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.

Three Questions of Life

One day it occurred to a certain emperor that if he only knew the answers to three questions, he would never stray in any matter. What is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times? The emperor issued a decree throughout his kingdom announcing that whoever could answer the questions would receive a great reward. Many who read the decree made their way to the palace at once, each person with a different answer. In reply to the first question, one person advised that the emperor make up a thorough time schedule, consecrating every hour, day, month, and year for certain tasks and then follow the schedule to the letter. Only then could he hope to do every task at the right time. Another person replied that it was impossible to plan in advance and that the emperor should put all vain amusements aside and remain attentive to everything in order to know what to do at what time. Someone else insisted that, by himself, the emperor could never hope to have all the foresight and competence necessary to decide when to do each and every task and what he really needed was to set up a Council of the Wise and then to act according to their advice. Someone else said that certain matters required immediate decision and could not wait for consultation, but if he wanted to know in advance what was going to happen he should consult magicians and soothsayers. The responses to the second question also lacked accord. One person said that the emperor needed to place all his trust in administrators, another urged reliance on priests and monks, while others recommended physicians. Still others put their faith in warriors. The third question drew a similar variety of answers. Some said science was the most important pursuit. Others insisted on religion. Yet others claimed the most important thing was military skill.

The emperor was not pleased with any of the answers, and no reward was given. After several nights of reflection, the emperor resolved to visit a hermit who lived up on the mountain and was said to be an enlightened man. The emperor wished to find the hermit to ask him the three questions, though he knew the hermit never left the mountains and was known to receive only the poor, refusing to have anything to do with persons of wealth or power. So the emperor disguised himself as a simple peasant and ordered his attendants to wait for him at the foot of the mountain while he climbed the slope alone to seek the hermit. Reaching the holy man’s dwelling place, the emperor found the hermit digging a garden in front of his hut. When the hermit saw the stranger, he nodded his head in greeting and continued to dig. The labor was obviously hard on him. He was an old man, and each time he thrust his spade into the ground to turn the earth, he heaved heavily. The emperor approached him and said, “I have come here to ask your help with three questions: When is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?” The hermit listened attentively but only patted the emperor on the shoulder and continued digging. The emperor said, “You must be tired. Here, let me give you a hand with that.” The hermit thanked him, handed the emperor the spade, and then sat down on the ground to rest. After he had dug two rows, the emperor stopped and turned to the hermit and repeated his three questions. The hermit still did not answer, but instead stood up and pointed to the spade and said, “Why don’t you rest now? I can take over again.” But the emperor continued to dig. One hour passed, then two. Finally the sun began to set behind the mountain. The emperor put down the spade and said to the hermit, “I came here to ask if you could answer my three questions. But if you can’t give me any answer, please let me know so that I can get on may way home.” The hermit lifted his head and asked the emperor, “Do you hear someone running over there?” The emperor turned his head. They both saw a man with a long white beard emerge from the woods. He ran wildly, pressing his hands against a bloody wound in his stomach. The man ran toward the emperor before falling unconscious to the ground, where he lay groaning. Opening the man’s clothing, the emperor and hermit saw that the man had received a deep gash. The emperor cleaned the wound thoroughly and then used his own shirt to bandage it, but the blood completely soaked it within minutes. He rinsed the shirt out and bandaged the wound a second time and continued to do so until the flow of blood had stopped. At last the wounded man regained consciousness and asked for a drink of water. The emperor ran down to the stream and brought back a jug of fresh water. Meanwhile, the sun had disappeared and the night air had begun to turn cold. The hermit gave the emperor a hand in carrying the man into the hut where they laid him down on the hermit’s bed. The man closed his eyes and lay quietly. The emperor was worn out from the long day of climbing the mountain and digging the garden. Leaning against the doorway, he fell asleep. When he rose, the sun had already risen over the mountain. For a moment he forgot where he was and what he had come here for. He looked over to the bed and saw the wounded man also looking around him in confusion. When he saw the emperor, he stared at him intently and then said in a faint whisper, “Please forgive me.” “But what have you done that I should forgive you?” the emperor asked. “You do not know me, your majesty, but I know you. I was your sworn enemy, and I had vowed to take vengeance on you, for during the last war you killed my brother and seized my property. When I learned that you were coming alone to the mountain to meet the hermit, I resolved to surprise you on your way back to kill you. But after waiting a long time there was still no sign of you, and so I left my ambush in order to seek you out. But instead of finding you, I came across your attendants, who recognized me, giving me this wound. Luckily, I escaped and ran here. If I hadn’t met you I would surely be dead by now. I had intended to kill you, but instead you saved my life! I am ashamed and grateful beyond words. If I live, I vow to be your servant for the rest of my life, and I will bid my children and grandchildren to do the same. Please grant me your forgiveness.” The emperor was overjoyed to see that he was so easily reconciled with a former enemy. He not only forgave the man but promised to return all the man’s property and to send his own physician and servants to wait on the man until he was completely healed. After ordering his attendants to take the man home, the emperor returned to see the hermit. Before returning to the palace the emperor wanted to repeat his three questions one last time. He found the hermit sowing seeds in the earth they had dug the day before. The hermit stood up and looked at the emperor. “But your questions have already been answered.” “How’s that?” the emperor asked, puzzled. “Yesterday, if you had not taken pity on my age and given me a hand with digging these beds, you would have been attacked by that man on your way home. Then you would have deeply regretted not staying with me. Therefore the most important time was the time you were digging in the beds, the most important person was myself, and the most important pursuit was to help me. Later, when the wounded man ran up here, the most important time was the time you spent dressing his wound, for if you had not cared for him he would have died and you would have lost the chance to be reconciled with him. Likewise, he was the most important person, and the most important pursuit was taking care of his wound. Remember that there is only one important time and is Now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at you side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.” Leo Tolstoy

