I do love a good equation. It’s probably down to my science background, having studied Chemistry at university. It often helps to understand and explain complex things. Recently whilst looking on the Internet I came across Mo Gawdat, a Chief Business Officer for Google, who claims to have come up with an algorithm for happiness (you might have seen his Channel 4 News interview earlier in the year as it took social media by storm).
Mo Gawdat talked about being successful, working for tech giants like IBM and Microsoft, making plenty of money and having a loving family, yet he was desperately unhappy. As a youngster he had devoured books to learn all sorts of things – carpentry, mosaics, the guitar and German. Reading was something he would return to whenever life got tough. So, in his thirties and miserable, he started to read about happiness, attended lectures, watched documentaries and analysed everything he heard. But he felt his approach to the problem needed to be somewhat different to many of the psychologists and experts that had written the books and conducted the experiments.
Mo decided to use his training as a software developer to take an engineering approach to happiness, breaking down the problem into its smallest components. He adopted a facts-driven approach as he looked to create an algorithm to happiness.
After a decade, Mo managed to develop an equation and model of happiness. He went on to test this and despite losing business deals, experiencing bad customer service and the daily ups and downs of family life, Mo was able to enjoy the ride of the roller coaster itself – he was happy.
And then Mo faced an ultimate test. His son died during a routine operation. Throughout this time despite feeling profound grief the family was able to maintain a steady state of peace – even happiness. Mo puts this down to his happiness model.
An example Mo uses to explain his model is looking at a half full glass of water and being truthful about what you see. When you see the half full glass you are grateful for it, and as for the half empty side, you need to ask if there is anything you can do about it. If not can you accept it? Happiness is not about what the world gives you (the water in the glass) but what you think about what the world gives you. So, his equation is:
Happiness ≥ (perception of events of your life – the expectations of how life should be)
For those of you who may be less used to equations, the above equation means:
To be happy you need to make sure that how you perceive your life is the same, or better, than what you expect your life to be.
Mo goes on to explain that we are often unhappy as we are trained to look at the events of our life in a way that is not truthful, which led to him developing the 675 model.
The model states there are six illusions that blur our view of the real world: thought (believing you are your thoughts), self (believing you are your body, emotions, beliefs, names, achievements, family or possessions), knowledge (eg false beliefs), time (thinking too much about the past or the future), control and fear.
There are seven blind spots that make us miss the truth when we look at life: filtering, assuming, hunting, memories, labels, emotion and exaggerating.
We need to fix these illusions and blind spots in order to remove the reasons for being unhappy. When you do that you realise that life mostly meets our expectations.
Finally, there are five truths in life, which we must accept: the now, change, love, death and grand design (the belief that nothing is random and life generally follows patterns, laws, rules or science). When you focus on these truths, even if life events are harsh, you feel happy most of the time.
One thing that Mo does mention is that you have to want to become happier and that following his model is like going to the gym – after the pain of the first few days, you become used to it and it may become part of your daily routine.
Much of what Mo is saying feels similar to elements of the 21 Days to Happiness course and topics we’ve covered here at the Happynesshub. It’s just that he presents it in a different way that may resonate with some. I, for one, have downloaded his book Solve for Happy that explains more – and will let you know how I get on!