This is a book about ten Great Ideas. Each chapter is an attempt to savor one idea that has been discovered by several of the world’s civilizations—to question it in light of what we now know from scientific research, and to ex- tract from it the lessons that still apply to our modern lives.


  1. The Divided Self
  2. Changing Your Mind
  3. Reciprocity with a Vengeance
  4. The Faults of Others
  5. The Pursuit of Happiness Love and Attachments
  6. The Uses of Adversity
  7. The Felicity of Virtue
  8. Divinity With or Without God
  9. Happiness Comes from Between
  10. Conclusion: On Balance

If Passion drives, let Reason hold the Reins.



This finding, that people will readily fabricate reasons to explain their own behavior, is called “confabulation.” Confabulation is so frequent in work with split-brain patients and other people suffering brain damage that Gazzaniga refers to the language centers on the left side of the brain as the interpreter module, whose job is to give a running commentary on what- ever the self is doing, even though the interpreter module has no access to the real causes or motives of the self’s behavior.


Human rationality depends critically on sophisticated emotionality. It is only because our emotional brains works so well that our reasoning can work at all.

In later studies, Mischel discovered that the successful children were those who looked away from the temptation or were able to think about other enjoyable activities. These thinking skills are an aspect of emotional intelligence—an ability to understand and regulate one’s own feelings and desires.


the lesson Buddha and Aurelius had taught centuries earlier: “Nothing is miserable unless you think it so; and on the other hand, nothing brings happiness unless you are content with it.”


You can change your affective style too-—but again, you can’t do it by sheer force of will. You have to do something that will change your reper- toire of available thoughts. Here are three of the best methods for doing so: meditation, cognitive therapy, and Prozac. All three are effective because they work on the elephant.


Passionate love is a drug. Its symptoms overlap with those of heroin (eu- phoric well-being, sometimes described in sexual terms) and cocaine (eupho- ria combined with giddiness and energy).


if the sages have a variety of unstated reasons for warning us away from passionate love and attachments of many kinds, perhaps we should be selective in heeding their advice



Love and work are crucial for human happiness because, when done well, they draw us out of ourselves and into connection with people and projects beyond ourselves.