Last month WalletHub revealed its 2018 list of the Happiest States in America. The researchers examined all 50 states across 28 key metrics including, but not limited to, depression rate, sports participation rate and income growth. If you reside in Hawaii, Utah, Minnesota, North Dakota, or California, congratulations—you in live in one of the nation’s happiest states!
For the rest of us who live in states less happy than others, does this mean that our level of happiness is limited simply based on where we live? Absolutely not! Consider what Dale Carnegie said, “Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions. It depends on inner conditions.”
Here’s a true story that proves it. Mo Gawdat was a Google executive who set out to devise a scientific formula for happiness. Gawdat had everything he wanted—a huge house, a vintage Rolls Royce, successful friends and family, etc. He made a ton of money as a stock market trader while working in Dubai. Despite having ‘ticked all of the boxes’ and, “attaining all the things the modern world tells us we need for happiness, I was profoundly miserable,” he wrote in a Daily Mail article.
Gawdat applied Dale Carnegie’s 21st Human Relations principle, ‘Throw down a challenge.’ He became obsessed with uncovering a happiness formula and enlisted his beloved son, then a teenager, to help him. “I wanted to find a ‘code’ that could be applied to deliver happiness every time. I spent thousands of hours trying to apply logic to the issue of happiness, in the hope of finding an algorithm to summarize how the brain processes joy and sadness,” he said. In 2010, he and his son, Ali, computed the formula which was comprised of a few letters and mathematical symbols.
It wasn’t until a few years later, when Ali was just 21, that Gawdat would uncover, “what fleets of cars and algorithms never could: the true meaning of happiness and how to be content, every day.” That was when Ali was rushed to the hospital for a routine removal of his appendix, when the procedure ended tragically. Gawdat thought he would never survive this grave loss, lamenting to himself, “What’s the point of living even a day without him?”
Fortunately, in the ‘purgatorial time after his (Ali’s) death,’ Gawdat’s mental attitude forced him to pause and pose questions whenever a negative thought popped in his mind. He asked himself, “What would Ali do or say in this situation?” He knew Ali would respond with words of wisdom such as, ‘’I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it.’
Like so many others, Gawdat could have allowed this tragedy to tear him down, but instead, he consistently pursued what was positive. His question and answer process ultimately contained the power to heal him. Although Gawdat is still heartbroken today, he says that he’s happy. It took losing the life of his son to gain the true formula for happiness.