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What Do You Know about Being Happy? The Positive Psychology Quiz

We can accurately predict how happy we will be in the future.

3.  True or false? We can accurately predict how happy we will be in the future.

A: False

Daniel Gilbert, the Harvard psychologist and best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness has wrestled with the problem of defining and predicting happiness and has drawn some interesting and instructive conclusions (Gilbert, 2007). Instead of talking about predicting our future happiness, he says that we make systematic errors in what he calls “nexting.” In essence, our brains are continuously “nexting.” When we try to determine how stable it will be when we walk on the sand, or what we have to do to catch a ball or a Frisbee, we are constantly nexting into the future to imagine ourselves there.

The problem with nexting is that we are pretty well immersed in the now, and we have a hard time nexting to the future using anything else but the information we have right now.  Since we don’t actually know what is coming, we take our best guess based on what is in front of us. This is why we are often surprised and don’t always get it right when it comes to what will make us happy. We are actually not very good at imagining how happy we are going to be because our sense of tomorrow’s happiness can only be based on what makes us happy now.

But the future isn’t made up of what we know now. We can’t take into account what circumstances will come into our life to make us feel different in the future. Consider these examples: Christopher Reeve, after becoming a quadriplegic, reported that he was in some ways better off, as did Lance Armstrong after having cancer. In fact, cancer patients in general are more optimistic than those who are healthy.

The functional result of all of this is that we delude ourselves just enough to get by. It would appear that in order to be happy we have to fudge the data a little, just enough so we aren’t overwhelmed by the daily disappointments, unwelcome surprises, and the evening news.

The point of all of this is that mental well-being might be a matter of faking ourselves out to suggest we are happy enough now, and will likely be happy enough in the future. Ironically, the accuracy of our perception of the now may be one of the biggest obstacles in assessing exactly what may make us happy.

What Do You Know about Being Happy? The Positive Psychology Quiz


Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D.

Honored by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers on the issue of depression Dr. Dan Tomasulo, Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP is a core faculty member at the Spirituality Mind Body Institute (SMBI), Teachers College, Columbia University, and holds a Ph.D. in psychology, MFA in writing, and Master of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.

He authors the daily column, Ask the Therapist, for PsychCentral.com, and developed the Dare to be Happy experiential workshops for Kripalu.   His award-winning memoir, American Snake Pit was released in 2018, and his next book, Learned Hopefulness, The Power of Positivity To Overcome Depressionis hailed as: “…the perfect recipe for fulfillment, joy, peace, and expansion of awareness.”  by Deepak Chopra, MD: Author of Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential.

Learn more about Dr. Dan at his website.


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APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). What Do You Know about Being Happy? The Positive Psychology Quiz. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 3, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-do-you-know-about-being-happy-the-positive-psychology-quiz/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 5 May 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.