This summer has been filled with more questions than answers for me. About parenting (is it better to cut kids some slack, or to continue with sports practices 5 times a week through the summer?), about work (is the safety net of an internal corporate Exec Coaching position an upgrade or a downgrade from running my own business?), about friendships (sharing what resources leads to an “upgrade” in the quality of friendship?), about education (is formal education always an upgrade of informal knowledge and experience?), about politics (let’s not even go there)…

How do you decide what’s already good enough, and what requires an upgrade? And moreover, how do you decide that something is, in fact, an upgrade?

If you think of it, everything could potentially have an upgrade – your house, your car, your relationships, your job… Everything could potentially be better.

So, should you constantly seek upgrades like job promotions, self-improvement projects, and new models of stuff that you own?

Is chasing upgrades a natural part of life, and a necessary part of our growth?

I’d love to hear what you think.

My take on upgrades is to go with the way you feel.

If you current situation feels good to you, makes you smile from ear to ear, helps you relax, gives you relief, and evokes joy, it’s good enough. Enjoy it.

If, on the other hand, your current situation irritates you, makes you uncomfortable, tense, stressed, anxious, then go for that upgrade! (If you’re not sure how you feel about a situation, email me, I’m really good at helping people figure this out.)

What are your thoughts?

I’d also like to share with you my new offers that are not on the website yet (stay tuned, or reach out to me via email at AlinaIsabelle@gmail.com , please):

Strategic Planning Session. Decide what you need and want right now, evaluate your options, and chart out a general plan of action. A combination of an energy shift, strategic analysis, support, inspiration, and feeling “clued in”, using traditional and alternative decision-making strategies.

Work-Life Clarity. A partnership to structure your life as a whole to achieve your most important goals. We’ll figure out what’s not working, determine why you don’t feel at your best even though everything looks ok, and get you moving on a path that feels successful to you.

Career Upgrade. Align yourself for a promotion that you want, and come out strong from any career transition. Get all the support that you need: we’ll brainstorm, practice, reflect, and create a powerful path for you to follow to your desired career goal.

Leadership Challenge. You have arrived: a new powerful position, a new role in the organization, a new team to form and to lead. Get support for positioning yourself in the organization, get clear on your new career goals, define success in the new role on your terms, have a safe lab for self-reflection and practice the use of your authority for optimizing results.

Awareness Consulting. Get additional information about your situation by tapping into the power of perception/sensing. I can help you increase your self-awareness and strengthen your natural power of perception (really, nothing supernatural, just sight, hearing, smell, touch and other), or provide information based on my ability to perceive information.

Customized workshops for corporations and groups on managing life and career through learning to manage your energy.

My calendar is solidly packed from August 8th for about a month. Although you won’t be able to automatically book time on my calendar during that period, please, email me, and I’ll work on finding the time to make good things happen for you.

And finally, here are some of the interesting things I’ve learned so far this summer:

– Great summary of ways to criticize with kindness, based on the book of Daniel C. Dennett (Courtesy BrainPickings.com)

– Strong article from Stanford: “How Smart Leaders Build Trust

– Insightful audio from This American Life called “Choosing Wrong”, about why even smart people make bad choices. Great for listening during your commute.

– TED talk on what we can learn from shortcuts (useful if you decide to observe where your kids, friends, and colleagues make shortcuts)

– Research proves that hugging trees and taking walks in the forest/park reduces brooding and physical stress.

– Article from HBR on what great listeners actually do (and it’s not just “not talking”)

– Incredibly relevant research on the positive power of a simple hug

What are some of the most interesting things you’ve learned this summer?

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Artwork by Nino Chakvetadze

(Originally posted here , but this important topic deserves a second look; I’m putting it at the top of the blog so that you don’t have to look for it.)

“You should follow the advice that you give in your blog posts. Maybe, you’ll feel better”- my mom said.

“I’m fine”- I snap back. “I don’t have time for this.”

As soon as I hang up the phone, I realize: “Happy people aren’t snappy.”

Think about it: have you ever met a truly, deeply happy person who snaps? Improbable.

So, if you encounter a snappy, judgmental person, have some empathy: this person is probably not happy at the moment.

Also, if you find yourself snapping back and judging, you know that you need to take a look at your own happiness.

Making yourself happier may sound like a daunting project, because often, people don’t know where to start and what exactly to aim for when it comes to happiness. I recently wrote about the “I should be happy” Syndrome, where people say that everything in their lives is so great that they should be happy. Yet, for some reason, they are not, and they are not sure what to do about it.

