Blog Transition

Dear Friends,

I’m finally transitioning all the content of this blog to its domain http://theultimateanswer.org

Please, read new posts at new location! Last weekend I summarized all feedback on the happiness formula from independent testers and already scheduled its publishing. Check it out!

Have a happy version of reality!

Marina :)

Volunteer Survey Results Final Analysis

Speaking of volunteering and its results, last December I crafted olpcMAP survey and summarized its results in a presentation olpcMAP Survey Results. On Wednesday, Dec 29, I presented olpcMAP Survey Final Analysis, which interprets survey results and suggests major themes and underlying motives for volunteering.

I was glad to receive feedback and comments at the end of the presentation. Mark Battley agreed about people wanting to have a hobby that realizes their untapped talents. When you develop those talents, you become happier and frequently more successful, and he witnessed it. Ryan and Alexandra commented on tailoring projects for volunteers. We all agreed that  there should be opportunities for 2 hours a week, 2 weeks a year or even 2 years at a time, etc. Then volunteers decide which one is right for them.  Because the same person maybe interested in all three option at different times in his life. It is all about perpetual balance. We all want to find it. Some struggle between choosing a well paid job but no meaning or an low paid project that has a great social value. We are all constantly moving and adjusting our choices to finally find our perfect mix of life variables to reach our personal balance.  Another important comment was about helping people figure out what they are good at or where do they fit as volunteers… Main Take-aways:

1. Help people feel useful and appreciated

2. Design perfect conditions for volunteering

3. Don’t judge people, educate them on what opportunities are available and what   is  possible

4. Create happy social identity

5. Provide facilitation

Download full presentation olpcMAP Survey Final Analysis. Also see my favorite commencement speech ever by Steve Jobs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc

How to Be a Good Volunteer

Last summer I wrote these tips/reminders for people interested in volunteering abroad, but the majority of them could be useful to volunteers everywhere.

CHOOSE YOUR ROLE. Look at all possible projects and ask yourself two questions: What would I really want to do and what kind of skills do I have? You could bring increased value by helping using your skill set, however you can always try something new if you feel strongly about a particular project. There are many projects and we are sure there will be at least one that speaks to your heart.

SET REALISTIC GOALS by not trying to change the world overnight or help everyone! It is hard for one person to save everyone, sorry, but you are not a superhero. Instead, begin with one person, one animal, or one group that you can help. Then make one achievable goal and work toward it. Always remember, there are a lot of us and our collective volunteer power is strong. All of your efforts are multiplied by the efforts of others.

HAVE REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS about your living conditions and how easy daily tasks should be. Remember, you are not going on vacation: you are doing a project! There will be resistance and obstacles. Sure, you will meet new people and have fun, but it will require hard work in new conditions. Sometimes you will have to share a dorm room with other volunteers; you may encounter cockroaches; have a language barrier or learn that your instructions are not followed etc… It is not the end of the world. You will be there with people who have the same values.  Later in life, perhaps, you’ll remember this time as the best experience, when you were both driven and audacious.

SWITCH OR NOT TO SWITCH, that’s the question when you start to waiver on your project. Do not be hasty. If you do not like your first project, and you feel less skilled think of it as a learning experience. If you feel overwhelmed or have a fear of failing, why not overcome it?  Prove to yourself that you are more than what you thought you were capable of and keep at it.  If you still do not like it or do not feel confident, then switch projects. Maybe you will be exceptionally good at something else.

LEARN. Even if you are an expert, there is always a lesson to be learned. Life is a two-way street: we teach and we learn. You will need to know how to get the assignment done; especially in a new country, things may be very different. This could require learning new skills or using different materials. If you need more training to get ready, ask for the manuals, a demonstration and/or assistance. If you know what to do and how to do it well, it will be easier to help others.

MAKE AN EFFORT! Showing up to do your project is only the first step. It is important to take your volunteer work seriously. You are providing help to people and places that are in real need. Your value to the project is parallel to the effort you put in. Sometimes, it is hard to give 100% to your project, but please try. Specifically, always come on time to your project and be appropriately dressed no matter how much partying occurred the night before or what the thermometer reads that morning. Constantly remind yourself why you signed up to volunteer.

If you push yourself, you will find your own limits, talents, and skills you never knew about. Often people realize their potential is more than what they ever estimated. As you extend yourself, the project will succeed because you gave it 100%. You will amaze yourself and those around you.

POSITIVE ATTITUDE is imperative. Think about those around you who are in need or in trouble. You are there to help them, not bring negative energy. Please, stay upbeat, think of any difficulties as a learning experience, and try to resolve them diplomatically. Always have a positive attitude and demonstrate to others that you are there volunteering by choice.

BE RESPECTFUL Always remember to demonstrate respect for other people and other cultures, no matter how much culture shock you are going through. Keep in mind that your way of thinking or living is not the only one or even the right one. What is normal to you may not be normal to others. If you seriously disagree about something, speak to a project leader first. He or she will consult with you, explain the differences and suggest ways of how to behave in the future. Consider yourself and your actions as an ambassador of your own culture. You want to present yourself well and be respected by others, and this is not achievable if you act snobby or superior. Going to another country means following their rules, as you are a guest, and they are the hosts.

