Request For Feedback

Last month I created the prototype of the happiness formula in Excel and asked for feedback:

“Dear Earthian! 

No matter where you are now, whether you are happy or not so much, by testing this tool you are helping increase happiness in the world.

After you answer questions, you will see your results in several graphs. Remember, that things constantly change due to many factors. Come back to this tool anytime and repeat exercise. You results will change and you will learn more about yourself.

After you test this tool, your feedback will be taken into account and real-time online tool will be created. There will be other features, that are not in this version, but they will enable people to share ideas about increasing satisfaction with certain life categories. These ideas will be stored in the Ultimate Answer database available to all.

Thank you for participating in the Ultimate Answer Project and for being you!”


Blog Transition

Dear Friends,

I’m finally transitioning all the content of this blog to its domain

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 🙂

The World Can Only Change From Within

This morning I read on-line what JLo said about her separation and I coudn’t agree more with her:

“Really the most important relationship that you have is with yourself. Life is really about change. And sometimes that can be scary. But the truth is, you have to do that. You have to push yourself so you can breakthrough your own boundaries and try new things and do new things.”

Later today I received a new post from Year of Kindness blog. Even though not totally appropriate for our semisphere weather-wise right now, this post is spot-on in terms of the topic and its main message:

“Lots of very simple things become far more complicated when it’s raining. Like getting to work via public transport without being completely saturated (epic fail). Or getting a decent nights sleep without having a leaky ceiling drip on your face (epic, epic fail). But there’s one thing that is surprisingly, much easier in bad weather: being kind. The last few days in Sydney have been ridiculously rainy, windy and cold. Everyone is reluctantly trudging along through it and there is a certain atmosphere of grumpiness and ready-for-summerness, which in a weird way actually brings everyone together.

Yesterday I offered to share my umbrella with someone who was caught in the rain without one. I discovered this is one of those very rare kindnesses that people generally accept with minimum wariness and maximum gratitude. And today, I decided to try my luck with a kindness that usually has very little success in Sydney – smiling at people as they walked past. But the funny thing is, today as we struggled with umbrellas turning inside out and buses sending waves of water splashing onto us, I found that strangers in the rain also laugh and smile together far more than those in the sunshine. Read into that what you will!

This week I also babysat for my lovely friends K and J and bought a coffee for a guy who looked like his eyes might actually pop out of his head at the very idea of it. Once he had recovered, he remarked that he would make sure he was at the coffee shop at the exact same time tomorrow. Nice try! I also did the following things I usually don’t make time for: went to a dance class, said yes to every dessert I was offered (and worked very hard not to feel any guilt about it!), did a yoga/meditation class and spent several hours reading a good book with no interruptions. I didn’t realise how long it had been since I had done many of these things – they seem so little but the happiness they create is pretty big!

And in one of those wonderful twists the universe likes to organise sometimes, this weekend I am invited to a Kindness Conference (who knew there was such a thing?) and the topic is A Time For Renewal: The World Can Only Change From Within. Yes, that’s right, a whole two-days of talks and techniques from professional (and international) kindness crusaders on how and why to be kinder to yourself. So I will definitely report back to you on that one.

I hope you’re all doing well with the kindness to self challenge. And if you’re caught in the rain this week too, remember you can always create your own sunshine just by smiling!”

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

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 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!

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