John has the correct impression - I actually switched careers nine months ago. I now work as a programmer at a startup.
My most popular post, which brings in 20,000 to 40,000 pageviews a month, was written five months into my career (http://happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/). Everything after was less popular. Why? Because as my understanding of statistics and methodology improved, my writing possessed fewer bold and enthusiastic claims, which non-LW folk love.
I hold a medium degree of confidence in my latest posts, e.g. my one about meditation. Everything else... well I'm willing to bet $10k that gratitude, for example, can improve the well-being of a large subset of folks. But it would not surprise me if future studies showed that gratitude journals are only 50% as effective as the current batch of research claims.
If you're looking for happiness advice, positive psychology has lots of great ideas. But most interventions are less likely to help and less effective than claimed.
Author of the site here. Totally agree.
The evolutionary psychology may or may not be correct. I think there's some kernels of truth to it. But the mathematical model is crazy insanity, and I'm somewhat ashamed that I needed someone to point it out to me, especially considering that a brief look at the studies done which measured and correlated positivity ratios found 'dividing lines' all over the place, from 2 to 6 (http://happierhuman.com/losada-ratio).
Most people are aware of the placebo effect, but greatly underestimate how large it's power truly can be.
I have fibromyalgia. At one time I couldn't write, needed a cane to walk, had constant diarrhea, and worse. I had already tried dozens of treatments. I had grown skeptical.
Then I was given a treatment which made lots of sense. It was based off of a theory which I had my doubts about, but after learning more about it, I was 100% convinced this was it. After trying the treatment, I was immediately much better. I could run. I could shave my own beard without pain. I could play sports, I could eat all sorts of foods without problems. One day walking caused me pain, the next I could run without any problems. For two months I was in heaven.
Then all the pain came back. No matter how much I tried that treatment again, it didn't help. Worse, as I learned more about the treatment, I discovered I'd been scammed. Yet it still seemed to have worked a miracle, if only for two months. Why? The placebo effect. More than any other treatment I'd tried, I was convinced this one was going to work.
(fyi, now, three years later I'm doing great)
I wrote an article listing the evidence for 54 suggested strategies for increasing happiness.
In general, my writing is more enthusiastic than the evidence would call for, but alas I must excite my readers and get the pageviews. My interpretation is that although some of the studies (e.g. keeping a gratitude journal improves symptoms of depression) may be flawed, follow 10 of them at the same time, and you'll likely have included something that works. No smoking guns, of course.
Professor Zueblin is right when he says that thinking is the hardest work many people ever have to do, and they don't like to do any more of it than they can help. They look for a royal road through some short cut in the form of a clever scheme or stunt, which they call the obvious thing to do; but calling it doesn't make it so. They don't gather all the facts and then analyze them before deciding what really is the obvious thing.
From Obvious Adam, a business book published in 1916.
I agree with the challenging bit, but for a different reason. Quoting from Piers Steel, "We are motivational misers who constantly fine-tune our effort levels so that we strive just enough for success."
For low complexity goals, up to a point, there is a linear relationship between goal difficulty and goal performance, even when the reward is held constant. That is, more difficult goals require more motivation; provided that the goal is valuable, that motivation is provided.
The difficulty with choosing challenging goals is ensuring that you feel motivated, not excited. Excited is thinking of the benefits and feeling positive emotion in anticipation. Motivation is the energy necessary to actually complete all the crap in between, like doing your pushups. I use mental contrasting for this. It works better than nothing, but still leaves much to be desired.
I went to business school, studied some economics, even did well enough in a monetary policy competition to meet Bernanke.
And I can't once recall having a conversation like the one you've just initiated. Even if your arguments end up invalid... I'm interested to see what you have to say.
I've done this twice in my life. First, when I was in college, I took a semester to study abroad in china while continuing my old job for a SF startup remotely. I felt rich, yes. But it was a failure - first and foremost, I want to hang out with people whom I can communicate and enjoy my time with. I learned this lesson after trying this again, but this time, moving to India for 3 months. I am Indian, so I didn't expect the cultural barrier to be as much of a problem. It was.
I have tried several variants of this process. As expected, the largest road-block has been part 3 - the self-control not to consume the reward despite lack of completion.
I will mention that on the few occasions I have gotten this to work, my excitement and enjoyment was much higher than average. The desire and excitement for food seemed to translate into the task at hand.
If only everyone else had the same aesthetics as you. It's probably possible to make money in the space without being blatantly manipulative, but that's much much harder. I'm glad I'm not working in the space anymore.