BE FLEXIBLE AND OPEN-MINDED as there maybe a shift in your schedule or a change in your role or responsibilities. It is life. Nothing is permanent in life except for change.

DO NOT GIVE UP! You will all have moments, when you doubt your decision to volunteer. You will have a serious urge to stop and go back to your normal life and to your familiar routine. Sometimes you will feel bored, sometimes exhausted, and sometimes mad at the people you work with who are not cooperating. You may even feel angry with Cheb for getting you involved in being a volunteer. Talk to others and share your problems because you are not alone. Everyone is going through the same phases, but remember this stage is temporary, and it will pass. Always look forward and remember again why you chose to be there. When you finish the project, you will look back and see the progress and be amazed with the results.

BE KIND to others. This could mean your peer volunteers, the project manager, or a local person. You never know what other people are going through as they may be very vulnerable, sad, or dealing with difficult issues. We all need support. If you see someone going through a hard time, try to make him or her smile, offer help or just share your experience. Sometimes all we need are kind words, and also remember people’s privacy. If they do not want to share, please do not force the conversation. If they do engage you, do your best to understand what other people are going through, even if it’s something you’ve never dealt with yourself. You will get so much credit for being kind to someone. Treat others as you would want to be treated, and you will begin to make friends on this adventure as well.

BE SAFE. If you break your leg or get robbed, it will not make your experience efficient or enjoyable. Be prepared in advance and read about cultural norms and safety rules in the area of your project beforehand. Being prepared also means taking the necessary precautions: getting appropriate insurance policies and all needed immunizations, backing up your computer files, pictures, etc. Do not take unnecessary risks. We want you to be safe, so that you can come back and tell about your experiences to others who want to go and continue what you started.

MEASURING YOUR PROGRESS. Many of you will be looking to measure success of your project participation. Did you really make a difference? The answer is yes. Whether you built a house for someone, created a fund-raising campaign, or made a child smile, you did it – you made a change, you made someone happier and improved the world. Additionally, in the process of volunteering, we are sure you improved yourself by simply making an effort to be a better human.

Shared Wisdom and Resources

I’ve been looking for websites about happiness and self-improvement. Those who seek shall find. While I was sitting at Peet’s Coffee&Tea  in Santa Monica I noticed a man next to me creating an elaborated chart, looking like a fishbone in Corel which reminded me  a cause – effect tool from my consulting life. I asked him what it was. Charles told me that he is working  on the website Keys to self-motivation. He just started this website and the fishbone is one of his ideas to be posted soon. As Charles explained he has 20 years of experience in construction and he saw many men floating through life like lost boats, living day by day without having concrete goals not only career-wise but in other aspects of their life. So the fishbone is to create more structure and direct people where they want to go. Charles’ wife also has a website Detox Vortex, it is about living healthy.

We had a very interesting discussion and shared our knowledge on the topic. One of the websites Charles suggested is Self-growth. The site has numerous resources for those who have the time and interest to learn different techniques. We both appreciate Steve Pavlina blog, which has thousands of great posts (it’s been around since 2004).

I told Charles about his potential competitor My life list and about Daily feats, a site that suggests good deeds for you and gives you points for completing them.

A friend recommended to me a site about how to get over difficult time in one’s life Out of stress. Through I’m happy project I connected with Rachel, who has a website Undercurrent coaching. I mentioned before Ricky’s site Life long happiness. Subscribe to blogs you like, find inspiring quotes about life, love and helping others. Visit Quote Garden.

If you are very depressed and want help, try Depression Support Help and Psychology Info. I recently found National Empowerment Center (NEC) website. There are many depression and suicide prevention organizations… Just type the words “depression help”… and there will be a list to choose from.

What I recommend the most is…  go and volunteer… You will learn everything in comparison: your pain, their pain, the world’s pain. You’ll see how making other people happy will make you feel. Don’t expect to get anything in return for your help to others. Just do it. Ad you will see the difference soon… “One must really have suffered oneself to help others” ~Mother Teresa.

If you want to start your own project and need fundraising or want to invest into somebody’s project, check out Crowdrise, Kiva, Profounder, Kickstarter and Donorchoose.

There are lots of interesting meet-ups about how to become happy. One of them is run by Dr. Amy Coget in San Francisco. I never met Amy but her positive attitude is contagious. She runs The San Francisco Happiness Club.

This year on the International happiness day, July 10, she created Smile Mob Event: “We will be giving away free smiles and free hugs too!  If you wanted more happiness in your life and to celebrate your own and others happiness then join us at the SF Happiness Club.  After participating in a smile mob this past week, I guarantee you will gain a great happiness boost!”

