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


Analytical Thinkers’ Guide for Letting Gobatmandown

As analytical people, we often try to control situations to create or get what we want. It seems logical: we want something, so we make it happen.

Intellectually, this is clear that in many situations that we’re trying to control, all we need to do is be ourselves, do our best work and allow the world to respond to us, and hopefully, the response is in line with what we want.

Why is this so difficult to let go, though, without forcing a desired outcome?

What can we do to have an easier time letting go, without feeling that we’ve given up?

We try to control because

– we want things to happen a certain way

– we are afraid that others will forget or screw things up if we leave the situation in their hands

– in our minds, we make letting go equivalent to not caring

– we are afraid of what will happen if we let go, kind of like letting go of the steering wheel while driving

– we care deeply

Letting go is a challenge because

– if we miss out on the desired outcome, it feels like our responsibility if we chose to relinquish control

– all hell may break loose, and again, it would feel like our choice and responsibility

– if we let go, and our kids eat junk, don’t brush their teeth, and don’t finish their homework, if our subordinates don’t complete the projects that we delegated, if our loved ones don’t feel engaged, or get too engaged, again, it’s on us, and all hell will break loose

– deadlines may be missed, miscommunications may increase, chaos may arise, and it’s all on us

Basically, letting go is a challenge because of the belief that the certainty of resulting chaos is our responsibility.

So, we hold on, we control, and we do everything we can to keep the world from falling apart.

We understand that this is not healthy, but typical advice on letting go is hard to accept, because it feels so counter-intuitive. Here’s the typical advice on letting go:

“Doing nothing is better than forcing a situation.” (Well, certainly, we can do something to make things better, right?)

“You can’t control others anyway, so why try.” (We can certainly try to change people’s minds, no?)

“The Universe has bigger plans for you, so you can let go of control.” (Not sure whether the Universe cares, but we care, so it’s up to us!)

“Relax and go with the flow.” (What flow, if we’re not creating the flow?!)

It’s solid advice that doesn’t resonate. Here’s why: have you ever seen a person who is stressed, anxious, or extremely focused, get completely relaxed when you tell him to relax? Have you ever seen a crying person calm down when you tell him to stop crying? Typically not.

The situation is similar with analytical thinkers: telling them to “let go” is not effective because they need a reason to change their behavior. And not any reason, but a reason that feels valid and logical.

Analytical thinkers have reasons for trying to control situations, and those reasons sound rational to them. So, here are some sensible, convincing reasons to help analytical thinkers let go in situations when control is not working.

  1. Let go when controlling a situation feels rock bottom horrible. If you are already holding everything together as tightly as you can, and feeling rock bottom horrible, it is unlikely that you can possibly feel worse when you let go. Imagine being in the water with a large sack of rocks, because, say, it’s your job to get the rocks to the other bank of the river. No matter how great of the swimmer you are, the sack with rocks is so heavy that it is making it impossible for you to swim. Let go of it. Yes, you’ll lose the sack of rocks, which is your responsibility, but maybe, just maybe you’ll survive.
  2. Let go when getting what you want doesn’t depend on you. You’ve planned an outdoor wedding without plan B, but you cannot control the weather. Let go. You made sure that your kids have learned their lines for a school play, but you cannot say the lines for them on stage. Let go. You delegated an important presentation to your subordinate, and made sure that she has all the resources to make it brilliant, but you can’t do the presentation for her once you’ve delegated. Let go.
  3. Let go when you’re not getting what you want. When you are not chosen – by a client, by an employer, by a partner, a manager, a lover, a friend – despite having put out your best work, let go. When you make a joke that doesn’t land, and you retell it again in a different way, but it still doesn’t land – let go. When you implement a new protocol, reinforcing it many times over time, but it absolutely doesn’t stick with your team or your family – let go. You’re not getting what you want anyway. Let go, and try something different.

When you are at a point when you understand that letting go can be better and healthier than holding on, the next question is “How?”.

HOW do you let go, physically and psychologically, knowing that you’re risking all hell breaking loose?

Remember the reasons above: you’re feeling horrible, you’re trying to control something that doesn’t depend on you, and you’re not getting what you want anyway. Letting go couldn’t be worse than this.

Place your attention on something else that feels engaging. It may take you many times to consciously shift your attention to something else, but after a while, it will feel easier. This is pure neuroscience, as our brain strengthens connections that we cultivate, and overrides the connections that we ignore.

Let time pass. “Time” could be a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. Let enough time pass until letting go feels more natural than holding on.

Everything passes. This, too, shall pass, and make room for something different.


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