“So don’t you think every college, university, and library would be full of courses and advice on how we can become happier? On how we can make decisions that spur ourselves into positive action every day? When I asked a hospitality CEO if he knew a book, model or website that actually helped people navigate and simplify their most challenging decisions so they can live with contentment, freedom, and happiness, he said, ‘That book doesn’t exist. It would be like asking every high-powered executive, successful person, and positive leader to distill all the personal mental models they’ve created over their lives into one book. Nobody has ever done it.’
I know this is true because I’ve been searching for a practical book with real frameworks on leading myself to happiness for years. I wanted something beyond stories about generals, parables about penguins, and research studies with data pointing any which way. I wanted real, I wanted practical, I wanted clear. I wanted an action book that I could use every day.
This is that book.”
~ Neil Pasricha from The Happiness Equation
THE BIG IDEAS
1.The Big 7
Ways to boost your happiness.
2.Waking Up w/Icky Guy
Is really important.
3. Tip from a Great Physicist
Just do it.
4. It’s Saturday AM
What do you do?
Neil Pasricha is awesome. And so is this book.
Neil’s a fascinating guy—a Harvard MBA who runs a site called 1000awesomethings.com who also happens to be the director of leadership development for Walmart, one of the most popular TED speakers ever, the director of the Institute for Global Happiness AND the best-selling author of The Book of AWESOME series—with over 1 million books sold. (<—That is awesome.)
He’s also a funny, great writer who packs a ton of super practical wisdom into this quick-reading book. I highly recommend it. Get a copy here.
The book features Neil’s 9 Secrets for rockin’ it. I’m excited to share a few of my favorite Big Ideas so let’s jump straight in!
IDEA ONE: THE BIG 7 WAYS TO TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO BE HAPPY
“Positive psychology is a new and growing field. I have sifted through hundreds of studies to find the Big 7 ways to train your brain to be happy. Many of these studies have been discussed in journals, conferences, keynotes, and research reports, but I’ve brought them together for you here. If you do any of these seven things for two straight weeks, you will feel happier.
So what are the Big 7?
Three Walks + The 20-Minute Replay + Random Acts of Kindness + A Complete Unplug + Hit Flow + 2-Minute Meditations + Five Gratitudes”
This book has a bunch of great stories backed by great research. As you know, I LOVE positive psychology.
Let’s take a super quick look at our Big 7 ways to boost our happiness and remember that science says the Happiness Equation STARTS with happiness.
It’s Happiness —> Great work —> Success NOT Great Work —> Success —> Happiness.
1.Three Walks. Exercise is as effective as Zoloft in reducing depression. Even just three brisk walks can do the trick! Remember that *not* exercising is like taking a depressant and get out there and MOVE YOUR BODY.
2. The 20-Minute Replay. Writing for 20 minutes about a positive experience is a GREAT way to boost your happiness. Scientists call it savoring. Groove the good stuff!
3. Random Acts of Kindness. Did you know that THE fastest, most reliable way to boost your mood is to do something nice for someone else? Yep. Find ways to do something nice!
4. A Complete Unplug. We’ve gotta make waves. Fully on. Fully off. Repeat. Are you training your RECOVERY as much as your “on” phases? Remember that it’s not that we work too hard but that we don’t recover enough. #waves
5. Hit Flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi tells us that the optimal state of human experience is found when we are engaged in activities that stretch us such that the challenges match our skills. Too much challenge = anxiety. Too little = boredom. The right match? FLOW. Find it!
6. 2-Minute Meditations. Meditation is huge. As we discuss in Meditation 101, you don’t need to be a levitating monk in the Himalayas to experience significant benefits. Even just a couple minutes a day keeps the gremlins away.
7. Five Gratitudes. As Neil says, “If you can be happy with the simple things, then it will be simple to be happy.” Find things to be grateful for and focus on them often. What are YOU grateful for today?
There ya go. The Big 7. Which is your favorite and which one do you want to lean into more?!
IDEA TWO: WAKING UP WITH AN ICKY GUY (THE GOOD KIND!)
“While we think of retirement as the golden age of putting greens, cottage decks, and staring at the clouds, guess what they call retirement in Okinawa?
They don’t even have a word for retirement.
Literally nothing in their language describes the concept of stopping work completely. Instead,they have the word ikigai (pronounced ‘icky guy’), which roughly means ‘the reason you wake up in the morning.’ You can think of it as the thing that drives you most.
In Okinawa, there is a 102-year-old-karate master whose ikigai is to carry forth his martial art, a 100-year-old fisherman whose ikigai is to feed his family, a 102-year-old woman whose ikigai is to hold her great-great-great-granddaughter.”
Quick context: Okinawans are basically the longest-living people on the planet. They live an average of 7 healthy years longer than Americans and have the most people over 100.
AND THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE A WORD FOR RETIREMENT.
Neil walks us through the incredibly recent invention of “retirement” and how absurd + detrimental the idea is to our well-being.
Quick re-cap there: Otto von Bismarck instituted mandatory retirement at age 65 in Germany in 1889.He wanted to free up jobs for younger people and guess what the average life expectancy was at that time? 67.
Then, in the 20th century, other countries started instituting a mandatory retirement at the arbitrary age of 65 and—get this—marketing gurus spent a ton of money CONVINCING us that leisure was awesome, work sucked, and, well, here we are.
Longer chat but the short story is simple: Retirement sucks. If we want to feel great and live long, we need a reason to get up in the morning. We need to wake up with our Icky Guy! 🙂
Neil shares the story about how he created little ikigai cards with his wife. They wrote down their reason for getting up. His wife’s: ‘To turn young minds into future leaders.” His: ‘To remind myself and others how lucky we are to be alive.”
