral Spillover: How Our Decisions Impact Each Other For Better And Worse

We are all constantly trying to find ways to make ourselves happy, and part of that process is setting goals for ourselves.

Unfortunately, we sometimes succumb to behavioral spillover in our quest for happiness.

Behavioral spillover occurs when our past, present, and future decisions are interconnected; something you do at one point affects your decisions later on, whether you’re aware of it or not.

For example, if your goal is to lose weight through exercise and healthy eating, an impulsive visit to a fast food restaurant can quickly derail your efforts.

The same problem applies to positive behaviors, as well; one good decision can lead to another (like deciding to clean the kitchen after cleaning the bathroom) but it can also lead to negative ones (such as ordering takeout instead of cooking a healthy meal after spending the day on the internet).

So if you want to reach your goals and find lasting happiness, it’s important to be aware of how behavioral spillover can affect your behavior.

Positive behaviors should be seen as building blocks toward success rather than opportunities for indulgence; similarly, avoid taking setbacks too harshly–not every bad decision has lasting repercussions!

Don’T Forget To Enjoy The Present While Trying To Achieve A Better Future

We often misjudge our desires and goals, including how they will affect our own happiness.

This is because we are prone to making mistakes when predicting how a particular situation or event in the future can shape our feelings.

For instance, if we were to think about the effect of being confined to a wheelchair on our happiness, we might overestimate it.

The truth is, we are actually much more resilient and adaptable to changes than expected – both positive and negative ones.

Moreover, how we view the past also has an impact on how we determine our emotions in the future.

Our minds tend to remember pleasant and painful moments more so than insignificant ones.

Something as minor as tripping over at a friend’s wedding can leave us with a feeling of disappointment that lasts for the rest of the day – sadly impairing any other joyous occasions during that period of time.

It is really important that you keep up with your goals without allowing them to distract you from living in the present moment.

For example, focusing too much on professional ambitions could potentially have detrimental effects on both your physical and mental health aside from damaging relationships with family and friends alike.

Furthermore, it is not uncommon for individuals attempting to reach a target often set themselves unrealistic expectations that in many cases might lead them to quit entirely before even coming close to manifesting their goal.

Therefore, be mindful when challenging yourself with tough commitments because often what you think will improve your future satisfaction may not necessarily do so after all!

How To Use Feedback To Make Decisions That Lead To Long-Term Happiness

Long-Term Happiness

If you want to have a better understanding of what makes you truly happy and fulfilled, it’s important to take the time to listen to your own feelings as well as the advice from those around you.

The best way to do this is by focussing on the immediate feedback that comes from your daily activities.

By taking stock of how pleased and purposeful you are with certain activities, people or experiences in the present moment, you can start to ascertain what brings you genuine happiness.

You can achieve this by tracking your daily activities using something like the DRM (“Day Reconstruction Method”), which will allow you to review your day after-the-fact and assess how much pleasure and purpose each activity has given you.

Additionally, speaking with friends and family can help provide an objective viewpoint on any specific decisions that you might be considering, as they may catch something important that had slipped under your radar before.

To get the maximum benefit from asking for advice, make sure it’s framed in a way that allows for an informed response – like “How do think our daily routine would looks if we decide to move overseas?”

By relying on both immediate feedback gathered yourself, as well as help from outsiders who know us well, we can spend less time overthinking minor decisions – like choosing tiles for a new bathroom – and more time making sure bigger decisions – like which house to buy – befit our current and longterm goal of achieving lasting happiness.

Deceiving Your Unconscious Brain: A Guide To Reaching Your Goals By Manipulating Your Environment

By utilizing the power of the unconscious mind, you can design your environment in such a way that encourages happiness and steers your attention towards things and behaviors that create joy.

For example, you can redesign your immediate environment with simple changes like changing the lights in your office to blue – it has been scientifically proven this hue boosts alertness.

Primes and defaults are also great tools for forming healthy habits and breaking bad ones without much effort.

To help close the gap between original intentions and action, you can add incentives to increase motivation even more; various cues to reprogram behavior.

Likewise, having people around who understand what you want to achieve provides a powerful boost of mutual support alongside friendly competition – no matter how big or small a desired change is.

For extra reinforcement, create public promises by telling everyone at work or family about your aim – then adhere to them!

Keep goals realistic and break down big plans into manageable pieces for optimal success.

This way, when using unconscious mechanisms correctly, you can effectively influence yourself for greater happiness without hardly any effort at all!

How To Break Your Distraction Habit For A Happier And More Fulfilling Life


We all know how it is to be distracted by our phones and other technologies throughout the day.

But did you know that distraction can not only cost you time and energy, but also your happiness? The reality is that moving your attention from one thing to another, such as switching from work emails to checking social media can cause a decrease in efficacy in both tasks.

That’s why it’s important to focus and immerse yourself fully in what you’re doing.

So, if you want to be happier by avoiding distraction, then start by setting new defaults.

This could be switching off non-essential notifications on your phone or even considering removing the internet connection entirely.

You should also make an effort to focus on being “in the moment,” no matter if it’s for work or pleasure purposes.

Finally, give complete attention to friends and family when spending time with them—you can even play the “phone-stacking game” where everyone puts their phones face down on the table at the beginning of the evening and whoever checks theirs first has to pay for dinner!

By keeping distractions at bay and dedicating yourself completely to a task or experience, you will find more joy from what is here and now – that’s how you achieve true happiness.

Wrap Up

The Happiness By Design Book is ultimately about finding balance through pleasure and purpose.

It encourages us to focus on the positive aspects of our lives while making small adjustments to our external environment.

The actionable advice consists of establishing a strong social circle with people who bring out the joy and meaning in our lives, as well as offering assistance to others to help foster a feeling of purpose within.

When it comes down to it, seeking a balanced life provides us with greater rewards than we may expect.

Not only does focusing on our pleasures bring joy into our lives, but being generous towards others also brings about a sense of satisfaction that can greatly benefit both ourselves and those around us.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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