221. Critical Thinking: How The Stories You Tell Yourself Determine Your Perspective

Redirect: Changing The Stories We Live By by Timothy D. WilsonPublished in 2013 by Penguin Books, Timothy Wilson‘s book Redirect: Changing The Stories We Live By offers practical advice on being happier and more successful, from parenting to PTSD to teen pregnancies to drug and alcohol abuse and more… Continue reading “221. Critical Thinking: How The Stories You Tell Yourself Determine Your Perspective”

Descriptive norms are people’s perceptions of how others actually behave in a particular situation (e.g., how much alcohol others are drinking or how much electricity our neighbors are using.)

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Research shows that most people have an optimistic outlook on life, believing that they have good prospects in the future and that they are masters of their fates. Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses makes people happier and motivates them to try harder when they encounter obstacles in their way.

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People are highly sensitive to social norms (information about what other people are doing and what they approve of), and subtle indicators of these norms can have dramatic effects on people’s behavior.

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Trusting our instincts isn’t enough. For most of us now there simply aren’t clear-cut rules to follow. Everywhere you turn, there are experts telling you what to do. The problem is, they often don’t agree with each other! Experts give us advice, but much of it conflicts and little of it has been adequately tested.

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Children born into families of high socioeconomic status have higher IQs, on average, than children born into families of low socioeconomic status.

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The important thing is to pursue goals that give us a sense of autonomy, effectiveness, and mastery. If we can do so in a way that draws us closer to other people, so much the better, given how important social relationships are to happiness.

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Research shows that people who focus on the process of achieving a desired outcome are more likely to achieve it than those who simply think about the outcome itself.

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There is evidence that optimism has a genetic component, just as happiness does. But, as with happiness, there is room to maneuver – people can be trained to be more optimistic.

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People who attribute negative events to things they can control and change, such as the time they spend studying for the next test, are less likely to be depressed, are less likely to have health problems, and are more likely to try harder when the going gets tough.

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Research shows that there is an optimistic way of behaving that makes people happier. What really sets optimists apart is that they have better coping strategies in the face of adversity – they confront problems rather than avoid them, plan better for the future, focus on what they can control and change, and persist when they encounter obstacles instead of giving up.

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Optimists see the world the way it really is and recognize the obstacles in their path, but also believe that they can overcome these obstacles by planning for them and redoubling their efforts when they fail. Optimists don’t just sit back and think positive thoughts.

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It is not the objective world that influences us but how we represent and interpret the world. These subjective interpretations are formed quickly and unconsciously. When something happens to us, our brains kick into gear and try to make sense of it as best we can – so rapidly that we don’t even know that we are interpreting rather than observing the world.

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How do our minds know how to interpret something? One way is by relying on past experience. Another way is by using the context in which we experience something.

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In order to understand why people do what they do, we have to view the world through their eyes and understand how they make sense of things.

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Religious people are happier only if they truly believe and those beliefs are shared by their loved ones. If peole have fragmented religious beliefs that are not well integrated into their overall lives, and if these beliefs are not supported by their loved ones, they are no happier than anyone else.

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Organized religions are important sources of core narratives. Virtually all faiths explain how we came to be, how we ought to live, and what happens to us after we die. Many studies show that religious people are happier than nonreligious people.

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Core narratives are worldviews that explain creation, the purpose of life, and what happens after we die, thereby helping us deal with the terror of gazing into the sky and seeing ourselves as insignificant specks.

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A sizable portion of our happiness is determined by our genetic makeup, the economic and political environment in which we live, good health and enough money to meet our basic needs, and being blessed with loving family and friends. The number one predictor of how happy people are is in the quality of their social network.

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