Navigating Happiness: Unveiling Mo Gawdat’s Model for Fulfilment

Steven Bartlett interviews Mo Gawdat in episode 101. The Happiness Expert.


In the expansive realm of psychotherapy, our collective pursuit of happiness often leads us on a quest for that elusive state of well-being that transcends the daily grind. Today, let’s embark on a journey into the realms of happiness with Mo Gawdat, former Chief Business Officer at Google[X], who presents a unique and pragmatic model that promises to unravel the secrets to a fulfilling life.

This is a first off, non critical summary of his Happiness Equation.

I. The Happiness Equation

Happiness (H) = Events of Your Life (E) – Expectations (E)

Happiness, according to Gawdat, can be distilled into a simple yet profound equation. The essence lies in understanding that our happiness is not solely determined by the events that unfold in our lives but by the delicate balance between these events and the expectations we harbour.

Understanding Life Events (E)

Positive Events

Imagine a canvas painted with moments of joy, success, and serendipity. These positive life events are the vibrant strokes that colour our existence. Whether it’s the thrill of a personal achievement or the warmth of a shared moment, these instances contribute significantly to our happiness.

However, it’s crucial to recognise that positivity is not a perpetual state. Life, by its very nature, is a blend of highs and lows. The first step towards a deeper understanding of happiness is acknowledging the transient nature of positive events.

Negative Events

Life’s canvas also bears marks of challenge, loss, and adversity. The setbacks and difficulties we encounter may seem to cast a shadow over our happiness, but Mo Gawdat’s model invites us to view them as opportunities for growth.

II. Managing Expectations (E)

Setting Realistic Expectations

In the intricate dance between happiness and life events, expectations play a pivotal role. Gawdat urges us to examine our expectations closely, emphasising the need for alignment with reality. Consider the societal pressures and external influences that shape your expectations. Are they rooted in your authentic desires, or are they influenced by external standards?

By setting realistic expectations, we pave the way for a more harmonious coexistence with life’s unpredictable twists. It’s an invitation to explore what truly matters to us, free from the constraints of societal norms or unrealistic aspirations.

External Influences

Our expectations often act as mirrors reflecting external influences. The societal narrative, the digital realm, and the comparisons we draw with others can shape expectations that may not align with our authentic selves. Mo Gawdat’s model encourages a reevaluation of these influences and a conscious effort to reclaim autonomy over our expectations.

As we navigate this realm of expectations, resilience becomes a valuable companion. Building resilience equips us to face external pressures without losing sight of our authentic aspirations.

III. Mindfulness and Acceptance

The Role of Mindfulness

In the pursuit of happiness, Gawdat introduces mindfulness as a steadfast ally. Mindfulness, the art of being present in the moment, offers a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of expectations. By cultivating mindfulness, we create space to appreciate life’s nuances, finding joy in the present rather than fixating on an uncertain future.

Embracing Acceptance

Accompanying mindfulness is the powerful practice of acceptance. Happiness, Gawdat suggests, flourishes when we embrace the present moment, surrendering the need for life to conform to our rigid expectations. Acceptance is not resignation but a profound acknowledgment that, in every moment, there is an opportunity for growth and serenity.

IV. Social Connections and Relationships

Quality of Relationships

Mo Gawdat’s model places significant importance on the quality of our social interactions. Positive relationships act as a buffer against life’s challenges and amplify the joy derived from positive events. Reflect on the relationships that contribute positively to your life. Cultivate connections that provide support, understanding, and shared moments of happiness.

Social Support

In the intricate web of life, having a robust support network is akin to having a safety net. Social support provides comfort during challenging times and magnifies the joy experienced during moments of celebration. This extends beyond the quantity of connections to the quality of these relationships. Open communication and mutual understanding are the cornerstones of a support network that fosters genuine happiness.

V. Personal Growth and Purpose

Setting Meaningful Goals

Gawdat’s model propels us into the realm of personal growth and purpose. Setting meaningful goals, aligned with our values and aspirations, forms a fundamental aspect of this journey. These goals act as guiding stars, steering us towards a purposeful existence. Take a moment to reflect on your aspirations, ensuring they resonate with your authentic self.

Continuous Learning

At the heart of personal growth lies amongst others, the pursuit of knowledge and continuous learning. Gawdat advocates for a mindset of curiosity and exploration. Engaging in ongoing learning experiences not only enhances our capabilities but also opens new avenues for personal fulfilment. Embrace the journey of self-discovery through learning, and let it be a source of perpetual joy.

In the intricate tapestry of Mo Gawdat’s happiness model, personal growth and purpose emerge as threads that weave a narrative of a rich and meaningful life.

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Dr Herman Holtzhausen is a Psychotherapist based in Stamford, Lincolnshire, UK. He is a Registered Member of the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Qualifications include Bachelor degrees in Law and Divinity, a Masters degree in Family Therapy (thesis on Online Therapy), a PhD in Systemic Therapy and Mindfulness, and a current enhanced DBS certificate.