The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha

 I give this book a 8/10. Neil Pasricha goes over 9 Secrets to happiness and provides concrete examples and suggestions for how to implement these into daily life. I did enjoy this book and I even ended up seeing him speak which was neat!

Pasricha is a very energetic, engaging speaker and I after listening to him I wanted to go back and reread the book! Fortunately I have all of these handy notes I made so I don’t have to read the whole thing again – although that would not be a bad thing either.

A lot of these “secrets” seem like common sense and when you read them you might think “well d’uh!” but I encourage you to stop and think about whether or not you actually practice them. Just because it is common sense does not mean you put it into daily practice. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most overlooked.

Anyway, here are my key takeaways 🙂 I hope you enjoy!

Secret 1: The first thing you must do is to Be Happy First

  • We must learn to be happy first and then do great work and then have success
  • Start with being happy first and everything else follows
  • Be happy > Great work > Big Success (not the other way around – being successful does not lead to being happy!)
  • Why is it so hard to be happy?
    • We focus on negative thoughts, fear and paranoia
    • We scan the world for problems and focus on them e.g., for performance reviews at work we only focus on improving what is not great, not on making what is good even better
  • People automatically look for problems, find them and then try to improve them vs. trying to find good results and make them better
  • Life is 10% what happened and 90% how we react to it
    • 90% happiness is based on how we see the world and what is internal to us
    • Only 10% of happiness is determined by the external world
  • 7 Ways to be Happier Now: exercise, writing for 20 minutes about a positive experience (this makes you relive it), random acts of kindness, a complete unplug (of phone, computer, etc.), hit flow (find something you enjoy/be in the zone/find your flow), meditation, gratitude

Secret 2: Do this and criticism can’t touch you: Do It For You

  • External goals don’t help you become a better person – only internal goals do
  • Once you set an external goal and achieve it you look for what is next; you are never satisfied
  • External rewards actually decrease interest/creativity/desire to do the behaviour even if it was something you intrinsically enjoyed before!
  • 3 S’s of Success:
    • Sales: monetary
    • Social: success among peers
    • Self: genuinely proud of self, happy with work, feel satisfied
    • Impossible to have all 3 – one always hinders another
  • Why do we listen to critics? Low Self-Confidence
    • Self-confidence is based on opinion of yourself and your opinion of others
    • High self and High others = confident
    • High self/Low others = Arrogant
    • Low self/low others = cynical
    • Low self/high others = Insecure
  • Self-Acceptance: 1) Hide 2) Apologize 3) Accept
    • Hide: being ashamed of something
    • Apologize: admitting but apologizing for it when shouldn’t
    • Accept: finally accepting it and being proud
  • Do not become affected by other’s feelings/emotions. You can only control yourself.
    • Don’t let criticism affect you – do it for you

Secret 3: The three words that will save you on your worst days: Remember the Lottery – you already have everything you need

  • Amygdala: scans for problems in the world
  • Prefrontal cortex: rational thought
  • Can’t control our emotions, can only control our reactions to our emotions
  • We live in a culture of More vs. a culture of Enough
    • Everywhere we look we are reminded of what else we “need” when we actually need to remember that we already have enough
  • Remember the lottery: be conscious of the more you want and be conscious to remember how lucky you are to be where you are; you have enough; more is not always better

Secret 4: The dream we all have that is completely wrong: Never Retire

  • Retirement is a broken concept – Based on untrue assumptions that we enjoy doing nothing instead of being productive, we can afford to live well while making no money and that we can afford to pay others to earn no money for decades
  • Ikigai (“icky guy”) – meaning “the reason you wake up in the morning”; the thing that drives you most; having a purpose
  • Why work? 4 S’s
    • Social: social connections are the single best driver of happiness
    • Structure: work provides structure to the day
    • Stimulation: a place to learn and discover new things
    • Story: each organization has a story that employees can connect with
    • Retirement stalls all of the 4 S’s

Secret 5: How to make more money than a Harvard MBA: Overvalue You

  • Need to over-value your time so every hour of working life is spent doing something you love

