Blog Transition 2

Hello dear friends, it has been seven years since the last article on this site and three years since I stopped writing for theultimateanswer.org. Due to hosting problems with hostmonster, I’m going to move all content for 4 years back here – about 200 articles! Almost 8,000 people created their happiness formula on my site, but it is time to close it down and just keep the blog.

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Cambridge Testing of the Formula

There were 17 testers at Algiers Café on Wednesday at 7PM. The weather was nice, and the café was full of people, including some book club crowd downstairs.

Testers completed the forms to calculate the happiness ratio and also participated in the mentoring session (everyone anonymously wrote a question and others answered that question anonymously). I introduced something new this time – a feedback form, which asked how correct the ratio received on the form vs the subjective one in people’s minds on a scale of 1-10? Out of 17 testers, 2 said they have no clue, but others put down numbers. The mean (average), mode and median are 8. The answers varied from 3 to 10/Very scary accurate. Note: It is not impossible that there were some errors, as I manually entered 680 numbers, so please forgive me if an error took place, I did my best to verify all input.

The main idea of the formula is that it is always changing, including your satisfaction and importance of categories. It works better when you take the test several times and see your graphs for overall happiness and for each category separately as well as trend over time.

Another important part is that you can customize your formula (none out of 17 people marked any of the categories as not important=0, but if you did, that would allow you to customize your formula). Example, instead of 20 you would have only 5 categories important to your happiness. In the future you will be able to add your additional category and track it over time.

I also want to include some comments here from the feedback forms. The question was whether all sources of happiness are covered or if some are missing. In the future each category will have subcategories. See testers’ answers and my comments in parenthesis:

– Weather (is in environment, but I’ll have a separate tracking of weather in the tool on the day of your measurement)

– Diet and activity level (are in health category)

– Food (is in basic needs)

– Faith, spirituality (are in values and spiritual beliefs)

– Sense of progress is important (in self-esteem)

– Ask if they have a passion (is in passion)

– Free time (is in basic needs)

– I don’t see inner peace (this is the outcome)

– I think some deeper, more complex elements are missing sort of like unexplainable malaise (is in health and acceptance)

I also want to mention that people who are currently depressed and/or don’t want to take the test are free to skip it and go straight to the mentoring part of the tool. The test is just an assessment that helps you detect areas for change, no matter how hard they are, but everything is possible, read this article.

First comment after the event was over: “It feels so good to give answers to people’s questions… Especially when you read problems you experience yourself.”

Comments from the feedback form: “Really liked the exercise with problems and solutions.”
“ The ability to empathize with people /discuss things has been great.”

“How do I get a higher score?” (it is part of the online tool – collection of all kinds of solutions )

“It is not comprehensive enough”. (It is if you customize it to exatly match your real priorities, btw there is another formula that was created by scientists several years ago, check it out to see if you like that formulabetter)

“Accept facts + stress should not be in the same question” (I’ll look into this one)

“It would be neat if you published the Q&A anonymously on the web or provided the option for people to make theirs anonymous.” (That is the plan so far).

Other comments: “Wait, Isn’t the ultimate answer 42?”

After event was over, I found one form left behind and since it is anonymous, I want to quote from it just to give an idea /examples of what kinds of questions/answers were created:

Q1: How to have better relationship with brother despite large geo separation?

A1: If you have access to Internet, there email and Facebook, twitter. If not, you write letters and mail them to each other. I lie 500 miles from family and we find ways to communicate.

A2: So I have a brother in LA. I said a month ago I’m gonna to visit. Booked tickets after calling him. He was super pleased. So my advice: call him, plan something that both agree on+get time off+go. This should work, unless he is in jail.

A3: My brother lives 3,500 miles away. I send him silly (as in funny) cards, postcards. Email +text, chat to him on PS3 network.

Q2:How to find a satisfying and meaningful occupation?

A1: I’m in the same boat as you. For now be brave and confident.

A2: Try and try again. Always keep looking even through bad things.

A3: Find what you are passionate about, and what you enjoy spending your time doing and pursue it. You should feel like your worktasts are opportunities not obligations.

A4: I used “what color is my parachute?”+ read up on many different occupations. Even pursued different vocations, but finally settled. I’m in my 40s +finally satisfied. It takes research +$$ unfortunately. But good luck.

A5: Take some online tests or get friends to quiz you about your perfect job – what do you want to do??

