What’s it about?

The Happiness Equation (2016) reveals nine essential secrets to living a happy life. These are guidelines that can help anyone obtain the rewards that come with having a positive outlook on life. Happiness isn’t just about reducing stress and anxiety; it’s about paving the way to great work and success.

About the author:

Neil Pasricha, a New York Times best-selling author, is an entrepreneur, public speaker, and advisor. He is also the creator of the popular blog 1,000 Awesome Things and its accompanying publication, The Book of Awesome.

Become a happier person:

Happiness is not given; it is something you can reach. And it does not require much. You do not need to practice expensive yoga retreats, visit all the wonders in the world, or have lots of money to feel happy in your life.

Your job is to start from a place that provides you joy and do the things that make you happy:

As a child, you might get the idea that happiness does not come without colossal work or great success. But this is sometimes the unhappiness of many people because the equation works counter wise.

It would be best if you did not pursue happiness. Some circumstances, such as getting promoted at work, account for only 10 percent of personal joy. All the rest comes from within, seeing the world in a positive light.

To help recognize your everyday happiness, write in a journal one thing that made you happy. This way, you will rewind the happy and joyful moments in your day and feel relieved.

Motivation is a significant part of being happy. Only things that you like will make you happy, do not be obliged by what others think. Your source of joy is different from others’. Do things that make you happy, not for external targets and presents.

When your motivation is money or admiration, you are entering an endless cycle of sorrow. Even if you reach your purpose, it will only result in a brief moment of peace before you feel the requirement to set another goal.

An author started writing because it brought him joy. He uploaded it to a blog. When the website became more popular, and since then, he began setting purposes. In the beginning, he wanted to reach a million visitors. Once he had done that, he tried to get ten times the visitors he had at first. Then he set his sights on writing a novel. And on and on. There was no end.

He was chasing happiness that did not – and could not – last. So he developed to only do things for the sheer joy of doing them.

Two conflicts interfere with feeling happy, but you already have the ticket to happiness by merely being alive:

You can not get rid of negative thoughts; they will turn up no matter how positive your outlook on life is.

When trying to get rid of these thoughts, you may face a feeling of a battle is raging in your head. That’s true; it is a battle between two parts of your brain: the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.

The amygdala is very old, and it scans every situation for potential problems and threats. Way back when, our ancestors were always on the lookout for saber-toothed tigers and other predators, and the amygdala is basically what kept them alive. Things have changed, but the amygdala still has to do its job.

The prefrontal cortex, which developed more recently, tries to counter these worries with rational thought and comforting logic. 

As if that were not enough, another battle occurs with ourselves, a conflict between self-worth and feelings of doubt about how well we measure up to others.

While it is not always possible to calm your amygdala, especially if you are about to make your public speaking debut, there are reliable ways to deal with your envy and discontent.

Always put the right perspective first, be grateful for being alive in the first place:

Being alive is a bit like winning some wild cosmic lottery. Because 7 billion people are active today, 108 billion people have died, and we can indicate that every 14 out of every 15 people are already deceased. 

Retirement will not make you happy; you need to stay purposefully active:

Are you looking forward to retiring and eat fruits at your labor? If you want to stay happy and healthy, you should answer with a no.

Germany invented the concept of retirement in 1889. They created it to open up the job market to younger people and let people over 65 enjoy their final years.

It sounds like an up-right idea – but it’s no longer suitable. According to studies, to stay healthy and active, a person needs to keep fruiting.

A survey from the mid-twentieth century explains that 50% to 60% of people over the age of 65 would postpone retirement and continue working.

And this is a good thing since being productive gives us purpose and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. The aim is a crucial factor for happiness, and some people living in Okinawa are usually familiar with it.

Okinawans have the highest life expectancy on our planet and have no concept or word for retirement. They do have ikigai, which roughly translates to “the reason you wake up in the morning,” They recognize this as vital to longevity and quality of life.

Researchers at Tohoku University spent seven years studying the impact of ikigai on 43,000 different people. And it came out that the healthy, productive, and less stressed person has a better reason to get out of bed.

