Is happiness a choice?  Is it predictable?  It would seem so, in the view of happiness expert, Mo Gawdat, author of “Solve for Happy”. In fact, he has a Happiness Equation. His experience with losing his son in a tragic event, distilled a complex truth into a simple realization: the journey to happiness or unhappiness is seldom straightforward. He argues that happiness isn’t about external events but our reactions to them. For example, rain can cause happiness or unhappiness depending on our desires in that moment — when you want to water plants, rain makes you happy. If you want to sunbathe, it’s got the opposite effect. 

The Happiness Equation?  Events ≥ Expectations. 

It’s when life is meeting or surpassing our expectations.  The choice of being happy is to choose to be at peace with whatever life gives you, recognising that any situation is influenced not just by the event itself, but also by our perception of it.

At work, if we expect bosses to be demanding, when we encounter an annoying boss, we see it as an opportunity to develop our skills in managing such situations. However, if we expect bosses to be nice and understanding all the time, we will get constantly disappointed.  It’s our perception of events, compared to our expectations, that dictates our happiness.

This brings to mind a recent incident that unfolded during our Emotional Intelligence (EQ) workshop I conducted for a group of senior women in celebration of International Women’s Day. Everything was meticulously planned: the presentation slides were a visual treat, and I even had a technical expert on hand to ensure the smooth progression of slides on the screen. Expectations? Flawlessly high.

However, as life would have it, our well-laid plans went awry. The interactive poll glitched, followed by a fiasco with the slides not displaying properly. Faced with this predicament, my immediate reaction was frustration, but that momentary lapse soon gave way to a realization. Here I was, leading a workshop on emotional intelligence, and what better time to exemplify the very essence of EQ than now?

Choosing adaptability over annoyance, I embraced the challenge. We improvised — Tatiana, my co-pilot in facilitating,  became the impromptu narrator of our invisible slides, turning a technical setback into a lively and interactive experience. This deviation from the plan didn’t diminish the workshop’s impact; it actually enhanced it. Demonstrating calmness and adaptability in the face of unforeseen challenges resonated deeply with the audience, embodying the core principles of emotional intelligence we gathered to explore. It connected us deeper to the audience.

This experience reaffirmed a crucial truth: striving for control in every aspect of life is a futile endeavour. Embracing flexibility, instead, allows for growth and unexpected joy. It reminded me, and hopefully all of us, to let go of the illusion of control — a lesson I’ve learned to cherish deeply.

During the break, we managed to restore the slides to their full beauty, yet, the unexpected complication during the EQ workshop served as a live demonstration of the happiness formula: Events ≥ Expectations. We reframed the expectations in the moment. 

Remember, when you are faced with a difficult situation, you have a choice on how you deal with it. Gawdat suggests following three simple steps:

1. Acknowledge the event that challenges or disappoints you.  Is your assumption / perception of the event true?

2. Recognize your emotional response to the event. Can you do something about it?

3. If yes, do it.  Choose to move forward, adapting and learning from each experience.

This path not only encourages emotional intelligence but also fosters a resilient mindset capable of finding joy and lessons in the least expected circumstances. So, next time life decides to throw a curveball, remember that your response to the unexpected can transform challenges into stepping stones toward greater happiness and fulfilment.

Last Saturday, I attended a workshop run by Jen Pastiloff, a beautiful human, author of bestselling book “On Being Human”. Her invitation to all of us in the audience was “Expect to be delighted” during the workshop and in life generally. Stay open to possibilities. Allow yourself to be happy, no matter what. I was certainly delighted with the workshop and spending quality time with beautiful humans. 

As we journey through both the tumultuous and tranquil moments of life, let’s remind ourselves of the beauty in versatility, the strength in adaptability, and the boundless potential for happiness that lies within each of us. I invite you to commit and stay open to finding joy in every twist and turn.