Thank You to all who participated, your feedback is invaluable. And thank you to my friend Susanna for helping run the event. I will be making final adjustments to the formula and working on making it available online with all the graphs and cool features that we didn’t have time to go through. There will be a lot choose from: you can do just mentoring or do the test and analyze it in time, do diary, wish maps, gratitude journals, the test on what your meaning of life is and other things.

Stay tuned and be happy! 🙂

Quantified Self on Happiness

Recently I discovered Quantified Self Community. They have a list of tools for quantifying oneself, a directory of people and a brand new forum, where you can ask questions and engage in a discussion on your favorite quant related topic. Out of curiosity I typed “happiness” and found 6 existing websites/apps related to happiness. Here they are:

1. Mappiness is a free iPhone app that’s part of a research project at the London School of Economics. The app prompts you a few times a day to ask how you are feeling, who you are with, where you are, and what you are doing. The data is anonymously collected by the LSE, who are analyzing it in particular for the effect of local environment (including noise) on people’s mood. Users can view their own happiness history directly in the app. http://www.mappiness.org.uk

2. Track Your Happiness is a scientific project that investigates what makes life worth living. Using this site, you’ll be able to track your happiness and find out what factors – for you personally – are associated with greater happiness. You’ll also contribute to our scientific understanding of happiness. It works by: 1) answering a few initial questions; 2) you will be emailed or text messaged everyday to report how you are feeling and what you are doing; and 3) you get a happiness report that shows how your happiness varies depending on various factors. http://www.trackyourhappiness.org/

3. Gratitude and happiness: “Track basic happiness items and graph those.” http://www.clickpodproductions.com/site/Gratitude_%26_Happiness.html

4. Happiness is an iPhone app for logging your mood. It reminds you to record your happiness in a simple up/down format, and allows you to record influences and events that may have affected your mood. The app can then display colorful visualizations of your happiness over time as well as what was on your mind most often. http://happiness.grimaceworks.com/

5. The happiness project toolbox is a support for the book “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin and provides eight web based tools for making posts associated with personal happiness. The tools are “Resolutions”, “Group Resolutions”, “Personal Commandments”, “Inspiration Board”, “Lists”, “One Sentence Journal”, “Secrets of Adulthood”, and “Happiness Hacks”. The postings can be shared in public with friends who join the site, or kept private. http://www,happinessprojecttoolbox.com

6. Happy factor is a web based application that asks you about your happiness by sending you text messages. You record data by responding with a 1-10 rating and a note. The application can then display history, average happiness on different days, hours, and months, and a frequency chart of words used in the notes from happiest to unhappiest. Login is via Facebook. http://howhappy.dreamhosters.com/

PS There are also three new ones Illuum, Mood Panda and Live Happy. May 25, 2012

Feedback on the Happiness Formula (Part Three)

11. What do you like the most about the tool?

  • A. I like having all the categories laid out so succinctly, helping me to focus on what is really important, and whether I am doing those things, and what I need to change. I think you’ve done a great job of summarizing the factors that contribute to happiness.
  • B. The ability to analyze so many different components of happiness at once.
  • C. It helps you to think about what you might need to change or improve in your life to possibly become happier.
  • D. Comprehensive and easy to use
  • E. Seeing the change from one day to the next.
  • F. How concise it is. It didn’t overwhelm me with the amount of work I needed to do and amount of data I needed to provide. I liked the graphs though I would like to see them more usable

12. What do you like the least about the tool?

  • A. Nothing specific. You have already said that things will be automated online, which will make it more user-friendly. In a general sense, I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of a “formula for happiness”. However, having used the tool, even if I don’t pay too much attention to the final happiness ratio value, I did find it useful.
  • B. The limited ability to see graphically what components of happiness are most important at a given time
  • C. It is simply an assessment tool – it is hard to tell what to really do with the information.
  • D. 20 questions is a lot
  • E. That the outcomes on the graphs overlapped too much. Also, I’m not sure why there are 5 graphs. Are they categorized in some way? It makes me think they are and so wonder why they’re only named Graph 1, Graph 2, etc.
  • F. Graphs, not having ability to add may be one or two custom categories, not having ability to prioritize categories

13. What do you think is missing but would be a good addition to this tool?

  • A. I’d like to see the online version. I think it needs to seem more “fun” to make people want to use it. The average person does not like spreadsheets, formulae, and graphs, so it will be better if some of that is behind the scenes. At the end, once the results are tallied, I’d like to see percentages for each category, and a summary (in words, not just in numbers/graphs) of what categories scored high and suggestions for what categories need to be worked on.
  • B. More graphing options as I mentioned. Another idea might be to show a pie chart with the relative contributions of different categories to one’s overall happiness, and a table ranking the different categories.
  • C. Recommended reading?
  • D. Nothing
  • E. Sorry, I don’t have any feedback for you on this one
  • F. Ability to add one or two custom categories, ability to prioritize categories and then using that as a weightage in calculations

