The Happiness Equation – by Neil Pasricha – Happiness Book Review

I decided to read and review every possible book on happiness, as well as different happiness advice we see in videos, audio books, and other sources. There are many books to read, but I feel excited about what other authors think happiness is, with my first review covering:

I think this is a fair that my reviews don’t only praise people, just because they wrote a book, and even challenge some of their ideas. This is exactly what I decided to do in the first part of the review. In second part, I focus on things I completely agree with the author. I finish my review by praising author for teaching me something about happiness, even inviting him to answer a question I have about teaching happiness. Enjoy:

Part 1: Is This Really Happiness?

1 – Leadership Author Talking About Happiness?

First of all, back ground of the author is important, because there are many so called “experts”, which give us advice that sounds correct , but which in reality is misleading, incomplete, or pain wrong. Of course, they get few things right, but we should be always careful with anyone who is not specialized in Happiness.
Indeed, in the case Neil Pasricha he is a leadership coach. As such, he teaches at companies to improve on their performance. The idea here, is that better performance leads to more happiness.
Performance > Happiness
And while, this is only one part of happiness equation, I believe that at least 50% of this book addresses this specific relationship.

2 – Happiness In Story Telling

Of course, there are many ways to write a book. One such way is to write a story with a lesson, which is pretty much how this book is written. This is, indeed, a great way to write a book, as we are said to remember stories better, but there is a catch.
Stories only show concepts superficially, meaning often we won’t know how to specifically apply these concepts in our lives.
For example, Niel gives us “7 things that will make us happy today”, which are:
  • Go for a walk
  • Think back to old positive memories
  • Make a random act of kindness
  • Unplug
  • Get into Flow
  • Meditate
  • Be grateful
All these techniques are presented at face value. We are just told to do them and we will be happy. Still, while they can make us happy, we can also waste our time, or get negative experience if we do them incorrectly.

Part 2: You nailed it! This is Happiness

4 – “Want Nothing

Neil, correctly saw that current society often fails to make us happy. This is because we have different “wants” and “needs”. “Wants” are infinite, while “needs” are finite. Thus, infinite materialism won’t make us happy. The true happiness comes from within, it is condition independent, and we don’t really need want to have anything to be happy and alive. The only true condition is to be alive.

5 – Origins of Negative Self Talk

Happiness equation talks about the origin of negative emotions, saying that they come from ancient times, when every day was a fight to survival. Therefore, we needed negative emotions to stay alive as “only the paranoid will survive“. But, these times are over. In a new world we are rarely faced with a life or death situations, which is probably why there are so many of us today living in the world. Yet, out negative outlook at the world remains. We still have an active amygdala that is looking for problems in the world. This is one of the reasons we are unhappy today. Simply said, this ancient system prevents us from being happy.
Regardless, I often argue that we can be happy most of the time. This often starts vivid discussions, which I welcome, as I believe that negative emotions are important but only to a certain extant. In fact, we can learn how to control these emotions, so they don’t control us, which will make anyone happy most of the time.

6 – Hide, Apologize, and Finally Accept

This is another big concept, as even in my life I often feel like Hiding and Apologizing for my emotions, avoiding Accepting them instead. For example, I once heard that I was saying too much “sorry” and “thank you”. I had low self-esteem, and would essentially “kiss ass”. Even as I got older I was still Hiding and Apologizing, often lying about my name, age, and nationality. I even faked my own wedding, which was somewhat fun, but the reason I did it was because I was immature and insecure. I just preferred to hide behind humor than to show people how I really felt.
To this point Neil says that “when we apologize we avoid ownership, create distance, and suggesting that we are doing something wrong“, meaning that it is not the healthiest way of conducting ourselves. Judgement disappears when we have a complete ownership, self acceptance, vulnerability, and integrity with ourselves and our problems.

Part 3: I Actually Learned Something Today About Happiness

Life Is 10% What Happens And 90% Of How We React To It

When I teach happiness, I often have to say “most of the time”, “there are of course exceptions”, and “despite these exceptions, for most people, this rule hold”. This is why I liked so much this insight as it gave me an extra dimension into happiness mathematics.
As such, it feel that it is logical that it is our reaction about what happens in the world that make us happy, or not. Still, its nice to know the specifics, that 90% of our happiness will come from our mindset, while only 10% from our circumstances, such as how much money we have and how good are our social relationships.

Do It For You

Another big winner for me in this book was this idea that we need to decide to be happy for ourselves, not for someone else. Indeed, so many people try to please their parents, partners, or general public. They think that other peoples approval will make them happy, which is rarely the case.
Even, in my personal life, sometimes I don’t follow this rule, as I don’t do thing that make me happy. The biggest example of it is when I feel unhappy at work. I used to work for high salary, doing things that I didn’t like, and it made me very unhappy. I also worked for free, doing the thing that I really liked, and i didn’t care about the lack of money, as it made me happy.
As such, Neil says “Commissioned work will tend to be less satisfying that work that we do from our self-interest“, which confirms already said above.
Additionally, “We are not competing with others, just with ourselves”. This is important, as whenever we are competing with others, we will feel negative and want to give up as soon as we know we can’t win. Competing with others is therefore hard as virtually always there is someone who is doing way better than us. However, if we do activities for ourselves we will do them for longer and better, which will make us happier.
Thus, we need to do activities for ourselves first.

Retirement Won’t Make You Have, Unless …

There is a common myth that when we retire, we are finally free, and happy. We will get free money from state, we can travel the world, and essentially do whatever we want. However, retirement is an outdated concept that is on many levels wrong. For one, originally, retirement age was set at 65 years old, as our life expectation was of 67 years. Today, we are expected to live way longer that this number, we have to pay money for our retirement, and often we get depressed as soon as we retire. This is because we can’t practice whatever they used to be doing before we retired, so we don’t have a mission in life, no reason to live.
Neil confirms this by saying that our brain has to be occupied with problem solving always, even after we retire. Ideally, we need to always to do things that we love. Thus, when we retire, we can simply continue on doing them, with or without government approval. We need to be active focusing on what really maters to us and we will be happy.

My Question To Neil Pasricha

Lastly, I am actually confused about how to coach happiness at work. Specifically, I believe that most people who work at corporate jobs are not as happy as they can be. As such, logically, if coaches want whats best for the people they would inspire them to follow their passions and dreams. This would lead to some people leaving their jobs, which I suppose is not the main goal of managers who hire coaches to train their stuff. Thus, the question: How can we teach happiness at work? Specifically, do we only focus on increasing productivity? or Do we withhold some information about what it really takes to be happy?

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Article by Roman Russo

Author, Blogger & Happiness Coach. Just published my first book called - HOW TO ACT NORMAL !!! It is about how Marketing failing to make us Happy and what we can do about it. Indeed, we are surrounded my marketing every day, but we seldom think what is an accumulative effect of all these ads does to our Psychology and Happiness. Still, happiness today and forever is possible. The only thing we need it to change the way we think! The goal is to make this world a happier place for everyone to live, as happier world will be a better place to live in. Do you agree? Please help me spread this cause!

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