“Take your business to the next level,” Bernie Clark, EVP of Charles Schwab, said on Friday as he closed a successful Schwab Impact conference in Boston and thanked keynote speakers Mellody Hobson, Liz Ann Sonders, Henry Paulson, Greg Valliere, Gerd Leonhard, Chris Hughes and Biz Stone.
Clark then introduced the final keynote speaker, Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University, and author of Stumbling on Happiness (Knopf, 2006).
“Even when you get exactly what you want, you’re not always happy,” Gilbert said.
Humans, he noted, have an ability no other animal has: we can use our imagination to predict how happy or unhappy an action will make us. But, he said, it turns out that such a prediction is not always accurate. What we think will make us happy often is not what actually will—and, when unfortunate things happen, we can rationalize them and “find a way to see them as the best,” so that we are happy now instead of in the future.
When we imagine the future we don’t imagine all of the details. Gilbert's example was California. People from California say they are happy. Those not from California say they’d be happy there, too: they imagine the surfing, the Beach Boys music, but not the traffic or earthquakes. Therefore, he said, "What you don't imagine often matters as much as the things you do."
Next, he told the conference crowd, "the brain resolves ambiguity—it rationalizes” circumstances so they are not so painful. “Ambiguous rejection by one person—a zero score, well, you can say 'I’m a zero.' Or, 'The judge is an idiot. Idiot. Idiot. Idiot!' So, because the judge is an idiot—it doesn’t hurt so much." But rejection by a team of judges is “unambiguous rejection because they can't all be idiots.”
"In the future we will live in the present," Gilbert said, and find a way to be happy with whatever setbacks we have had, no matter what may have befallen us.
In the quest for happiness, Gilbert noted, our mothers may say “meet a nice girl, get a job that fulfils and have children” because those are the predictors of happiness. "Yes, marriage is a source of happiness," Gilbert asserted, and happier people find it easier to get married. Happiness is
an attractant and a happy marriage boosts happiness at least six years into the marriage—and that goes for men and women.
However, divorce boosts happiness, for a while, anyway, if people have been unhappy—and that also goes for both sexes.
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