14. How many times did you use this tool during the week?

  • A. Two. I don’t think it should be used daily. I would get bored, and my answers wouldn’t likely change that much over that period of time, then I would likely stop using it. I think weekly at the most, or preferably bi-weekly, would work well for me.
  • B. 3
  • C. 4 times
  • D. 2X
  • E. Twice, b/c I had to! 😉 In seeing the graphs from one day to the next I would probably use it once a week.
  • F. Twice during the evaluation period but I plan to use it on a weekly basis for next few weeks

15. Do you have any other comments or suggestions?

  • A. Great job! If you want anyone to look over the online version (for user-friendliness, copy-editing, etc.), I’d be happy to do so.
  • B. Looking forward to seeing how this turns out on the website!
  • C. It’s an interesting project!
  • D. I would try to reduce the number of questions if possible, maybe after collecting some initial data to see which ones are most important to most people
  • E. I’m wondering if a depressed person might not want to use this tool b/c they already know they’re not happy and therefore might feel more depressed seeing the low score they already expect.
  • F. Great idea. I would like to see it evolve and I would love to be included in further testing on it.

Feedback on the Happiness Formula (Part Two)

6. Did the exercise make you appreciate what you have in life and not focus on what you don’t?

  • A. Yes, to some extent. It helped me to appreciate what I have, and it helped me to not focus on little things that don’t matter. However, it did focus my attention on things I don’t have that do matter. That doesn’t necessarily make me feel good in the short term (i.e. doesn’t make me happy now), but it is useful and gives me some goals. I like having targeted goals (e.g. I need to spend more time on my hobbies) rather than a general sense of wanting things to be different, but not being sure what I need to do.
  • B. It did make me appreciate what I have in life, but instead of making me not focus on problem areas it actually motivated me to work harder to improve them.
  • C. No
  • D. Yes, it helped a bit
  • E. No
  • F. Yes it did – I am going do this exercise consistently going forward – may be once a week – I think this provides so much clarity and focus on positives in my life and improvement areas for me personally

7. How long did it take you on average to answer the questions in sections Satisfaction and Importance?

  • A. I’m not sure; probably around 10 minutes total the first time, with about 70% of that on the Satisfaction, and the rest on the Importance. Not more than 5 minutes total the next time, once I was familiar with the descriptions.
  • B. About 5-10 minutes
  • C. It took longer (a few minutes) to answer the questions in the “Satisfaction” section because I had to be honest with myself. The “Importance” section was quicker to answer.
  • D. A few seconds
  • E. 5 minutes or so
  • F. 5 minutes each

8. Did you want to see more graphs (ex. for importance)?

  • A. No, I didn’t find the graphs useful, although they would be more valuable for tracking changes in time once I had more data. They are potentially overcrowded though (too much data on one plot). One thing that might be useful is to have percentages for each category on the formula page, rather than numbers 4.5 etc.
  • B. It would be good to see a graph of the importance weighted to each category over time. Also, it would be good to see a graph showing the average rating and importance over time for all the categories.
  • C. Not necessarily. But a graph plotting importance against satisfaction for a particular day or time period might be useful.
  • D. No, no need
  • E. No, but I might’ve liked to see the graphs separately since they overlapped too much for me.
  • F. Yes but it would be ideal to have capability that will allow me to chose what category I want to graph – the multiple categories on each graph are confusing and I wasn’t sure if they were grouped together for some specific reason – ability to mix and match categories on a graph (customize) will be useful as well

9. Do you think that rating scale for satisfaction (1-10) is adequate?

  • A. Yes
  • B. Yes, most people are familiar with rating things on a scale of 1-10 so this was intuitive
  • C. Yes
  • D. Yes
  • E. Yes
  • F. Yes

10. Do you think that rating scale for importance (0-5) is adequate?

  • A. No. As noted above, I didn’t use the low end of the scale at all, and would have liked more options at the higher end of the scale.
  • B. I actually think it could be good to have a wider scale, like 1-10 or even 1-20. With a scale of 0-5, you have less ability to express large differences in how important you think different components of happiness are.
  • C. Yes
  • D. Yes
  • E. Yes, having only 5 rankings made it easy to choose.
  • F. Yes

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