Career Guide


Five lessons on happiness

If you search online for “how to be happy”, in just over half a second, you’ll have over 125 million related articles that aim to guide you to the one thing we all desire.

If you search online for “how to be happy”, in just over half a second, you’ll have over 125 million related articles that aim to guide you to the one thing we all desire. Happiness, for some, is getting that coveted promotion, receiving a salary increase, buying the latest smartphone, or being handed the keys to a new home.

While it’s difficult to pin down exactly what it means to be happy, we are all experts when it comes to knowing what happiness is not. Almost as soon as we obtain whatever we desire, we find that the happiness doesn’t last for long.

We know – intellectually, at least – that happiness isn’t something that comes from outside ourselves.

In an effort to ‘fill the void’ of boredom and discontent, Mo Gawdat once bought two vintage Rolls Royce cars online on a whim. When the cars arrived, his ‘happiness’ lasted all of 20 minutes. After that, they were just cars.

The novelty wore off, and the void remained. Mo – the current chief business officer (CBO) at Google X – was miserable throughout much of his 20s and 30s despite being a high-flyer, married to his college sweetheart, a father of two, and earning a “ton of money” living in Dubai.

With a determination to transform his misery into happiness, Mo – an engineer by trade – committed himself to coming up with a formula for true happiness that is lasting and independent of whatever is going on externally.

Sadly, in 2014, tragedy struck when his loving 21-year- old son Ali passed away after complications during a routine surgery. Life had thrown Mo Gawdat his biggest test yet: is it possible to be truly happy when the biggest curve ball of them all knocks you completely off your feet?

In the aftermath of his son’s death, Mo channelled Ali’s wise, loving and compassionate spirit to write his highly-acclaimed book, Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy. The pages contain practical steps that don’t so much show us how to be happy, but rather to remove the obstacles that tend to keep us feeling unhappy and dissatisfied regardless of our situation.

In Solve for Happy, Mo presents and explores his ‘6-7- 5’ model. First, we have the Six Grand Illusions we should work to see through. These are the illusions of thought; self; knowledge; time; control; and fear.

We then address our Seven Blind Spots, which are made up of our filters; assumptions; predictions; memories; labels; emotions; and exaggerations.

Finally, we are encouraged to confront the Five Ultimate Truths of now; change; love; death; and design.

Solve for Happy is a transformative book that contains several helpful lessons about how we can be truly happy. The overall purpose of Mo’s book is to serve as a project in Ali’s memory to help bring happiness to 10 million people around the world.

Here are five key lessons from Mo’s book that can help us avoid the common pitfalls of finding happiness:


1 Happiness isn’t something you find – it’s something you work on

If we want to have lasting happiness as our end goal, just like having a toned stomach or higher stamina, it won’t just fall into our laps by hoping for it. Instead, we need to work at being happy.

Happiness doesn’t come as a gift – it’s a skill and, like all skills, it needs to be intentionally developed.


2 Accept that life won’t always go your way

We live life according to expectations, and we feel that life should always run according to our expectations. Traffic jams happen, you will be late for meetings, bad days will occur.

Unexpected difficulties and tough times lie ahead for all of us. When we accept that we have less control than we believe, it helps to ease the burden of suffering.


3 In this moment, there is absolutely nothing wrong at all

Suffering is when we ask from life what it can never give. When a friend told Mo that his doctor had just told him he had six-to- 18 months to live, he added that he didn’t see the attraction of the present moment.

Mo replied: “I’d like you to remember that right now you’re alive, so savour every sweet second that you’re on this planet with your friends and family. This is truly all you can control.

“I know it doesn’t feel that way, but don’t forget that you’re no different from the rest of us. Anyone and everyone you know could leave this earth within the next 18 months, or the next 18 days.”


4 Life is mostly made up of positives

Most of our days are positive or, at the very least, don’t contain many difficulties at all. The sun shines, we have enough to eat – we are able to see beauty all around us and enjoy wonderful experiences.

We focus intently on the bad times because we don’t expect them to be a part of our lives. Despite the many good runs we enjoy, we rarely pay attention to these because we take them all for granted.


5 You are in charge of what you choose to focus on

Happiness is a choice. Many people misunderstand this to mean that the result of this choice comes immediately, but it takes time to cultivate lasting happiness.

Nevertheless, we have the choice to spend time investing in our happiness or we can choose to allow life’s curve balls to get the better of us. Whatever we choose in the end, we are the ones who decide for ourselves how we experience life.


Sandy Clarke is the former editor at leaderonomics.com, the top leadership site in Asia. He hails from the UK and has more than 10 years’ experience in journalism and PR. To connect with Sandy, email info@leaderonomics.com

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