The way you spend your time is more important than what you get by being paid:

It feels good to receive money for the hard work you do daily. It is like a reward that gives instant joy.

Now let’s look at an assistant manager of a retail store, who earns an average of $70,000 per year. She gets two weeks of vacation, but her average workweek is 50 hours, making it 2,500 hours per year. And lo and behold, the assistant manager earns $28 per hour.

So what do you value more – the money you get by working or the time you lose by working rather than doing the things that bring you joy?

We should give time a higher value in your life since we have precious little of it.

Leading us to the fifth secret of happiness – valuing time.

It means being aware of how you are spending your time and reconsidering how much your time is worth when you don’t spend it doing things that give you joy, meaning, and purpose.

When you evenly divide the 168 hours of a week into three categories – Sleep, work, and things I love – you’ll get 56 hours for all three, which should leave you well-rested and feeling the benefits of a healthy work-life balance. 

To feel less stressed and find more time for what’s important, reduce your choices and create space:

It can be stressful to make decisions. When the author decided to count all of his daily decisions, he found 285. And most of these weren’t even very important.

Yet every settlement requires mental energy, and this causes a level of stress. This stress can be reduced to save you time and stop you from procrastinating, and that is by eliminating your choices.

The author’s former colleague, Benjamin Lee, only goes shopping for clothes once a year, at which time he buys 30 boxer shorts, 30 identical pairs of socks, 15 shirts, and five pairs of black pants.

By choosing this, he only needs to do laundry once a month, and he never has to think about what to wear. According to his calculations, he saves 15 minutes every day by removing these decisions, which adds up to an entire week every year.

Lee has created space to help him concentrate on the things he wants to do and make him happy – and that’s what the sixth secret to happiness is all about.

Breakthrough barriers and do the things you love, even if you’re afraid:

When was the latest you have ticked something off your bucket list? If it’s been a while, what’s preventing you from doing so? It usually’s not cash or supplies that stop us from achieving something; we set up our barriers and trick ourselves into staying away from things that would make us satisfied.

Typically, the two boundaries that keep us from joy are the Can’t Do and the Don’t Want To barriers.

Considering that you can’t do something is an efficient way to save yourself from ever trying. The author concluded he couldn’t swim, but this idea stemmed from a bad experience he’d had in the water as a child, which led to his creating the false belief that he couldn’t do it.

Another illusion of the mind is to convince yourself that you don’t want to produce something, which creates a second barrier that often follows the first.

The author came up with plenty of reasons to withdraw from swimming, telling himself that it’s a loss of time or that there are several other techniques to get training.

These images prevent you from undergoing the many pleasures life has to offer. Happily, you can break through these barriers, which is the seventh secret of happiness.

Even though it can be hard to picture yourself doing something different and scary, assuming it is an integral part of passing your fear. Using your imagination and imagining yourself doing the frightening thing, your brain will start getting used to the idea.

The next right thing is to dive in and do it. When the author met his wife, a woman who enjoyed swimming, he determined that he had to do it and overcome the barrier. He quit thinking up excuses and signed up for swimming lessons, and he never looked back.

Notably, once he got in the water, his thinking developed, and a new position took shape: he could swim. Soon after that, he realized that he wanted to swim.

Be yourself and don’t rely on the advice of others:

If you’ve ever attempted to be friendly with someone who is being unkind and harmful, then you’re familiar with the pain and discomfort that comes with not honoring your real emotions.

And an eighth secret of being happy is by being yourself. A significant relationship you have in life isn’t with anyone else – it’s with yourself.

Yet, many people ignore this bond and fail to live according to their real selves. They put on an act and do things they wouldn’t do otherwise, to either gain the honor of someone else or to further their career.

Trusting your thoughts and feelings and not living according to others’ advice is the ninth secret of happiness.

Every day there are advertisements, articles, experts, and friends trying to guide on how to live and be happy, and it’s not unusual to run into contradictions.

Eventually, you’re the only one who knows your beliefs and passions, so you’re the only one with the right answers for your circumstances. To be happy, you can’t rely on others’ advice – you have to ask yourself what you want and trust your feelings.