Making the Happiness Formula

Last weekend I finalized happiness categories to be in the formula. The whole process of identifying and validating them took at least four months. I had to read psychology books, self-help books, philosophical works, summaries of religious views, results of various happiness studies and tests. I studied Maslow hierarchy of needs. To collect more modern happiness categories from real humans, I conducted happiness survey back in March. I combined my survey findings with research findings and then removed duplicates. It is important to exclude overlapping categories as much as possible, but have remaining categories complement each other and to form happiness base.

Last month while searching for categories, I found 2003 Happiness model generated by psychologists after interviewing 1,000 people. Its categories were lumped into groups (to make formula short) and that was hard to understand from the user point of view. The model I generated is about having separate defined categories, that don’t have to be in the formula all the time. Individuals will be able to pick and choose what categories apply to their happiness and generate their own formula, which will be unique. Even if everyone on the planet was happy at the same time, all individual formulas still be different as people’s happiness is derived from different sources and amplitude of it is different.

You will be able to create your happiness formula which describes your particular state of mind, outlook on life, if you wish, which will be constantly changing, and you will learn later why.

It would be strange to impose some ideal formula of happiness on someone and say that they have to conform.  People go through different stages in life and some parts of the formula maybe not be understood or accepted by them. Some categories may be absolutely unimportant to some people at some point of their life or throughout life. They just need to understand the whole spectrum of happiness sources to be prepared for changes and to maintain their happiness level long-term.

So I unbundled some broad group categories (like environmental mastery) into standalone categories. And created phrase categories that are easy to understand and identify as the same need to a certain limit. For example, category Love: do you have enough love in your life? This will most likely be interpreted as romantic love that could be platonic or not, but could also be parent’s, sibling’s or friend’s love. etc. So it is up to you what kind of love you want, you just need to be able to tell how much of it you have now in your life. For those who are confused on what love is there will be a way to clarify that later in subcategories.

So in short the formula is about what is it that we want for us to be happy vs how satisfied are we with it now. When I finished describing categories, I created a model in Excel file with formulas of how it will work and started using it daily. Today is the 5th day of my testing and I found some interesting facts.

Results of the Happiness Survey

Back in March I crafted a survey to help understand what makes people happy and if technology can help us become happier. Volunteers completed the survey anonymously either online or on paper. There were two groups of respondents: a) middle class, age range of 20-40 y.o., who use technology for social purpose, not particularly religious, mainly employed, b) middle to upper class retired people, i.e. 50 y.o. and above, who are not too fond of technology vs. face-to-face meetings for social purpose, mainly non-religious, but with high priorities on ethics and humanism (representatives from Boston Ethical Society). Thank you to all participants!

The Happiness survey is phase One of The Ultimate Answer project, which is about:

  • ›What makes people happy?
  • ›How open are people to share their ideas about happiness and help each other?
  • ›Are there any “common denominators” of happiness?
  • ›Is it possible to measure happiness and how?
  • ›How can happiness be increased in the world?
  • ›Can technology leverage human potential to increase happiness and how?
  • ›What is the meaning of life and how to find it?

82 people answered the survey: 15 from Boston Ethical Society(BES) and 67 from non-BES.

Here are some highlights:

  • 99% knows what happiness is, but only 72% knows what the meaning of life is. Those 28% who have no clue really need to catch up on Monty Python…
  • People are more likely to give a piece of advice than to receive it.
  • 9 out of 10 said that happiness is not permanent, it changes over time.
  • Answers from BES (more ethical and older) group were different from non-BES respondents.
  • Meaning of life is different from personal happiness.

Please, feel free to check out the results of the survey for yourself Happiness Survey Results

%d bloggers like this: