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Contrarian Resource #1

June 15, 2012

Each week I’m hoping to share a resource that isn’t your typical church plant resource.  These may be a bit contrarian, and the idea is to get you thinking outside the box.

This week’s resource is Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert.  This book shares multiple studies in a well-written way to prove that we are incapable of predicting what will make us happy in the future, we can’t accurately remember what made us happy in the past, and we don’t even know what makes us happy right now.

One story I liked was about men crossing a suspension bridge over a canyon. They had a physiological response to being high in the air on a swaying bridge: faster heartbeat, sweaty palms, etc.  At the end of the bridge a woman did a quick survey about their experience, and then gave her business card explaining that if they had any questions later about her survey they could call her; none did.  But for half the participants, she did the survey halfway through their crossing; a high number of men called her later when they met her in the middle of the bridge.  Why?  Was it more romantic there?  No.  What they had done was misinterpret their own physiological response to the bridge (fast heartbeat, sweaty palms) as a response to being attracted to the woman.  They thought their bodies were telling them they were attracted to her, when they weren’t!

One application I made for a Contrarian Church Planter is not to trust surveys we send people in our church. In fact, we rarely use surveys for anything.  I used to often ask people what first brought them to our church. Then I’d make adjustments accordingly.  But this book shows that people don’t really remember what first attracted them to something, and they can’t predict what will attract them to something in the future.  So it seemed counterintuitive to ask them what attracted them to our church.

Stumbling on Happiness is a fascinating book that reads with the speed of a best-selling novel.  Pick up a copy today!

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