The Happiness Equation: book highlights

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Out of 34 books I’ve read this year and out of 36 that I read last year, there are few gems in there. Among all the books, one that makes almost any day better for me is the Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha.

Yesterday I reviewed my notes thoroughly and they made me so deep impact that I ought to share the main points with you today.

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future”

Life is happening now, we must learn to be present is the present for a reason. To be more present, mindfulness is a good practice it makes us happy and success follows happiness. Be happy first.

Distractions in life are major obstacles for happiness. Like we are in the present, we shouldn’t focus to external goals, but to internal drivers. Internal motivation is a driver of excellence. Happy people do things, because they are happy and interested about doing things.

While external motivations can get ourselves distracted, it is only our own judgements and criticism that often makes us discouraged and sad.

Buddha says, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

Be happy first, and start with yourself. You are worthy of attention, love and affection. We cannot control most of what happens in life, however we can control how we react to it.

So now we have the groundwork covered. Next is the difficult part: the purpose, the work and social life. To put it shortly, we are social animals and we need social context. We should work in something where we can increase our collective happiness. As it is pointed out: giving is the simply best way to increase your own happiness. Doing good for others.

We need to stay active with the giving and kindness as well, here we get to the purpose or what is described in the book as ikigai. Never retire, what you do not use you lose: this applies to happiness, your brain and your health as well.

Like Gandhi said: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

I ought to read the whole book again soon and I recommend it to you too.

Exercise Advantage

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We are created to move. The benefits of exercise transfer to all areas of life. I guess one of the most underappreciated form of advantage is the cognitive advantages: people who exercise more learn faster and remember better.

Above all it is not even that difficult: we just need to reduce the passive time and substitute it with standing up or walking for example.

The 10 000 steps a day is a worthy goal. Even if you cannot make it to the 10 000 try 7 000 at first, it’s gonna transform your life in the long run, not just your body, but your mind as well.

Over time, exercise energizes. Exercise let’s us to rewire our thoughts and emotions into a more positive state as well.

Health is based on movement, nutrition and sleep. If you have enough of all these, you are likely to live a healthy life. Then there are exceptions to both directions. Those who exercise gain the health advantage, those who do not throw the advantage away.

Three Poems, Three Reminders

 

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I am awestruck by some of the poems we have chance to enjoy at this day and age, i.e.:

Invictus by William Ernest Henley (YouTube)

A Million Pieces by Jon Jorgenson (YouTube)

No Man is an Island by John Donne (YouTube)

Lesson we all can learn from these poems are boundless. From key reminder in Invictus for me it is to stick with what I can control.

A Million Pieces keeps giving me goose bumps, because in fact it’s a reminder that we are the makers of our life, often through apparent suffering we are going to make our life. What hurts and breaks us is in fact making us ever more unique.

And finally, No Man is an Island reminds us that everything is interconnected.

We can control our lives. We will get hurt while trying to live, however that hurt makes us stronger. If however something unfortunate happens, it’s good to remember that any loss is collective loss.

Why Easier Life?

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”This or that would make my life easier and that would be nice…”

This kind of comments are not so rare. Yet I do not understand why people wish easier life. Life already tends to make itself easier, people are working at it every day. Human beings are lazy by nature, so our environment gets “easier” for sure.

Question is, should we desire easier life?

As Bruce Lee put it, we shouldn’t wish for an easy life, but the strength to live a difficult one.

Instead of wishing to play on easy mode, be grateful of what you have and then ask what it is you can develop today to get better at it.

Small Steps Taken Daily  

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Wishful thinking about big changes is easy, yet not very realistic fantasy. At the same time human mind tends to underestimate the change that is capable by doing small things every day.

List your most important priorities. Okay now go through the list, what are you doing today for:

Health

Loved ones

Financial status

Purpose / career / dream..?

You need to know what is it you want to achieve, and then ask yourself what it is you can do for it today. Then simply start building the discipline to do it. Eventually that discipline becomes habit, your identity and your identity is the biggest leverage you can get. You’ll start doing things because you are the action, you are the verb, you are your own doing.

You are the master of your fate.

It’s not the achievement that matters, but the journey. It’s the sense of progress that brings lasting satisfaction, not the single achievement. Even when you happen to achieve the object of your desire, you do not last very long satisfied. At best it is about five seconds.

However, nothing expect yourself can take away the sense of progress and that you get from taking a step each day towards the grander horizons.

Only by trying out how far you can get, you’ll know how far you will get. You might surprise yourself, or the world might surprise you. However what won’t change is the satisfaction you’ll get from the journey and from each step.

Start valuing the small steps and the journey. Start walking now, because present is the only moment we really have control of.  Every day is like a new life, we can remember some of the lessons of yesterday and we do not know yet if we can make it until tomorrow. Place emphasis on the journey today and take the step!

