Welcome back to Off the Shelf, friends! We’re trying something a bit different with Off the Shelf in 2017. Instead of me posting reviews each month, an entrepreneur friend and I will be trading reviews of the same book. This month features a review from my editorial colleague Liz Thompson of House Style Editing. Take it away, Liz!
The Happiness Equation
By Neil Pasricha
These discussion questions are from the book’s reader’s guide on the Penguin-Random House website.
1. Neil Pasricha suggests that our model for happiness is broken—that in order to be happy, we must first be happy. This idea seems controversial, counterintuitive even. Before reading The Happiness Equation, what was your model for happiness? Has your view of happiness changed after reading this book? How so?
Before reading this book, I felt that happiness should be pursued and even sought after as if there was a magic formula to be happy. I have attempted meditation, therapy, and life coaching to uncover the secret to happiness. After reading the book I realized (what I likely have always known) that there is no secret; being happy is dependent on a series of daily decisions and choices. Making decisions on how we will live and connect with others will lead to happiness — or not. I now realize that I can affect my happiness more than any formula. But, isn’t that easier said than done? How do I practically make a decision to be happy? Pasricha describes how our reactions to situations are far more indicative of our happiness level than the actual event or situation we are reacting to. Making a choice to be happy and react with intention is a daily practice. Only by practicing daily intention to choose happiness in every situation with help us achieve happiness.
2. Pasricha advises that one of the best ways to get the most out of this book is to give yourself a seven-day challenge. Which of the “Big 7” ways to be happier right now are you most drawn to? How could you incorporate it into your daily routine?
I couldn’t pick one! I love the idea of Random Acts of Kindness and A Complete Unplug. Doing something kind for someone else helps me shift focus from my issues and problems to extending kindness to other people. It helps me connect with and appreciate humanity instead of being wholly focused on my day-to-day issues. Completely unplugging will help me connect with myself, my husband, and my family without distractions. So many times, we are half listening to our kids tell us a story while scrolling thru our Facebook or Instagram timeline, that we aren’t in the moment allowing ourselves to enjoy what and who is in front of us.
3. What are some things you hide from others or apologize for? How can you begin to accept those things and remove yourself from possible judgment?
Like many women, I struggle with admitting I can’t do it all. I say yes too often and am over-apologetic when I have to say no. My “no” is typically preceded by an apology and then guilt sets in — “How could I say no? They are going to think I’m not professional or I’m just selfish with my time.” I believe that working on creating and maintaining healthy boundaries is key to eliminating self-judgment and choosing happiness. Pasricha offers a great reminder that self-judgment is the enemy to happiness.
4. How has our Culture of More led to discontentment in your life? What steps can you take to adopt a Culture of Enough? What are some ways you’ve already won the lottery?
Keeping up with the Joneses has led us to believe that we need more; we need it all. If we don’t have it all, we are being left behind. Our houses, cars, clothes, jewelry, shoes, must match the image we are trying to portray about who we are, and those things can quickly become our identity. To adopt a Culture of Enough I can take stock of the blessings that are in my life: my husband, my healthy children, my home, my ability to support our family, and live in a country that is free. I have enough. The ways I have won the lottery: I was born a woman in a free country. I have freedom to work, practice the religion of my choice, be married or not, have children or not. I have choices. I have independence. That is enough!
5. What decisions can you cut out of your day to be more efficient? What are some access points to your brain that you can close in order to create space?
The concept of eliminating and streamlining decisions to find more time in my day was a revelation! But, to be honest, the thought of wearing the same style of clothing each day sounds awful! With a family of seven, I pre-plan our weekly menu which is a huge time-saver when I grocery shop and make dinner every night. But I am sure there is more I can do to eliminate time, energy and efficiency wasting decisions to help create space — mentally and physically. The access points I can close are social media, text, and messenger. Being deliberate and intentional about setting aside specific time to check my messages and social media will allow me to create productive space in my life.
6. Pasricha concedes that you will not agree with all nine secrets in this book. He even tells you to expect to disagree. Were there any principles that you initially disagreed with? Why? Did your perspective change over the course of the book? How so?
I initially disagreed with #4 Never Retire because that is what we work for, right? We work to retire and enjoy the fruits of our labor, so, naturally, I struggled with the concept. Once I realized that what Pasricha was conveying was that one could stop working while maintaining a passion for something, I realized that Ikigai made perfect sense. Staying active and having a purpose is key . . . And that is a concept I can get behind! I also disagree with #9 Don’t take Advice. I think we should be selective on whose advice we accept, and even when coming from a credible and trusted source, not all advice will resonate, and that’s ok. But, good, solid advice from someone you trust and respect can be one of the most helpful tools in your business and personal life.
Liz Thompson is the owner and editor at House Style Editing. After 15 years in corporate, Liz launched her editing business and specializes in fiction, non-fiction, and cookbook editing. She recently published her first self-editing course on Skillshare titled Slaying the Enemies of Good Writing and hopes to continue helping writers find and refine their voice so they can share their story with the world. Liz lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and five children.