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 🙂

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!

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.

Testing the Happiness Calculator

Before all categories in the tool were finalized, I was very curious about my own ratio of happiness and categories in the formula. I predicted about 5 categories in mine, but as I went through the first exercise, that was not the case.

On Day 1 my happiness ratio was 85%, which was higher than I expected. I thought that one category that I’m not satisfied with would outweigh others, but it didn’t because I value several other categories just as high in priority. Even though sometimes I grouch about something, it means that I keep forgetting how blessed I’m with other things in life and I can’t take them for granted.  

I took a moment and imagined some scenarios… I would not be as happy if that one category was high on my satisfaction scale, but low on priority, or if some other categories were low in satisfaction, because I know they are my high priorities, like friends, health, environment, etc. My results varied slightly daily, and I’m sure that they would vary more if I measured my happiness monthly! At the end of the week I got really curious about my feelings on the days of measurements, and I reconstructed my activities that week.

On Day 1, my ratio was 85% and I worked at home all day and didn’t even have time to go out.

On Day 2 , though, I interacted with a lot of people: went rollerblading with a group of friends and had a nice dinner, laughed a lot, but my happiness ratio went down to 82%, and I think mainly because there were moments  of melancholy that day when I thought about that one damn category.

On Day 3, I went to work and after work I wrote a blog post and worked more on promoting the meet-up event in Boston on June 22, contacting some people and … my happiness ratio was at 87% that day. I didn’t work out, I didn’t have good food, I didn’t’ spend time with friends or family,  I just worked on my Project after work and that gave me my boost of happiness.

On Day 4, I played with the tool by building constraints and expanding limits. I decided to only include 5 categories in my formula, so I picked 5 the most important ones.  My happiness ratio plummeted to 69%. I changed importance scale from 0-4 to 0-5, so I had to answer all questions again.

There were some shocking results. (When I answer questions , I hide previous answers, so that I don’t get distracted by my old answers). My happiness changed in just 5 minutes by +1%! Just in minutes my importance of hobbies to my happiness went  down by 66%! It is funny, that I changed my mind about some categories so quickly and I didn’t remember how I rated them only minutes ago.

Main lesson learned: try to be as honest as possible when answering questions, because your mind will play games with you, so listen to your heart.

Lastly, I was curious to create graphs for each category, and I did it. On Day 6 I wanted to know why I felt one way or another and wished I wrote down my thoughts on low points and highlights of categories…

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