And finally, there will be another group testing of the happiness formula in Cambridge, MA on Aug 10 at 7 PM in Algiers Café in Harvard Square. All participants will be able to try the latest version of the tool,  create their own happiness formula, help others to increase their happiness and provide feedback. Everyone is welcome to attend!

Great Life Happiness Manual

I met Ricky a couple of days ago at “I’m happy project” meet-up in Santa Monica. I learned about his website, which I studied thoroughly and I found a lot of great quotes, posts,  audio and video material. This one is my favorite:

It reminded this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJ7AzBIJoI. The lyrics are taken from a famous essay — written in 1997 by Mary Schmich, a columnist with the Chicago Tribune — which gives some amazing advice for life, highly recommend everyone to watch the video or read this http://tinyurl.com/schmich-sunscreen!

Live Group Testing of the Happiness Tool in Santa Monica, CA

There were seven of us in Urth Cafe in Santa Monica at 7PM on Wednesday. Due to traffic I was a little stressed, but “Peace of mind” tea cured it all. I was pleasantly surprised with overall attendance: 6 people showed up from 10 RSVPs which is pretty high.

We gathered in the courtyard, where it is more quiet, plenty of shade and more space in comparison to the main room. After quick introduction, participants scattered around the courtyard and completed the forms with 20 questions.

While I was entering numbers from the first set of forms into the Excel file and calculating participants’ happiness ratios, they wrote questions about their obstacles of happiness.  We rotated the second set of  forms among participants, so that each of them had a chance to answer other people’s questions. The questions were about romantic life, work life balance, connecting to people better, etc.

At the end everyone received two forms back: one with their happiness ratio and the other with answers to their questions. We had a discussion and the feedback was most valuable. Kim enjoyed giving answers, while writing her own questions was hard.

Warren said that he tried to answer questions as best as he could because he knew how important it was for the other person and that person’s happiness depended on it. He also mentioned that it would be nice to do this test every morning, because it is a good check for someone’s life. Warren was surprised at the complexity of the test. Even though there were just twenty questions, they do cover all sources of happiness and the happiness ratio is correct.

I was asked “What does the ratio mean?” and the answer is “of everything you want for your happiness how much do you think you have right now”. I was curious if the exercise helped to focus on what participants have or what they don’t have. Kim said that for her it was about understanding how many good things she has in her life and about being grateful for them.

I explained that this assessment could work both ways: it could either direct you to lower your expectations or help achieve what you need the most in your life (being more proactive).

As we drove back my friend, who also participated in the event, said that she wrote a question and the answer was not new to her but it was reassuring to hear it from a stranger, which just reconfirmed that she really needs to do it and really focus on it. Imagine that 100 people read your question and gave you 100 great answers. Even  if you don’t act upon their recommendation, it is possible that  you will be happier simply because so many people care about you and your happiness.

It turned out that one of the participants Ricky has a great website Lifelong happiness, he gave us special bracelets, which are part of the 30 day challenge. I checked his website out after the event and was very impressed. All the content on the website is to help people to achieve happiness in life. One of the quotes is “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. ~Mother Teresa”

As for the testing of the tool in San Francisco that was planned for June 30, only one person showed up who happens to be my friend :) We waited for the rest of the folks in Epicenter Cafe for about 40 minutes and then went to Udupi Palace for an Indian dinner. I didn’t get upset that others didn’t show up because I realized that on Thursday before the 4th of July many people may decide to travel or run last minute errands, so I was totally fine with having a dinner with my friend instead. But that same day he introduced me to a guy who was really interested in the tool and I promised to send it to him. If I can help one person learn something that will help him find his happiness I’m happy.

Live Group Testing of the Happiness Tool in Boston

In spite of rain, four people showed up for the testing last Wednesday: two men and two women. I only knew one person out of four, the rest were from I’m Happy Project Meet-up group.

We met in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library, which has a beautiful fountain. I briefly gave an overview of the project. It is interesting that one of the attendees was a Sociology professor who is going to write a book about happiness. After I distributed the forms to the attendees and explained the rules, we moved to one of the rooms in the library and the participants took seats at different tables. The point was to simulate isolated environment and be anonymous as if we were home completing forms online, not next to other humans present.  

After participants completed the forms anonymously they dropped them in the bag and I rated the forms via the tool I have in Excel and wrote their ratios of happiness on the forms. While I was rating, participants formulated two questions about their obstacles to happiness and wrote them down (also anonymously) on the second form. We rotated the question forms between 4 tables, and everyone had a chance to answer other people’s questions and got answers to their own questions. They also recorded their high and low points… of the day (or of their life as of today). The whole exercise took about one hour.

 
At the end we briefly discussed the session. Participants felt that their ratios were about right. And it turned out that everyone enjoyed writing answers for others even more than receiving answers to their own questions… And one person mentioned “I felt closer to you than before, even though we are strangers… As if we are close friends, we shared very important things with each others.”

There will be two more live sessions in San Fran and LA over next two weeks, I will also summarize feedback from individual testers in other posts. Thank you to all testers!

 

 

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