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!



International Happiness Day is on July 10

I just found out about this website and International Happiness Day, which was proposed back in 2008 by a person from Portugal. On the website you can find a letter to the UN to promote Happiness and Peace on Earth. They will need 50 mln signatures. It is a cool idea and I put my signature on it. Check it out for yourself.

My name is sign now! and I live in sign now!. I recently found out about International Happiness Day on July 10th. I am writing to you because I see the importance of commemorating this worthy cause world wide.
Over the years we have come to take cause in the fundamental human experiences beyond technology and economics and have noticed there was an overlooking of important concepts like the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink. We have Dr. Robert Muller, Former Assistant Secretary General for the United Nations, who saw the importance of holding a worldwide environmental conference. We also so the with the UN supported universities of Peace.
As the environment becomes more of a concern and our need for peace on Earth starts getting attention, it is imperative for our world to embrace simple human experiences such as happiness and love.
By acknowledging and supporting the cause of International Happiness day, it would help me know that happiness is my birthright and I was born here, that happiness is a state of being that starts with a choice to be happy!
It is your duty as my UN representative to take my request serious and know that as other countries have forged forward with their own happiness emphasis, i.e. Bhutan and Gross National Happiness, other countries are making headway as well. The reason why happiness is so important to me and everyone I know is because of all of the great benefits that come with it, such as better health.
By commemorating this July 10th, 2011 as an International Happiness day, I as a global citizen will practice gratitude, love, joy, optimism and forgiveness at each and every opportunity. Please embrace and support this initiative, it could be the greatest day our planet has ever experienced!

All my best in happiness,

sign now!

Three Tips

I wrote this post for another blog 6 months ago, but I thought of it after reading this, a collection of good tips and ideas from bloggers. Below are three tips that helped me in 2010.

1. Create several social identities. Become a member of several groups, whether it is a book club, church meeting, basketball team at work, make your own beer crew, etc. This year I spent many months unemployed and trying to be very frugal while I was looking for a job.  I couldn’t go out much or go on vacation, etc. but I attended my Tuesday Writer’s Meet-up gatherings, met with my book club friends and volunteered with OLPC.  My social groups got me going and gave me a sense of purpose and fulfillment especially during hard times.

Make friends with people from different walks of life, one day you’ll especially thank yourself for that, as those friendships will give you new perspective, make you wiser and more open-minded. This will also help you network and share hobbies with others.

2. Don’t be afraid to look or ask for help. At some points of our lives we all need either direct help or mentoring.  Sometimes we are debating between several options and can’t make up our mind. And then one small piece of advice from a total stranger could work as a moderator or catalyst for resolving our pending questions. When depressed, don’t assume you are alone and your condition will stay like that forever, everything passes especially bad things. “All inevitable things are temporary, only lessons from inevitable are eternal” Paolo Coelho. For any problem you have, there is someone who has the answer for you as there have been at least 12 billion people on Earth past and present (plus aliens) and someone for sure at least has thought about what you are pondering.

Ask for help, Google it, put it out there! And the answer will come to you, just believe in the abundance of the Universe, because for some magic reason there are people out there who have right answers. And if you are the one who has the solution, post it on your blog, some forum, etc… Your opinion is valuable for someone else on this planet.

3. Make new priorities this year. Find room for what you really want to do. Whether it is a long-desired hobby, more time spent with your friends and family or a simple vacation. My friend complained that he worked too much and had no time to rest, then I said “make it your priority, and then you will find time”.  When he focused on it, he managed to take time off work; months later I received beautiful pictures he sent from his big trip to Europe. He looked very happy and healthy. The same happened to me. A year ago I realized that I had other priorities in life besides corporate work, and I left my job and went to volunteer in Asia. I felt like I found something I lost many years ago – the  meaning and lightness of life. 

Make priorities this year for important things in you life that should not wait.

Inspired by Mark McCurdy and his Three awesome tips to start the New Year

Independent and Group Testers are in Action

The first version of the tool was sent to 20+ testers in 3 countries (the US, Canada and Singapore).

In the next 3 weeks 3 live testing sessions  will be held in 3 different cities, where anyone can try the tool and participate in the simulation of the happiness aggregator:

1. June 22, Wednesday, Boston, MA at Boston Public Library

2. June 30, Thursday, San Francisco, CA at the Epicenter Cafe

3. July 6, Wednesday, Los Angeles, CA at the Urth Cafe in Santa Monica

And finally, check out this beautiful film HOME – The Adventure with Yann Arthus-Bertrand about us and our planet!

Why do we need Happiness Formula?

Everything changes… What I thought was important to me and made me happy changed over the years. My happiness varied too: some days, months, even years I was happier than others… So does it mean that I’m a happy or unhappy person? Could that be measured over time? At this point I really care about being happy now and in the future.

