The Beginning. I was a happy child growing up in Russia. One day I heard a story about the princess of Sweden who became depressed and had to move to the United States to get better. I was very critical of her: how could you be a princess and be unhappy? If I didn’t have to worry about money I would always be happy, I thought. Life tested my beliefs. I had achieved good goals, but I still got depressed. I thought my job defined me, and, although I didn’t like it, feared losing it and never finding a job I would like. I thought the problem was with me being picky and there was no way to change it. I felt useless, without creativity, without talents, not worthy of anyone’s respect and love, easily replaceable, and about to become extinct. One day I couldn’t bear it anymore.
Volunteering. Against everybody’s advice, I quit my job and went to Vietnam to volunteer. I was teaching little girls how to use computers in a shelter in Saigon. Those were OLPC computers with open source software made by other volunteers around the world. While in Vietnam, I worked with many people, and it was obvious that volunteering was very meaningful to them and they were happier than before they had begun volunteering. I asked: “Why do people volunteer?” I got a simple answer: it is the internal feeling that you are useful and valuable. I felt the same through making lesson plans, sharing my knowledge with the students and seeing them happy. I was useful and creative after all. But I wanted to know more: “If volunteering makes people happy, why doesn’t everybody try it?”
Happiness Research. I crafted a survey to learn what makes people happy, and got some answers from the brave souls of Cambridge and Boston. I did more research and studied the teachings of some of the greatest minds of the world: Aristotle, Buddha, Omar Khayyam, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, Martin Luther King, Viktor Frankl, Kurt Vonnegut, the 14th Dalai Lama, Martin Seligman and many others… After being totally lost at times in the pursuit of answers I finally came to understand: there are common grounds of happiness among people of different races, generations and religions. Happiness is many things! And we can all find out what they are for each of us. Happiness is subjective, because given the same conditions two people may feel differently about them and hence their happiness would not be the same. But the sources of happiness don’t vary that much. We have more similarities than differences, and that is why there are common things that make people happy around the world.
Happiness Formula. Then I created the formula and tested it on hundreds of people of different backgrounds. The formula is a snapshot of our priorities vs satisfaction, while happiness units are a number reflecting how satisfied we are compared to what we want. By creating your formula you link to the world happiness formula and learn what makes you and other people happy.
The most important thing is not how close you are to your ideal today, but where you are heading and the small changes you are making every day. Where you are right now may change at any moment. So don’t get attached to your formula and points today. They are just a tool to help you learn about yourself. If you are reading this, you have the courage to introspect and learn what you need to learn. When you see your formula, you will understand that to feel happy you need to either change your priorities or make efforts to raise your satisfaction. To get inspiration you can visit the library and forum, and share your thoughts and favorite quotes with others.
Purpose. We will connect personal formulas into the world happiness formula and summarize human knowledge for current and future generations. With your help the Ultimate Answer will be found by all of us. How? By providing answers to people’s questions on how to live a better life and create more happiness all over the planet. We are not that different; what helped one person may help another. Negative events and obstacles can throw anyone off and make them feel insignificant, useless and not worthy of living. That is not what our lives are about. They are about learning, loving and creating.
The Journey. No matter what your state of mind is, you are very valuable to the world: to the people around you as well as those who will follow. You have wisdom and experience in areas that others may lack and need help with. We need your feedback and your knowledge right now! It is about what you know and what you are willing to share. We have all done things we regret, have suffered, and have had joy that we couldn’t sustain. We all come and go, but our experiences stay with us and teach us. Now they can be part of the world knowledge, helping others to become happier and more fulfilled, and hence helping the world to become a better place.
The Change. What I thought was important to me and made me happy has changed constantly over the years. My happiness varied too: some days I was happier than others… According to “Stumbling on happiness” people can’t really predict well what will make them happy in the future, they can only answer what makes them happy now… Even past happy experiences may not have the same impact on us today, because as Emerson said: “Things don’t change, we change”.
Even very happy people need to know how to maintain their happiness and be prepared just in case something happens that may drag their happiness down. Will they have the right tools to bring their happiness level back?
Why do we need the formula? Young people make mistakes by choosing paths that do 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, possibly lacking time to think about happiness. Finally, seniors frequently look back with regrets. Though they may have become wise through a lifetime of trial and error, they may wish they had had the wisdom to make better choices such as choosing a different major or not working so hard but instead doing what they enjoyed and spending more time with the people they cared about.
What if… we knew early in life what is really important? Then perhaps we would not spend so much time on trivial stuff, stupid worries, futile busy-ness, false goals, regrets, but on universal sources of happiness, applying them into our personal formulas and developing and improving them throughout our lives, following the wisdom of the Universe.
Wisdom. According to the Dalai Lama, it is important to know which habits support happiness in your life and which don’t. “One begins identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this, one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness. That is the way.”
What To Do. Your presence is very important. You are participating in the creation of the world brain and increasing world happiness. By helping others we increase our own happiness and contribute to the world knowledge.
Create your happiness formula and see where it leads you. Participate in the forum: ask questions, because someone is about to give you the answer you’ve been waiting for; answer questions because someone needs your answer or story. Browse resources in the library or post your resources, because there are people who need them. Leave your comments, participate in the events and follow news and updates!
Whatever you do, remember that you are a valuable part of the Universe, and it is finally a pleasure to meet you!