We were born happy.
Then what happened?
When we were infants, all we needed was our basic needs met. Food. Sleep. Warmth. A dry diaper.
We grew a little older and started seeing things other kids had. We started seeing advertisements telling us what would make us happy.
Weren’t we already happy?
Mo Gawdat, an IBM, Microsoft, and Google veteran, is the founder of #OneBillionHappy and author of Solve for Happy. He lent us some of his time to discuss the idea of happiness.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- The #1 secret to happiness
- Attaining happiness or success
- Tips for being happier
This post is based on a podcast with Mo Gawdat. You can listen to the full podcast here and below.
The #1 secret to happiness is…
… to stop being unhappy.
End of blog post.
Just joking! In all seriousness, Mo encourages us to recognize that happy is the default. It’s up to us to exercise our birthright of being happy.
One way to think about this idea is to assume that nothing in our lives actually makes us happy or unhappy. The comparison that occurs in our minds between reality and our expectations is what makes us feel happy or unhappy.
It’s really up to the individual to intentionally choose whether they’ll let an event result in happiness or unhappiness for theirself.
Happiness or success
Oftentimes, we feel that we need to choose between happiness and success in life. We worry that spending a weekend away from our phones will tamper with our productivity. We scroll through social media to see how our portrayed success compares to others’ achievements.
Is keeping up this synthetic image of constantly producing and achieving making us happy?
Why has success been prioritized over happiness?
Mo reassures us that success and happiness can coexist. In fact, they thrive off each other as long as happiness comes first.
When we take time to do things that make us happy, it naturally cultivates success. When we’re happy, we…
… are more productive.
… are more enjoyable to be around.
… spend less time complaining and worrying.
… have less sick days.
How to be happier
Just like exercising our bodies, it’s important for our health to exercise our happiness.
Mo suggests practicing being happy by trying:
Digital-free weekends. Mo has found that putting his phone and laptop away on the weekend helps him reconnect with the things that really matter in his life. If an entire weekend seems like too big of a step, try a few hours or just one day.
Mini silence retreats. Like most of us, Mo’s life doesn’t allow for weeklong silence retreats. However, he swears by short retreats from noise and distractions. Mo sets his alarm anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours for his mini silence retreats.
During his silence retreats, Mo lets his mind wander. When he has a thought about something, he simply acknowledges it by saying it aloud. His policy is to never say the same thing twice. Once the thought is acknowledged, it acquires no more attention.
Eventually, Mo will run out of things to ponder, and absolute silence will set in. At this point in his mini silence retreats, Mo feels an incredible sense of bliss.
Your happiness challenges
In addition to digital-free weekends and mini silence retreats, Mo challenges us to:
- Prioritize happiness over success. When happiness is in the driver’s seat, authentic success will naturally follow. It is the only way to achieve both.
- Exercise the muscle that makes you happy. Take more time for whatever makes you happiest in life.
Think back to a time when all you needed were the basics. When happy was your default. When you weren’t worried about how others perceived your success.
The only thing holding you back from true happiness is you.