Surendhar Reddy

Engineering happiness

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer the negative elements in your life, don’t sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy!” — Dale Carnegie

The natural course of things is decay and chaos. Pretty much every living thing we can imagine without any action will end up dying, and the only way out is to bring some form of order to it. Essentially, you won’t be able to avoid the decay, but you’ll prolong its life.

It’s been about 18 months since I last stepped out of Singapore. In March 2020, I went to Taiwan for a short break and got back right before the pandemic took over the world.

Travel is a big part of my life; it is one of my favorite activities. Every year, I intentionally take breaks to travel to new places to learn about the site, try new things and break out of my daily life.

Not being able to meet family, friends for almost two straight years made me unhappy. It’s still not predictable when we can travel, restrictions-free.

Getting vaccinated gave me some hope about countries opening up for travel, but soon we saw a rise in new variants – many places noticed the increase of cases during the second wave, which halted my plans one more time. There has been a significant fluctuation in my expectations the last few months, and it still looks blurry about how it’ll all end.

Processing all these feelings made me realize that it’s a slippery slope – like a bad trip. Pretty much all travel-related activities got paused, social gatherings were limited to smaller groups, and personal activities (gyms, etc.) were asked to close for a few months and left us with nothing much to do. This period was challenging; it was frustrating – I imagine many of you are in a similar situation and are frustrated about it.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about it and trying to figure out maintainable solutions to direct my emotions away from it and focus on the right moments. I realized happiness is a skill; it’s something you can design/engineer. It’s practically possible to squeeze more of life from your time by intentionally creating your life.

Here’s what I do to design for happiness

Private victories

  • Working on things I care about
  • Scheduled reading of weekends
  • Making time to help friends with their stuff (personal, learning, work)
  • Work on personal projects

Being more intentional and disciplined about how I spend my time has significantly improved the quality of my life. Actively managing my time, being an initiator, and following up with things/people is helping me maintain that quality.

Building routines

  • Scheduling time for events with friends (F1 weekends, movie nights, sports)
  • Walking and sometimes taking care of my housemates dog Eden
  • Monthly meetups with friends
  • Weekly calls with family and friends

Building systems (routines) to allocate mind space for things I like doing in life is helping me coexist in all roles as I grow professionally and personally. Again, being more intentional forces me to maximize these interactions.

Disciplined exploration

  • Cold emails
  • Meetup with new people
  • Wandering on the internet

Being a bit quirky and open-minded introduced me to new people and things in life – I always enjoyed these interactions. I frequently reach out to people on the internet with similar interests/backgrounds and actively try to exchange thoughts.

The internet is a fantastic place; it’s one of the most significant advantages I have to reach out to any people on this planet. Leveraging it to find new people works all the time — I actively try to reach out to people and hang out in chat rooms to get to know people. It’s fun!

These are a few things I started doing to put myself in motion, try new things, and achieve a happy state of mind. It can be different for you, but the lesson is, chaos is the default state of everything, and if you care enough about something, you should do something about it and bring some order by designing for happiness.