He makes the important point that you don’t have ONE ikigai now and forever. Roll with it. Whatever inspires you. But you need to have one!! (His was “Finish writing The Happiness Equation” for a while.)
(Mine? “Help people OPTIMIZE by creating the greatest collection of wisdom ever.” Makes me smile just typing that and hop out of bed, high five the Icky Guy and get to crushing it. 🙂
IDEA 3: A TIP FROM THE GREATEST PHYSICIST EVER
“What does the greatest physicist of all time say?
First off, who was the greatest physicist of all time? I say Isaac Newton. My opinion. Up there with Einstein. Why? Well, he discovered gravity, invented calculus, and built the telescope. Not bad! And did he believe in the Do Circle? Absolutely.
He explained it best in his First Law of Physics. ‘An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted on by a larger force.’
Put it another way: Start doing something? You’ll continue.
Why? Because motivation doesn’t cause action. Action causes motivation.”
This is from a chapter on “Secret #7: How to Turn Your Biggest Fear into Your Biggest Success” in which Neil introduces us to his “Do Circle.”
Do Circle? Yep. Do Circle.
Too often we think that doing something moves from thinking we can do something + we want to do it and then we do it.
Like this: CAN DO —> WANT TO DO —> DO
Such that, if we don’t think we can do it and/or don’t “feel like” it in the moment, we can’t do it. Neil challenges that notion and says it’s more like a circle with no endpoint. You can start doing something and THAT doing leads to a sense of “can do” + “want to do” that creates a ton of momentum and keeps you going.
HUGE distinction that we come back to in different ways throughout these Notes. In fact, I took a break reading this book yesterday to sneak a peek at Tal Ben-Shahar’s “Choose the Life You Want” .
I got an elaborate Idea from this book where Tal Ben-Shahar notes: “Fortunately, the research into procrastination has also identified practical ways that can help overcome the tendency to procrastinate. The single most important technique is called ‘the five-minute takeoff.’ It consists, simply, of starting to do the thing you have been putting off, no matter how little you feel like doing it. Procrastinators often believe that to do something one has to truly want to do it—to be in the right mood, to feel inspired. This is not the case. Usually, to get the job done, it is enough merely to begin doing it—the initial action kick-starts the process and often brings about more action.”
Tal says that this was one of the Biggest Ideas he’s implemented in his life—sharing that,although he loves to write and gets paid to do so, MOST mornings (!!) he doesn’t *feel* like it.
But (IMPORTANT “but”)… He just gets started—KNOWING that his feelings will follow his behavior. As he said: “Action leads to inspiration at least as much as inspiration leads to action.” We DO *then* we feel like doing. Just getting started with something creates the momentum that KEEPS us going. But… If we wait till we feel like it, we may never do anything.
This is one of the Biggest Ideas we’ll ever explore.
Thank you, Neil and thank you, Sir Newton.
IDEA 4: IT’S SATURDAY AM. NOTHING TO DO. WHAT DO YOU DO?
“What do you do on a Saturday morning when you have nothing to do?
Ask yourself that one crucial question, think about it for a second, and answer it out loud. What do you do on a Saturday morning when you have nothing to do? Do you go to the gym? Do you record yourself playing guitar? Take whatever answer you have and then wildly brainstorm ways you can pursue opportunities that naturally spew from that passion.
There will be hundreds. Love going to the gym? Personal training, coaching a baseball team, volunteering for a walking group, running a yoga studio, teaching phsy ed, starting a supplements company. And it goes on. Love recording yourself playing guitar? How about teaching guitar online, editing music, learning to DJ, starting up an instrument company? One of the happiest people I’ve met was a high school music teacher who decided to start importing, selling, and teaching the ukulele.
Your true self will be drawn to these ideas.
They make you richer, stronger, and happier in your work life, too.”
It’s Saturday morning. You have nothing to do. Ahhhh… What do you do?
That simple question is a GREAT way to get more clarity on your authentic self. And, embracing the true you is a HUGE part of the Happiness Equation. As Neil says in Secret #8, we need to optimize the most important relationship in our lives: Our relationship with ourselves.
The most direct way to dial that relationship in? BE YOU. “Be you and be cool with it.”
Back to your Saturday morning. What are you up to? And how can you make related activities a more prominent part of your life?!
P.S. On Saturday morning’s with nothing to do I read 🙂
SUMMARY OF THE KEY NOTE IDEAS
- Embrace the Big 7 : Three Walks + The 20-Minute Replay + Random Acts of Kindness + A Complete Unplug + Hit Flow + 2-Minute Meditations + Five Gratitudes”
- Create an Ikigai: ikigai (pronounced ‘icky guy’), which roughly means ‘the reason you wake up in the morning.’ You can think of it as the thing that drives you most.Decorate in your diary or a card,live every moment to the task to accomplish it-moment to moment.
- Motivation doesn’t cause action. Action causes motivation. How you feel doesn’t have to determine the outcome. What does your feelings have to do with it? Get started, then get going!
- Ask yourself, “What would you do on a Saturday morning when you have nothing to do? Take whatever answer you have and then wildly brainstorm ways you can pursue opportunities that naturally spew from that passion.
“What Idea *most* resonated with you? What Idea reminded you of something you already know and just need to embody a little more?”
Get on it, brace yourself, then rock it 🙂
As always,Let’s Keep Optimizing and see you at the top where there’s enough room for everyone
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