Solve for Happy
Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat is a book that delighted at times, full of anecdotes and very frustrating at other times. It’s a book that describes a mans search for happiness after his son suddenly dies in a car accident. It’s a book that is very personal yet also full of references to scientific literature. It’s a book that speaks many truths that we might forget in the busyness of that thing we call life.
Formula for Happiness
Here it is, the formula for happiness. Happiness = your perception of events in your life – your expectations of life. That’s it, easy as that. Life plays itself out in your head, it’s a battle between what you expect and what you get. If you get more than you expect, you are happy. If you get less than you expect, you are unhappy. It’s the thoughts that make us unhappy (and it’s the thing we can change) and not the events.
Most of our suffering is useless. Physical pain is very bad and really hurts. But most pain we experience is the pain we give ourselves. It’s unnecessary and leads to nowhere. So, in this moment, choose not to suffer. Choose to be happy. Accept life for what it is, and embrace it.
6 Illusions, 7 Blind spots, 5 Truths
Gawdat wants to teach us that between us and happiness, there are a few obstacles. And I couldn’t agree more with his analysis of the illusions we keep on telling ourselves.
- Thought: You are not the thoughts you’re thinking. You can (with some restrictions) control what you’re thinking.
- Self: You’re also not your body. Or emotions. Or heritage. Or religion. Or name. Or past performances. Or your things. You’re the observer, the person who sees it all. “In a world without an ego, where it doesn’t matter how everyone else sees us, we will do our utter best and get the results without caring what others think.
- Knowledge: You’re not what you know. What we know is just an approximation of the ‘real’ truths. There are many unknown unknowns still to be discovered. Real knowledge is knowing what you don’t know (Confucius).
- Time: Mechanical (minutes/hours/etc) time is made by man. Happy emotions are linked to the now, bad thoughts are linked to the past and future. If you want to be happy, live in the now.
- Control: You’re not in control of your life. Unexpected events (black swans LINK TALEB?) rule our lives. Don’t expect control, but do your best anyway (take responsibility).
- Fear: Admit that you have fear, then face it. If you hide from fear, it will only breed more fear, anger, hate, and suffering. What is the worst that can happen (LINK TIM FERRIS TALK)?
Our blind spots have helped us as a species for the last few million years. See a leaf move, think tiger, survive. Acting on a possible threat was a good strategy. But in our ‘normal’ day-to-day, there is no need for these blind spots anymore.
- Filters: Your brain filters out much information, otherwise it would be overloaded.
- Assumptions: Our assumptions are nothing more than a story our brain makes, not reality.
- Predictions: Predictions are only stories made by our brain about the future.
- Memories: Your memories are only a reflection of how you see the past (they are far removed from facts).
- Judgements: You judge before you know the whole situation (thus preventing you from making a correct assessment).
- Emotions: Our perception of reality is clouded by irrational emotions.
- Exaggerations: We have an availability heuristic and exaggerate what we see.
It’s not reality that shapes us, it’s the lens through which we see the world. So let’s take a look at how to better look at our world.
- Now: When people were asked what they were thinking about (past, now, future), results show consistently that they are happier when they’re living the moment. Connecting with others in the present is one of the best things to do. To get to the now, you have to stop doing other things (e.g. thinking). Stop doing, just be. Be here in the moment, that is where life is happening.
- Change: Change is the only thing we can predict with certainty. So go with the flow, know what you can influence, let other things go. Find the way of least resistance. Be more grateful, less greedy (or ambitious).
- Love: Unconditional love is one of the most beautiful and universal things you can offer the world. The true happiness of love is to give love. The more you give, the more you get back. Love yourself (self-compassion). What you give, you get back many fold (also see Give & Take by Adam Grant). Choose to be nice, not right.
- Death: Everyday we’re dying a little (it’s a process, not an event). Without death, there would be no life. When our body dies, the memories of you can stay for centuries. Death is unavoidable, life is now. So live before you die.
- Design: So here is where my opinions differ from Gawdat. He argues that life on this planet could not have come to fruition in any other way than by design. There must be a creator for all this to work. I would argue that life has come out of this randomness. And yes we don’t exactly know how, but you don’t need a creator to explain the processes by which evolution, human interactions, and the individual processes are moving.