Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy

Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy

by Mo Gawdat

Solve for Happy is a book on attaining happiness based on a simple formula: matching your expectations with your reality. This formula has been proven to be effective regardless of the circumstances you’re currently facing. In fact, it was the exact same formula the author used to deal with his emotions after losing his son. By applying the actions in this book, you’ll become a happier, stronger, and more optimistic person capable of leading a more fulfilling life.

Summary Notes

Know the Grand Illusions

“If you examine the thought forms that cause you to be unhappy, you’ll realize that they mostly stem from attachments to illusions and false beliefs.”

The happiness formula is less mathematical than you thought, as it is more about evaluating yourself and ensuring your expectations match your reality. To achieve this, you need to eliminate the six grand illusions that can cause you a great deal of unhappiness.

The first illusion is our thoughts. When we cling to our thoughts as if they are always right or wrong, we run the illusion that our thoughts control us when, in reality, we control them!

Our thoughts exist to guide our survival as species, but this doesn’t mean they’re always helpful or true. In most cases, they serve to protect us from external threats. However, they can also hold us back, especially if we identify ourselves too closely with negative thoughts.

While our thoughts provide us with options to reflect on, they can also offer incessant and often inaccurate stories that can prolong our suffering. In such cases, we must not comply with them. Just like when we bruise a knee, these painful events will only hurt temporarily but will soon heal. The negative thoughts we feed into ourselves, however, will continue to linger even after the painful event has occurred, prolonging our suffering.

The second illusion is the illusion of self. Many of us tend to identify ourselves with our careers, beliefs, emotions, possessions, and so on when in reality, we are just our own observers. So, even if something is taken away from us, we will not be less than what we used to be. While there’s nothing wrong with labeling ourselves based on our achievements and possessions, this may impede our happiness if we no longer fit the label or the label becomes destructive. That’s why we must refrain from living with this illusion and relying on our ego to be happy.

The third illusion is the illusion of knowledge. Humans have always been firm believers that they’re always right. This can be seen when we thought the solar system revolved around us or when we thought medical procedures were beneficial but weren't. Since science is constantly evolving, what was said to be true today may turn out to be false in the future. This just means we don’t know everything yet. So when we find ourselves thinking that we are better than anyone else or that we are the main star of the event, we may skew events as being “good” or “bad” when they’re just really “are.”

The fourth illusion is time. Clock time refers to events that are to happen and that are useful, while “brain time” is time that isn’t useful. Although you probably woke up to your alarm clock this morning (clock time), how we experience time is an illusion (brain time). This explains why some think the day went fast while others think it went too slow. So how does time play into being an illusion and rob us of our happiness?

Well, most of our negative thoughts are time-based. If you take the time to observe it, you may notice that most dreadful and unhappy thoughts are either about the past or the future and rarely in the present, where true happiness resides. Sure, your past may have greatly impacted your life, but they’re all memories now. And what about your future? Well, it hasn’t occurred yet. At the end of the day, only the present exists! When you focus on past or future events, you aren’t being present and not seeing the current reality for what it is.

The fifth illusion is control. Many people try to control every bit of their lives, from their finances, careers, relationships, and so much more. But having control over everything is an illusion. While we can influence the outcomes of some events to a certain degree, we cannot really fully control them. So what do we do? Simply focus on the things we can control—our actions and attitudes.

We can control what we do and how we react to what is happening around us if we accept the reality of life that we are bound to experience gains and losses. This way, our happiness equations won’t be thrown off when things don’t meet our expectations.

The sixth illusion is probably the most relatable: fear. We all have something we’re afraid of, but how we deal with this fear is different for each of us.

Fear is there to protect us from threats, telling us to avoid or act on a certain event or thought, but usually, these threats aren’t rooted in reality or aren’t as big as they seem. Underneath the slew of fearful thoughts is an underlying theme, for example, the fear of rejection. A person may say they are afraid of public speaking, but in reality, they may just fear rejection from the crowd.

The only way to overcome fear is to go through it, embrace it and then turn it into courage. To do this, you need to ask yourself first: What is the worst thing that could happen if you let your fear prevent you from achieving happiness and success? When you allow yourself to act despite fear, the magic happens: you’ll begin to realize that you are more than your fear and that you’re so much more capable of conquering it.

Actions to take

Uncover Your Blind Spots

“Blind spots affect the way our brain processes information and blur our perception of reality.”