Aside from the discussion on genetic set-point for happiness, scientists don’t even agree on a universal definition of happiness. So where can a lay person, possibly tired, busy, and frustrated, begin?

You can dive into a gratitude journal or meditation, of course, but if you are rolling your eyes right now, the chances are that there’s more going on than a gratitude journal can fix.

Instead, start with a quick happiness assessment below, that will tell you how happy you are on the scale from 1 to 10Within 30 seconds, you’ll know how happy you are right now.

Want to give it a try? Answer the following 10 “yes” or “no” questions, keeping track of the number of “yes”es:

1. Did I get enough sleep today?
2. Did I put nutritious food into my body today?
3. Do I feel generally healthy today?
4. Did I give/get a 20-second hug today?
5. Did I laugh out loud today?
6. Is there anything in my life today that I’m thankful for?
7. Did I do something meaningful today, something that made a difference?
8. Did I learn anything new today?
9. Do I have anything to look forward to?
10. Do I feel connected with anyone who matters to me?
Bonus Question: Did I enjoy doing something today in which I’m exceptionally good?

The number of your “yes”es indicate how happy you are today, on the scale of 1-10. It’s that simple.

It is not a scientific measure, but the questions are based on items that are linked to to happiness through research, and on basic ideas of well-being: mastery, purpose, gratitude, and connection.

If you are not convinced that the questions above are a fair measure of daily happiness, this is what a story of a person would sound like if he answers “no” to all the questions:
“I didn’t get enough sleep today. I ate junk. I feel like a truck rolled over me. I didn’t hug anyone today and I didn’t laugh. I’m not thankful for anything in my life, not even the morning coffee. I wasn’t any good at the stuff that I did all day at work today, and my work wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. I’m too tired to learn anything new. I feel lonely, and I have nothing to look forward to.”

This person is at a zero happiness for the day

Consider a different story:

“I got a good amount of sleep today, ate a decent breakfast and lunch. I feel healthy. I gave my kids a 20-second hug each this morning. I laughed out loud at a post my friend shared on facebook. I’m thankful that my commute was smooth, and I get paid for doing the work I’m good at. I helped a client fix a computer glitch; made him happy. I learned something curious about the future of college education today. I just talked to my wife, and I look forward to our movie night.”

This person is at 10 for the day, wouldn’t you say?

What is great about my quick assessment is that it tells you right away where you are in terms of happiness. Also, the assessment implies easy changes that you can make to your daily routine in order to increase your happiness level immediately:

1. Sleep. Take a nap or plan to go to bed early if you didn’t get enough sleep.
2. Nutrition. Pick up a pack of organic carrots and hummus for a snack at a grocery around the corner.
3. Overall health. Take vitamin C or Echinacea to boost your immune system, make 10,000 steps, hold a plank for a minute, get some fresh air.
4. Hugs. Offer a 20-second hug to someone who looks amenable to it.
5. Laughter. Ask a friend for a laugh-out-loud joke or story.
6. Gratitude. Think of one small thing that worked out for you today, and acknowledge it.
7. Purpose. Do a small kind thing for someone: sharpen someone’s pencil, hold the door, bring a coffee.
8. Learning. Google any topic that is interesting to you, and spend 5 minutes looking at new developments on the topic.
9. Hopeful future. Add something enjoyable to your calendar, small or large, that makes your heart smile when you think of it.
10. Connection. Write a nice e-mail or give a quick call to someone you care about. Even if you don’t send your email, it still counts if you write it.
Bonus: Mastery. Think of something that you’re good at, and just do it. It could be as small as making a perfect cup of tea.

The good thing is that while you’re contemplating the larger question of your overall happiness, you can easily do seemingly small things that will bring your overall happiness level up TODAY.

I’d love to hear about your happiness score today. Please, let me know if the assessment was helpful for you! And if you can think of one friend who could use a quick happiness assessment today, would you please forward this message to her? Thanks!

Like 10 Questions To Assess Your Happiness Today. January '14 eNews. on Facebook

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What To Do When You Can’t Bullet-Proof Your Life

December 6, 2015 Decision-making

This post was originally written in December of 2012, immediately after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. Unfortunately, it is just as relevant today as it was in 2012. ***** How do you construct a building so that it doesn’t fall if an airplane hits it? This safety question is prominently on the map now, […]

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3 Things That Will Change Your Life

November 25, 2015 Gut Feeling

I recently gave a talk at Google’s NYC office on Intuition and Creativity. Developing intuition is a practice, much like mastering a musical instrument, so I was a bit surprised by the following question that several participants brought up: is there a tool that I could demonstrate and teach in under 10 minutes that would […]

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