Solve for Happy – The Google X Exec’s Happiness Equation

Solve for Happy is a new publication from Google X’s Chief Business Officer, Mo Gawdat, which offers the unique and intriguing perspective that happiness is a quantifiable entity. 

Many believe that happiness is something which can be attained, be it through success, financial stability or acquisition of desired materials. Gawdat is a testament to the contrary. One of the most successful and wealthy execs of the computer age, Gawdat started out working for IBM before becoming one of Google X‘s leading minds. Wealth and good fortune existed in abundance, but something was missing.

The scientific research will tell you that the more income you get the more happy you will become,” says Gawdat, “but once you get to average income your happiness plateaus. Moreover, I found that when you go even higher, wealth starts to work against you – people start to treat you differently.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Gawdat further outlined the events which led to the subsequent, deep analysis of his existence. “The first observation was I was a very happy young man until around 25, and then something went wrong, and I became very unhappy,” he says, “To me, an engineer, that means you have a highly optimised machine that began to misbehave. So I started to go back to all the points where I was happy. If you go back to childhood, you observe that if a child’s basic needs are met their default state is happy – they don’t need an iPhone, they can play with their toes and be happy.”

Additionally, a significant personal tragedy also propelled Gawdat into examining the true essence, meaning and form of happiness, but also the control which we have over it. In words which echo David Foster Wallace, who once stated that “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.”, Gawdat’s take is that it is important to “Treat your brain as a biological function and understand he is not the boss – you are the boss.”

In an effort to clarify and extrapolate this stance, a theory was developed; hence, Solve for Happy.

As explained by journalist Ian Tucker, “The equation says that happiness is greater than, or equal to, your perception of the events in your life minus your expectation of how life should be.” It’s about readjusting and reexamining our expectations of life, and what is truly important to us. By these means, we will be able to form a stronger sense of internal contentment and, with it, prolonged and rich happiness.

Don’t let us be the one’s to explain it to you, however, here’s Gawdat giving a presentation at Google on this very subject.

From Talks at Google:

In Solve for Happy Mo questions some of the most fundamental aspects of our existence, shares the underlying reasons for suffering, and plots out a step-by-step process for achieving lifelong happiness and enduring contentment. He shows us how to view life through a clear lens, teaching us how to dispel the illusions that cloud our thinking; overcome the brain’s blind spots; and embrace five ultimate truths.

No matter what obstacles we face, what burdens we bear, what trials we’ve experienced, we can all be content with our present situation and optimistic about the future.”

Mo Gawdat is also the driving force behind One Billion Happy, a project which we will be covering later this week on My Good Planet.

Colin J McCracken
Colin J McCracken

Director and Executive Editor

Colin J McCracken is an Irish editor and writer of both fiction and journalism. Coming from a background in education and film, his passions are split between the environmental and the entertaining. Constantly striving for a more sustainable existence and trying to balance it while simultaneously buying too many books.