Did you know that our brains carry more capacity than any computer ever made? But despite these capabilities, some features have not been updated to fit modern times, making us overlook the truth about our life and impede our happiness. These are known as the seven blind spots.

The first of these blind spots is “filtering.” This refers to the brain’s tendency to filter out the good things and shift its focus to the negatives, known as the “negative bias.” This function was originally designed to protect us from danger, but since bears or other tribes no longer attack us in modern times, filtering may be harmful to us, as it may make us become too pessimistic at most times.

The second common blind spot is assumptions. While assumptions are a way for our brains to fill in the missing gaps in our knowledge, they may be detrimental sometimes. When we jump to conclusions, we begin to judge or create stories about what is happening that may or may not be true. Assumptions are simply stories, but it doesn’t mean they’re true. Therefore, we need to be aware of our assumptions and see things for how they are until otherwise proven.

For example, if you believe a coworker is mad at you because they didn't say "hi" when you passed by, don't jump to conclusions too quickly: What if they didn't just see you? If something isn't being said, it's best to ask or clarify it first.

The next blind spot is predictions. Similar to assumptions, predictions also tell a story about a person, place, or event but in the future. It’s impossible to tell our futures exactly the way we planned. Just like assumptions, they are brain-generated stories that are not true. However, our perceptions and predictions of the future shape our behaviors, so we must be careful about how we predict our futures. We can create negative or positive self-fulfilling prophecies, so choose wisely!

The fourth blind spot to look out for is memory. Our memories can distort our perception of the present reality by projecting past struggles. For example, if you once felt like a lousy dancer in the past, you’ll likely not attempt to dance again in the present. Similarly, if you failed a language class before, you may think you’re incapable of learning any other language. It’s important to realize that your present situation is not the same as your past. The outcomes you may have experienced in the past do not, in any way, determine the outcomes you’ll experience in the present.

The fifth blind spot is labels—that is, our tendency to label people or events too quickly without knowing all the facts. This distorts our vision and prevents us from matching expectations to reality. For example, if we label someone as “dangerous” based only on their color, we may become racist or develop an intense fear of them. In such cases, remember that their labels don’t represent the truth.

The sixth blind spot is our emotions. Most of us recognize that emotions are fickle—one second, you can feel on top of the world, and the next, you might feel doomed. We may not realize it, but we are often driven by our emotions. While these emotions can help us avoid danger and help us distinguish what we like and dislike, they can also run amuck and keep us trapped if we aren’t careful.

The final blind spot is exaggeration. This refers to our tendency to exaggerate the severity of our experiences so they match our perception of reality. This may make us either develop false optimism or become paranoid over negative things. For example, if we hear news about an airplane crash, we worry about it too much and will begin to think that it might happen to us as well. This will prevent us from living in the present and being truly happy.

Actions to take

Discover the Ultimate Truths

“Every truth happens exactly as expected, even when you least expect it.”

The happiness equation follows a simple rule: our expectations should match our realities. This means not being able to confuse the truth with our own biases. There are four truths that follow the happiness equations logic, which will leave you with a sense of peace:

  • Now is all that is: The past isn’t changeable, and the future isn’t a destination we can reach. We only have the present moment. We need to realize that now is the only reality, not the thoughts that cause us anxiety about the future, depression, or other ill emotions brought on by our thoughts.
  • Change is inevitable: Change is real, and it’s a part of life. Sometimes, even the smallest act of change can greatly impact your life. Therefore, we must not resist change. Instead, learn to accept it and be grateful for the opportunities it brings. This will greatly enhance our happiness.
  • True love exists: While other emotions come and go, love stays and endures. True love, or unconditional love, doesn’t fade and doesn’t need a reason to exist. It is the kind of love that satisfies and makes us genuinely happy, so we must give this kind of love to others and ourselves.
  • Death is inevitable: Instead of living in fear, this truth should inspire us to live our best lives. Once we stop fearing death, we start living life for what it’s worth.
  • Some events just happen by design: Whether you believe in a creator or the Big Bang Theory, physics and structures undeniably exist. A butterfly does not randomly float to the moon, and a dog doesn’t suddenly talk English and become a fish. When we recognize that natural disasters and misfortunes happen by design, we shift from playing the victim to accepting the reality of the situation. This helps to keep the scale of events and expectations in check, so your happiness equation doesn't get too out of whack.

Actions to take

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