Secret 6: The secret to never being too busy again: Create Space

  • Need to know how to manage your time between activities that require different amounts of time (both for doing and thinking activities) and know how to prioritize
  • High Think/High Do = Burn
    • Okay so long as you don’t burn out – can get a lot done but need to make sure you don’t go too hard for too long
  • Low Think/Low Do = Space
    • Absolutely nothing going on, days blur together, unproductive
  • High Think/Low Do = Think
    • You are thinking! Reflecting, journaling, talking to someone, etc.
    • Physically relaxing but still engaging
  • Low Think/Hi Do = Doing
    • Physically doing something with little thought
  • Every moment you need to be aware of what box you are in
  • Happy people know how to alternate between them
  • How to create more space? 3 Removals: Choice, Time, Access
    • Choice: fewer choices means faster decisions, therefore more decision-making energy for things that matter
      • Automate things that you can i.e. wear a uniform, always pack the same lunch, etc. therefore less decisions that waste time and energy
      • Too many decisions leads to fatigue and you become vulnerable to easy gimmicks/simple decisions e.g., impulse buys; you either make no decision or a bad decision when have decision fatigue
      • More choices reduces happiness because end up making bad decisions
      • How to prioritize: Automate, Regulate, Effectuate, Debate
      • Learn what you can make an automatic choice (automate), what you have to make time for because high importance in life (regulate), what you can regulate with specific times/rules (effectuate e.g. when to check email) and what you should spend time and energy thinking about (debate)
    • Time: Work expands to fill the time available to do it
      • Make tighter deadlines for yourself and you will get the work done in that time! Use schedules, lists, etc.
      • The less time you have to do something the more effort you put in because there is no choice
    • Access: Block access to your brain – remove all entry points except one you can control
      • Cannot multitask effectively or efficiently – only actually do one thing at a time
      • Make context switches that occur frequently that creates the illusion of multitasking
      • Need to remove access and create space
      • Focus on one thing at a time because constantly switching actually wastes time/uses more time (‘time cost’ of multitasking)
      • Cut off access to other distractions so can focus on one thing at a time

Secret 7: How to turn your biggest fear into your biggest success: Just Do It

  • Two barriers we place in front of our least desirable tasks: I can’t do it and I don’t want to anyway
  • Tell self that the order is: can do > want to do > Do
  • But in reality we should START with the DO which will show us we can and then we actually start doing it which makes us want to do it more (continuous circle)
  • Do first; it makes you think you can do and then want to do
  • Figure out little hacks that make the ‘doing’ easier at the beginning
  • Once you start doing something you will continue because action causes momentum and further motivation

Secret 8: The simple way to master your most important relationship: Be You

  • Your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship in your life
  • Cognitive dissonance: misalignment between what you are doing and what you want to do – leads to unhappiness and confusion about values
  • Happiness = when what you think, say and do is all in harmony
  • 3 Tests to Uncover your Authentic Self
    • 1) The Saturday Morning Test – What do you do on a Sat morning when you have nothing to do? This is your authentic self; these are the things you are drawn to
    • 2) The Bench Test – How do you feel when you immerse yourself in a new situation/environment? Observe your authentic reaction to the situation
    • 3) The Five People Test – Who are the 5 people closest to you? You are the average of them
  • Being the authentic you removes regrets

Secret Chapter: Relationships:

  • Look at what percentage of the time you are happy and what percentage your partner is happy and then the percentage that your happy and unhappy times overlap
  • You are tremendously influenced by the mood and energy of your partner so it is important to find someone who is at your level of happiness or a little higher

Secret 9: The single best piece of advice you’ll ever take: Don’t Take Advice

  • Advice is never objectively true in all situations and there will always be conflicting advice provided
  • Advice reflects the adviser’s thoughts, not yours
  • Cliches, quotes, pieces of advice resonate with you when they confirm something you already know/believe
  • When seek advice, usually looking for accomplice/someone to confirm what we already believe/know


Re-reading these 9 Secrets reconfirms both the simplistic aspect of each one but also reconfirms the fact that I do not do them on a constant basis. Just because they are simple does not make them easy. I encourage you (and myself) to practice these 9 secrets on a daily basis. Not necessarily each one every day, but to have them all in the back of your mind so each day you can work on becoming the happiest, most authentic, truest version of you!



2 thoughts on “The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha

  1. Well, shucks, Sarah! Somebody sent me this and I must say… talk about thorough! Thank you so much for reading the book and sharing this thoughtful reflection. I’m going to try to get up to 9/10 on the next one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Neil! Wow I cannot believe you read my post! I know it is thorough but I hope it inspires others to read your book – I so enjoyed it! I do not doubt that I will give the next one a 9/10 🙂 I might have to read the Book of Awesome next !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s