Review: The Happiness Equation

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

I haven’t blogged at all this month.

Sometimes life just has a way of happening all at once and while I’ve definitely been reading, blogging seemed like one step too far. One more thing to add to the list and really, I couldn’t add one more thing.

So Neil Pasricha’s The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything really came at the right time.

If the name ‘Neil Pasricha’ sounds familiar, it’s probably because he’s the positivity force behind The Book of Awesome. He has made a career out of advocating for the simple pleasures of this life. But he’s also worked with Fortune 500 CEOs, interviewed billionaires and been the Director of Leadership and Learning for major companies. Which is how he found out that even the most successful people are rarely happy.

The Happiness Equation is Pasricha’s attempt at boiling down all that advice about happiness into one book so that we all have access to this wisdom. He’s rolled his secrets to happiness into these snappy, easy to remember these nuggets: Be happy first, do it for you, remember the lottery, never retire, overvalue you, create space, just do it, and be you.

There were definitely parts of this book that I needed to hear. The first chapter talks about how, counter-intuitive as it may be, before you can make the changes that will make you happier, you have to choose to be happy. His thesis is that rather than “easier said than done” it should actually be “easier done than said” because once you do something, you know that you are capable of doing it and the doing becomes easier. I’ve needed the reminder to “choose happiness” lately and since reading this book, that’s something that I’ve started saying to myself.

I also loved the section on being yourself. Pasricha reminds readers that, actually, the most important relationship you have in your life is the one with yourself. It costs a lot of energy to spend your time pretending to be someone else. I’m really good at being myself but it was nice to read that I’m on the right path there.


I took issue with his belief that one should never retire. Retirement is the one thing that I’m working towards. The idea of always working? Is awful. I can see the draw for Pasricha – he loves what he does. He lives his work. I do not. I am not my job and I look forward to the day when I can walk away.

This book is not meant for someone who has been struggling with legit mental illness. This is a book for those of us that are really super lucky and still find things to complain about. Pasricha totally knows this:

You are among the wealthiest people in the entire world. The average world income is five thousand dollars. Are you higher than that? Then you’re in the top 50%. And if you’re higher than fifty thousand dollars you’re in the top 0.5%. Do you need much more than 99.5% of people alive? You either have the money to buy this book, or you have the time to read it. Either way, you have it good!
You already have more than almost everybody on the planet.
On your very worst days, you have to push your negative thoughts. You have to take a step back. You have to remember the lottery.
Because you’ve already won.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I think there was more that I took away from this book than I have issues with. Mostly, it was a good reminder.

I’ve already won.

11 thoughts on “Review: The Happiness Equation

  1. This sounds like it wouldn’t teach me anything new but would remind me to think in positive ways. I like to dip into these kinds of books to refresh my thinking. And I’m with you, I love my job but I still can’t wait to retire!!

    • I think it is a book that benefits from dipping into occasionally. Even the way it’s written, in short, snappy sections, makes it conducive to that kind of reading. And every once in a while, I do really need the reminder to actively choose happiness.

  2. I haven’t had time to blog either this month. It makes me feel a little better to read that I am not alone. And I think reading this book will make me feel better, too. I just need someone/something to remind me that I am a happy person and generally know how lucky I am. I like my job, but I want to see the world. So, like you, I can’t wait to retire. Preferably before I am too old to enjoy the world. 😉

    • I think the retirement thing for the author is that he thinks that when the rest of us retire, we stop being useful. We apparently just sit around and do nothing. That’s not my view of retirement at all. But freed from the pressures of work and earning all the money, I can do things that I actually love.
      And no, you’re not alone at all. Reading is easy – blogging requires a little too much extra right now!

  3. It sounds like this book offers an interesting perspective on happiness; if only reading made everything else in your life magically work out. 🙂

  4. Sometimes it’s so hard to add just one more thing. I know that feeling. It’s always useful to be reminded of what the bigger picture looks like. I see your point about retirement, and I guess it depends on what the work is. I can’t imagine ever retiring from the work of reading and writing, but there are certainly other kinds of work I wouldn’t want to do forever and ever.

  5. That’s a great quote for putting things into perspective! I read it to my husband who needs to be reminded of these things more than I do. 🙂
    I was tempted by this book, because I do like to be reminded of all the little tips on how to be happier – like The Happiness Project books. I didn’t know how much more it could offer that I haven’t already read (or bought a book about). I do have his Awesome Things book, which my daughter also had fun reading.

    • It’s something I’m trying REALLY hard to remind myself of several times a day. It’s an ongoing project.
      I found that this one was really different from Gretchen Rubin’s books because Rubin talks about her own efforts regarding her own happiness and then throws in happiness research as she goes. Pasricha isn’t talking about his own journey – it’s all tips and tricks and anecdotes.

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