Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #81: The Happiness Equation

Dear kids,

There are a lot of happiness books in the world. Too many, probably–they overlap a lot. Still, sometime in your life, read at least a few.

The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha is a pretty user-friendly choice. Pasricha isn’t a researcher or a scientist. Instead, he gathers data and inspiration from disparate sources to create this manual for happiness.

Selected Quotes (a.k.a. The Best Stuff in the Book):

On positivity:

  • “Being happier is the biggest challenge you face every single day at work. Same if you’re a stay-at-home mom, studying through school, or traveling abroad. Teaching and training your brain to stay positively focused while navigating the bumps of life is something we’re not taught at school.”
  • “Harvard Business Review reports that happy people are 31% more productive, have 37% higher sales, and are three times more creative than their counterparts.”
  • “The problem isn’t that we have negative thoughts in our brain. The problem is we think we shouldn’t have negative thoughts.”
  • “Why is it so hard to be happy? Because life was mostly short, brutal, and highly competitive over the two hundred thousand years our species has existed on this planet. And our brains are trained for this short, brutal, and highly competitive world. . . . Were we happy back then? The better question is: Did we have time to be happy?”
  • “. . . Research published in The How of Happiness by University of California psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky tells us exactly how much of our happiness is based on our life circumstances. And it is 10 percent!”

On anger:

  • “’Tell me something, Brahman: Do friends and colleagues, relatives and kinsmen, ever come to your house as guests?’ ‘Yes, the Brahman answered. ‘And tell me something, Brahman,’ Buddha continued. ‘Do you serve them foods and delicacies when they arrive?’ ‘Yes,’ the Brahman answered, ‘I do.’ ‘And tell me something, Brahman,’ Buddha continued. ‘If they don’t accept them, to whom do those foods belong?’ ‘Well, I suppose if they don’t accept them, those foods are all mine.’ ‘Yes,’ said Buddha. ‘In the same way, Brahman, I do not accept your anger and your criticism. It is all yours.’ The Brahman was stunned and could think of nothing to say. His anger continued to bubble up inside him, but he had nowhere to put it. Nobody was accepting it or taking it from him.”
  • “New York Times–bestselling author Daniel Gilbert writes in Stumbling on Happiness: ‘If I wanted to predict your happiness and I could only know one thing about you, I wouldn’t want to know about your gender, religion, health, or income. I’d want to know about the strength of your relationships with your friends and family.’

On time management and decision making:

  • The author tells the story of a fish monger who couldn’t understand why fish sales were so low, even though they had every kind of fish and seasoning. When they realized their customers were scared of the decisions involved, they switched to selling three kinds of fish. They seasoned it and printed it out with instructions, and sales went up over five hundred percent.
  • In order to pare down decisions, President Obama wears only gray or blue suits. Mark Zuckerberg, too, owns “maybe twenty identical gray T-shirts.”
  • In order to reduce decision fatigue, write down which things in your life you can automate, which things you can regulate (do in set times and windows), which you can effectuate (put on repeat), and which do you want to debate.
  • “What’s the counterintuitive secret to having more time? Chop the amount of time you have to do it.”
  • The author tells the story of a CEO who routinely ignores emails. He says, “Don’t get me wrong. I sometimes walk over to chat with a person or pick up the phone. But if I wrote back to an email, I’d be sending a hot potato. And nobody wants to be asked by the CEO to do something . . . never mind on an evening or weekend. Why? Because people would drop everything to reply. And they would expect me to reply to that. Basically, if I sent an email, it would never end. So I end it.”

On motivation:

  • “How do we operate? Like this: First, I think I can do it. Then I want to do it. Then I do it. We think we must have the ability to do something, and then the motivation to do it, before we can successfully do it . . . What happens? Our most desirable tasks are placed way off in the distance with mental barriers dropped in front of them.”

On authenticity:

  • Three tests for finding your authentic self: 1. “The Saturday Morning Test. What do you do on a Saturday morning when you have nothing to do? Your authentic self should go toward that . . .” 2. “The Bench Test. How do you feel when you put yourself in a new situation? Your authentic self will lead you toward that . . .” 3. “The Five People Test. Who are the five people closest to you in the things you love most? Your authentic self is an average of those people . . .”
  • “Chuck Klosterman says, ‘I honestly believe that people of my generation despise authenticity, mostly because they’re all so envious of it.'”

More of the good stuff:

  • “In his book Flourish, Professor Martin Seligman says that ‘we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.'”
  • “Want to hear an old joke? An old man enjoyed sitting on his front porch every day until the elementary school bell rang and neighborhood kids walking past his porch stopped to taunt him from the sidewalk. Finally, the old man came up with a plan. He offered the children a dollar each if they’d return the next day and yell their insults. They were excited, so they returned, yelled their insults, and he paid each of them a dollar. He then said he’d like them to come back the next day and yell their insults, but he could pay them only 25 cents. So they returned, yelled their insults, and he paid them a quarter each. Before they left, he said that he could only afford to pay them a penny on Wednesday. ‘Forget it,’ they said. ‘That’s not worth it.’ And they never bothered him again.”



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