A photo of the author and the bright blue book cover

The Happiness Equation

Develop your internal motivation. Focus. Be kind. Ignore the rest.

I read Neil Pasricha’s 2016 book The Happiness Equation as part of a pandemic-fatigue powered period of self-discovery. It certainly has its gimmicks and many of the concepts felt familiar to me. Still, I did appreciate the book and came away refocused on returning to being a happier person during such a tumultuous time.

Below I share a few of my notes from reading the book, though I recommend you buy a copy yourself.

My notes:

  • 10% of happiness is circumstances and 90% is genetic predisposition and intentional response (what we can help train) according to The How of Happiness, a book by Sonja Lyubomirsky
  • 7 tasks of happiness
    • 3 Nature Walks
    • The 20-Minute Replay
    • 5 Conscious Acts
    • High-Challenge, High-Skill Tasks
    • Ten Long Deep Breaths
    • Five Gratitudes
    • 20 Pages Of Fiction
  • In research, the happiest nuns lived on average 10 years longer than the least happy nuns
  • For most of human history our lives were brutal, short and highly competitive, so our brains are wired to that context
  • Do it for you (internal goals)
  • Sales, social and self: only one or two of the triangle of success seem really attainable and that’s the hard choice
  • We are most motivated when it’s for us, not for the money first. (NCAA vs NBA players etc )
  • Decide what success you want to have and then do it for yourself
  • Buddha: “Let others keep their criticism for you”
  • “We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture,” wrote Paul Mazur of Lehmann brothers in a 1927 issue of Harvard Business Review. “People must be trained to desire to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. man’s desires must overshadow his needs”.
  • Epictetus: “Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants”
  • Remember the lottery (that you are very forrtunate in the world, and be thankful)
  • Three buckets of 56 hours every week: sleep bucket, work bucket, spend your third bucket wisely!
  • Harvard MBAs might make three times as much but do they work three times as many hours?
  • He draws a four quadrant: thinking and doing in High and low. BURN is high high; space is low low; DO And THINK are the others. Make sure to flip flop between then and know which we are in
  • Fewer decisions mean faster decisions
  • We prefer making decisions though even though decision fatigue and options lead to regret
  • Parkinson’s law (published in the Economist in 1955): “work will expand to fill the time allowed” …. so block space and limit time
  • Instead of Can Do > Want to Do > Do as a line he argues it’s a self reinforcing circle a you get Better. Motivation doesn’t cause action; action causes motivation
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons,”
  • When can you spend 30 seconds now to make yourself more likely to engage in a behavior you want later (like laying out gym clothes the night before)
  • You are the average of the 5 people around you most (happiness, height, etc)
  • The Top Five Regrets of the Dying from a 2012 book by Bronnie Ware who inspired by her time as a palliative carer.
    1. I wish I was more true to myself
    2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
    3. I wish I expressed my feelings more
    4. I wish I kept closer to friends and family
    5. I wish I let myself be happier.
  • Don’t take advice: All advice conflicts, seek it to find your own. Make your decision
  • Charles Varlet wrote in 1872: “When we ask advice we are usually looking for an accomplice.”