According to “Stumbling on happiness” people can’t really predict well what will make them happy. We can only answer what makes us happy now… Even past happy experiences may not have the same affect on us today,  because we change… If we had a formula for happiness, we may be able to avoid chasing some goal in our life that will not make us happy. That constantly developing formula could help people of all ages.

Young people make mistakes by choosing paths that would not lead them to happiness. They often crave things they never experienced before, but believe would make them happy.  They don’t have wisdom yet.

Middle aged people are busy working and raising children to think about happiness and meaning. They don’t have time yet.

Finally, it is when people get to the mature age they see everything in retrospective based on their experiences. They have the time and wisdom (if applicable) to see through their own mistakes, like wishing they picked another major or didn’t work that much but spend more time on hobbies and with people they cared about. Unfortunately, at that point not all mistakes could be corrected.

What if… we knew early in life what is really important, then we would not spend time on trivial stuff, stupid worries, false goals, but concentrate on what empowers us now and build upon it. By learning universal sources of happiness and applying them to our own personal formula, we could capture what is important to us in this particular moment and then further develop the formula throughout life and enrich it by our own experiences.

Losing Meaning: Part Two

Plenty of fish. The name of this dating site hardly suggests unique value and authenticity of an individual. If you don’t like someone, no worries, just discard them, there are millions out there waiting to be found. The idea of being easily replaceable makes people feel insecure and unnecessary.

I remember reading one of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels about ten years ago, the following episode shocked me: government was concerned with its citizens, who became so abundant with no jobs and losing meaning that a quick service for taking people’s lives (volunteers) was allowed. All you need to do is to go to a special life-ending station ( like a tanning salon place) and as a bonus you would get a good meal before you say farewell… It was totally Ok, because no one really cared about one another … Does it sound like too distant future, too sci-fi now?  Well, the first part about too many of us, lack of jobs and less meaning is true, the second part got modified: some people don’t need a meal to be motivated or a third-party service, they do it themselves.

Some would argue that religion will save us all, but being religious doesn’t really guarantee your life has more meaning. It’s not something that comes by default when you are born into religion or you follow all rituals.  You prove that you are a decent human based on your actions towards others, no matter what religion. Religion helps some stick to concrete rules and whether this world’s massive ups and downs, but unfortunately not all religious people are truly compassionate to others.  If they were, we wouldn’t have religious wars.

People do become rigid by trying hard to defend their beliefs, but why would they do it at the expense of others? Why hurt and discriminate others just because they don’t share your views, whether they are religious or not. We forget that what really unites us is the fact that we are humans, and we should not differentiate from one to another and divide ourselves into subgroups.

We just get lost in the models we create for ourselves. What if we all disappear together with the planet today? What would we say was the point of us inhabiting this planet for 10,ooo or more years ?

Who are we and where are we going?

I truly hope that we, mammals or divine creatures, are heading somewhere where we don’t hurt but care for each other and create spiritual and physical environment that not just humans but other species can thank us for.

Losing Meaning: Part One

There are more than six billion of us now, no wonder that each of us is not that valuable anymore, or at least it feels that way. It is almost like being a commodity, when supply is high, but demand is low. Depreciation of our value comes from many factors, including globalization, advanced technology and social norms.

More and more we feel ourselves easily replaceable. Think of restructuring, lay-offs and outsourcing. You don’t like you job or your salary? No worries, we’ll find your replacement in a heartbeat, there are a lot of you out there.  Suddenly you are no longer needed. Now it is called lean, flexible and streamlining.

Even if you have a job, do you really feel it is meaningful? Does your organization bring real value to the world? Are more people happier because of what you do or is it the other way around? Do you feel like your skills and talents are aligned with job responsibilities? How many people hate their jobs, but  think that there is no way out? They have huge bills to pay and  it is hard to find another job. Millions of people are stressed because of all of that, whether they have jobs or they don’t.

The majority of jobs lacks any creativity, does not utilize our talents, gives no freedom and incentives that are structured incorrectly. Then many organizations have vague mission statements, which are useless. Do you ever feel like a small piece of a big mechanical machine that would run perfectly without you? It is mainly because we don’t get appreciated or valued for what we really are – live humans with our own ideas and desire to be useful.

Technology makes things easy, but unfortunately we don’t appreciate what we get without effort. That doesn’t mean we don’t need automated processes and tools, etc. It just means that we can’t apply them to everything in our lives, because then we wouldn’t feel worthy of anything. We can’t eliminate all effort altogether, so that life is super easy. What will be the point of even getting up every day if everything could be automated? If technology does it all for us, imagine The Matrix but according to our own will: we will just stay in beds and our atrophied physical bodies will be connected by tubes and cables to the machines. Our meaning and value will be zero, except for body heat. How good is it for a life with no effort?

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