We appear to have more control over our lives than ever before. If we could get things right – the perfect job, relationship, family, body and mind – then we’d be happy. With enough economic growth and technological innovation, we could cure all societal ills.
The Happiness Problem shows that this way of thinking is too simplistic and can even be harmful: no matter how much progress we make, we will still be vulnerable to disappointment, loss and suffering. The things we do to make us happy are merely the tip of the iceberg.
Sam Wren-Lewis offers an alternative process that acknowledges insecurity and embraces uncertainty. Drawing on our psychological capacities for curiosity and compassion, he proposes that we can connect with, and gain a deeper understanding of, the personal and social challenges that define our time
"A must read for anyone who wants to apply the latest science of well-being to wider issues of individual success and societal progress. There is much more to happiness than meets the eye, and this book will make you think differently about what you want and care most deeply about.” Scott Barry Kaufman, Columbia University and co-author of Wired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind
“Weaves together psychology research and philosophy to show that conventional ideas about happiness are wrong. Convincing and thought-provoking, Wren-Lewis calls on readers to reconsider the pursuit of happiness to lead a more meaningful life.“ Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning
“What would the study of wellbeing look like if it wasn’t centred around the goal of increasing individuals’ ratings of happiness? Wren-Lewis walks a fine line between the thoughtless optimism of positive psychology and the defeatist pessimism of its critics and forges a distinctive path that’s both complex and hopeful.” Anna Alexandrova, University of Cambridge
"In this profoundly thoughtful and important book, Sam Wren-Lewis asks us to step aside from the ‘self-improvement movement’, and instead seek happiness by letting go, taking risks, and connecting with pain, failure and loss. This is an absolute must read for anyone who is ready to tackle the deeper, more complex, and ultimately more fulfilling life." Brock Bastian, author of The Other Side of Happiness
"This wise and engaging book punctures a toxic myth about happiness: that it is ours to choose. Yet our mania for control itself makes us less happy. In its stead Sam Wren-Lewis offers an inspiring, and liberating, message of acceptance and understanding." Dan Haybron, Saint Louis University, Missouri, USA
Sam Wren-Lewis is an independent scholar with a PhD from the University of Leeds on the philosophy of happiness, and the author of a number of published papers on the study of happiness and wellbeing. He is also a self-employed wellbeing consultant, and former Head of Research and Development at Happy City, where he carries out collaborative research and policy work with a wide range of wellbeing policy organisations. His website is www.happinessproblem.com
Introduction: The happiness problem
seven Changing society
eight Changing the world
Conclusion: The happiness opportunity