Virtue is the Purpose of Life

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Doing good, doing the right thing in whatever position you are in life is the purpose of life according to the Stoics. Take responsibility of your soul, of what you can do, because that’s all you can do.

Do not judge, writes Marcus Aurelius.

Do not judge, always seek to praise were Abraham Lincolns words according to Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Virtue is doing the right thing when we have the freedom to choose otherwise. Marcus Aurelius is fascinating example of this, because he was the emperor of the known world, ruler with absolute power. Yet he was living in virtue.

Trying to put this to the scope of personal life: should I discard all my desires I ask myself again? Then I remember the difference between a desire, lust and a positive desire.

What causes us to be virtuous? What causes positive desires?

Sigmund Freud suggests that it may be sublimation. Something negative we have done earlier in life may cause to turn into something major positive later in life.

Reflecting on my own past, I certainly feel that the reason I contemplate so much on the virtues, what is right and best for everyone is because I feel that when I was younger I wasn’t very good example. Due to that earlier experience I certainly want to go to the opposite direction as fast as I can, which is a very positive.

We want to progress and above all we want to be something more than we were before. As stoics put it, at least we should try to be better than animals. And the way to do that is through civilizing ourselves and taking responsibility of our souls. By putting our values to work and working from where we are now.

 

Further info

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius on Wikipedia

Marcus Aurelius Lecture on Stoicism

Freud on: Sublimation

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Review of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

After finishing this classic, I got to say that this is exceptionally well honed book. The structure is great and the key message seems to be clear: you will find it much more advantageous for everyone to further your cause when you start with kind words.

The title of the book and the structure is brilliant. You can clearly see the vast amount of study and practice it has taken the author to put this all together in a such clear and concise manner. Wisdom is age tested, and carefully structured to this book.

Some of the content can seem rather repetitive after a few examples around the same topic. However this also creates a more interesting reading experience on subsequent reading times.

Mostly because those a bit outdated examples I chose to give 4 / 5 rather than full five. Definitely a book worth of reading and studying again and again.

 

 

Relax Under Pressure

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First stop and take a deep breath.

There are few important things in life and most of those are present in the moment. Therefore stop being so serious about everything. Sure you are important and whatever is it important, however if you are honest to yourself, is it really that important?

When we are under pressure, it means we have to deal with that pressure. If we choose to tackle it, our bodies and minds gets to a stressed state in order to deal with it. In other words stress helps our bodies and minds to prepare and deal with it. Stress in these cases is beneficial.

We are oscillating between stress and relaxation. Too much of either for prolonged time is no good. We should consciously also be mindful in which state we are and do we need to increase or decrease the stress for example.

We do not need to be stressed when we are about to rest.

We need psyche a bit up before giving a talk or meeting a client.

If we all would be zen masters, we could do this consciously at a right time. Since we are not, we have to learn ourselves to control our minds through our breathing or meditation for example.

Everything begin with breathing, so breathing is one of the most effective ways to tell our lizard brains should we increase or decrease the stress levels.

Learn to relax under pressure, and you won’t have another bleak day, because you know what is important and what’s not. Above all you are just in the state of mind where you want to be.

Love What You Have

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When contemplating about suffering, especially the mental kind. Most of it boils down to having different expectations than is reality at present. I guess the idea of four noble truths, is that we must begin by accepting the present conditions as they are.

Once we can accept the present, another set of thoughts that surely helps us to live forward is the Tetrapharmakos: “What is good is easy to get, what is terrible is easy to endure.”

Because change is slow and requires a lot of repetition, loving what you have works the best. By loving what you have you are likely to succeed faster. Happiness brings success, not the other way around.

What We Focus on Grows

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What we focus on grows, this is such a powerful thought! Essentially anything that we give our attention to strengthens. Anything we put our conscious thoughts, will grow stronger.

I.e. if we feed our thoughts about tiredness, those thoughts will strengthen. In the same way, if we focus to what has gone well, we positive feelings that come through it amplify and will last longer.

Applying this to the real world: how much positive feedback do you give? Precise actions and numbers please! I noticed some weeks back, how easy it is for us to think the feedback as something mainly negative to give when something goes wrong. I met some other passengers on the bus that only intended to give complaints.

Woken up by the thought I thought I must also try to give more positive feedback on every possible occasion. Positive feedback strengthens and grows that which works. Naturally strengthening what works is a far better approach than nagging about what doesn’t work.

In fact a good tip that I just picked up from the How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Caernegie is to always praise first. Of course the point is to find genuine praise, which is possible by learning to find things that are genuinely praise worthy.

That which we focus on strengthens. We will find more positive if we direct our attention through the positive.