Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I'm not entirely convinced by the science of happiness.

This is partly because I know a lot of unhappy scientists.

Then again, people have become so obsessed about whether they're happy or not that it's inevitable a science will arise to explain to them that they're not, coupled with some fine (allegedly) scientific advice about how they can get there.

I was, therefore, joyous to read some of the thoughts of London School of Economics professor Paul Dolan. 

He's the author of a book called Happiness by Design.

I'm sad that I missed it, but I was happy to see he gave a comprehensive interview to The Telegraph.

There, he offered suggestions that made a lot of (common) sense. 

Well, some of them.

He explained that looking at your happiness on a moment-to-moment basis is saner than examining your whole macro life outlook and despairing at all the mistakes you've made.

Dolan's next thought is that the perfect mixture of pleasure and purpose will bring you happiness. (What if pleasure is your purpose? Do you have a problem?)

Finally, Dolan says that experiences only make us happy if we're in the moment with them, paying attention to what's going on.

Really? I thought that experiences exist so that you can photograph them and instantly post them to Instagram.

Naturally, Dolan is full of tips.

If you're writing self-help books, you constantly need to invent more.

Otherwise, all the books will sound the same and it'll seem like you're only helping yourself.

Still, there's one piece of advice that I feel sure some people will blanch at. 

Dolan says you should cut out anything that doesn't make you happy.

For him, it means he doesn't take the family on long vacations because "they're basically childcare somewhere else."

Ah. Oh. 

Does that mean you're not supposed to do this either? What will your family think of you? Surely, they won't be happy. And when they're not happy, you're not happy, right?

How can Dolan bear it?

I always thought, naively perhaps, that the idea of taking the family away for a long time might be a good thing.

Not only does it allow the members of the family to frolic a little, but it also allows the parents to breathe some fresh air and drink some slightly different wines from the ones they usually get at the supermarket.

Moreover, if one follows Dolan's other tenets, isn't the idea to just find the happiness on a moment-to-moment basis, rather than assume that one's vacation will merely be one long, painful stretch of childcare somewhere else?

Perhaps your children will suddenly be enchanted by a certain couscous they've never tried before.

Perhaps they'll delight in Taiwanese ice cream or Uruguayan beaches. 

Some might worry that Dolan is masking his unhappiness by writing books about its opposite.

Actually, talking of books, here's another indicator that might make you concerned: Dolan says he doesn't read novels.

Oh, I hear you cry. This man has trouble escaping, doesn't he?

He's too wrapped up in the fripperies of real-world rationality to disappear into another world entirely.

It can't be easy to be a happiness professor and be happy, I suppose.

Or perhaps he's just been working too hard and needs a long vacation.

Published on: Mar 21, 2018