Book Review: Happiness Now by Robert Holden

  1. Happy Already
  2. Robert speaks of the unconditioned self and the conditioned self. The unconditioned self is our original self, it is joyful, it is the idea that we can be happy now. The conditioned self is not natural. It is separated from happiness.

  3. Giving up the Search
  4. The search for happiness is futile. It is like the person riding an ox who is looking for an ox. Things can encourage us to be happy, but they cannot make us happy. There are three obstacles in the search for happiness. Firstly, there is a misperception of what happiness is. Is it a physical pleasure, a worldy pursuit, a cognitive choice, or a spiritual joy? Secondly, we attach conditions to happiness. We might think we need earn our happiness through suffering, or we have to lose weight first before we are happy. Thirdly, we might simply fear happiness. For example, how much happiness can you accept before you start doubting it? These three obstacles are manifestations of the conditioned self when instead, we have always been riding on the ox.

  5. Not Good Enough
  6. We are our own worse judges. If we condemn ourselves – what we do, where we are, who we are with or what we have will never be good enough. The ego always tells us we are not good enough, we are wrong, we are bad, we are nothing. We must forgive ourselves in order to be happy.

  7. Practicing Acceptance
  8. We must learn to accept ourselves. We must learn that Happiness is a natural state of being. We must rid ourselves of the erroneous beliefs we have of happiness. How much happiness can you accept before you question it? This is the conditioned self saying that happiness is not natural.

    There are three common conditioned beliefs about happiness.

    The work ethic states that happiness does not happen unless we work for it. Work itself is not the problem. Work is a great opportunity to serve, meet people, be creative, and to grow. The problem is the idea that we need to work for our happiness.

    The suffering ethic is born of unworthiness. It is the belief that we have to suffer to earn happiness.

    The martyr ethic is about sacrificing your own happiness for the happiness of others. This is a false belief. Happiness shares itself, If you are happy, you will spread your happiness to others.

  9. Living Unconditionally
  10. There are no conditions attached to happiness. We do not need more stuff. We do not have to be somewhere else. Happiness is not in the future. Happiness is about accepting the self now.

    There are three kinds of happiness. Pleasure is sensual, it involves external stimulation, it is thrilling and transient. Satisfaction involves some evaluation of the state of the world. I have a car. I look good. I have a high status in society. Joy is spiritual, it is unconditional and cannot be taken away from you.

  11. Healing Unhappiness
  12. Often, it is not unhappiness itself, but our response to it that amplifies our unhappiness. We condemn our actions, create guilt, and punish ourselves. This makes us even unhappier.

    Accept your feelings, do not repress them. Recognize your unhappiness, but commit to joy anyway. Happiness is not just the absence of sadness but also the ability to be joyful when sad.

    Accept Joy. We must first be open before we can understand happiness. To seek to understand happiness first before accepting it is to push it further away.

    Do not judge, whether it be others or yourself. When you are upset at someone, remember that it is your mind that is unsettled. Also remember that we cannot judge, because we do not have all the information we need to pass judgement.

  13. Lots of Love
  14. Love is the key to all abundance.

    Projection: what you believe about yourself, you see in others.

    Reciprocity: Others will treat you the way you treat yourself.

    Remove resentment in your life, it only damages you. You must forgive. Forgiveness comes from a position of deep inner strength. It is a belief that you are whole, and that nothing can take your wholeness away from you.

  15. Travelling Light
  16. Happiness as being, doing and having. True Happiness is simply being. It is not about doing (achievement) or having (accumulation), which can merely encourage True Happiness.



  • Flow vs happiness now. If we accept that we are already happy, then what is the point of flow, or getting better at things?
    • Doing (flow) and having are only bad insofar as they become obstacles to happiness now. I want to have happiness now, and I also want to have flow. Can they be reconciled?
  • Why is judging wrong? If there is no right or wrong, how do we have standards to guide our actions?
    • I can understand not judging others. Other people have different values, they seek to maximize their own happiness. Using my standards on others is simply incorrect. I also waste energy trying to convince other people to do what is “right”. Of far more importance is spending my time on my own happiness than on other people.
    • What is more troubling is the idea that we should not judge ourselves. We should not say that what we did is “right” or “wrong”. Judging ourselves leads to condemnation and guilt and punishment and more unhappiness. When there is “right” or “wrong”, happiness then depends on being “right”. This kind of happiness is conditional.
    • I think it is ok to have a “right” or a “wrong”. We should not throw away our own standards for behavior. We just have to take care not to turn “right” or “wrong” into a condition for happiness. I am not sure if this is possible. E.g What is the point of behaving “right” if not to be more happy? The solution is probably in a more strict definition of happiness.
  • Happiness is like faith, you have to accept it in your life instead of seeking to understand it. Spiritual books have a way of sailing over my head. I suspect this leap of faith is the root cause. But I cannot argue with the results. I have been happy, perhaps because of Harry Browne’s How to Find Freedom in an Unfree World, and Robert Holden’s Happiness Now.
  • Things can encourage us to be happy, but we have to decide to be happy. I agree. I keep track of the hours I put in at work, and even though I was working short hours at StarHub Green. I was still not happy. (One good reason to measure what is important to you). I realized that my working hours were just another condition I had given myself to delay my happiness. My realization is that I have to decide to be happy now!
  • Suffering ethic. Without suffering, you invent your own. People self-destruct to earn pity. Maybe they believe that they deserve to suffer. They have no self-worth.

I enjoyed this book. At first I gave it a 7/10, but after going over it again, I think it deserves an 8/10. The idea that happiness is unconditional adds another facet to my evolving concept of happiness. I believe that the dichotomy between flow and happiness now is a false one and I look forward to putting both concepts into practice in my life. It was because of this book that I ranked Joy second on my list of values.

Happiness Now Mind Map


One thought on “Book Review: Happiness Now by Robert Holden

  1. Book Review: A Guide to the Good Life – The Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine « words

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