Hitting Rock Bottom: How Tracking Happiness Can Help

Hey guys! This is the first time I’m featuring a guest post by Hugo, the person who inspired me to start tracking happiness and eventually create my My Blueprint to Happiness!

Hugo is the author of TrackingHappiness.com, and a civil engineer with an infectious passion for life! He’s agreed to share a very personal and profound learning experience with us in this post. Enjoy!


Hitting Rock Bottom: How Tracking Happiness Can Help

One of the most miserable periods of my life started when I hopped on a flight to Kuwait. I knew I was entering a “challenging” period, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was only going to be 5 weeks, but man, those 5 weeks took a big hit on me.

I am writing this while re-reading some of the journal entries in my happiness tracking journal. It is clear to me now how badly this period influenced my happiness. I want to show you exactly how my happiness took a tumble.

You see, I have tracked my happiness during this entire period in Kuwait and thus have the opportunity to reflect on this brief episode. I want to show you how this period started as a fresh new challenge but ended up as a miserable chapter of my life. I’m going to show you some of my happiness tracking journal entries in chronological order, just so you can see how I slipped down to a state of despair.

The Beginning

Let’s start with the beginning! This is how my journal in Kuwait started, on the 18th of January 2015.

Day 1, happiness rating: 8,25

Hello Kuwait! I just landed in my apartment and finally have some time to catch up. The flight was alright, my nerves were okay. This is my first night ever in the Middle East. How exciting. When the plane landed, I couldn’t help but think “Where the #$%! am I” for a moment.

So far so good. The apartment is nice, I’ve got a big bedroom with WiFi. Nice. There’s soooo much sand here. Insane. I hope I’ll be able to run outside after work.

I’ve got my alarm set for 06:00 tomorrow. It’s going to be tough. But I’m super excited! The next adventure starts here, right now. Tomorrow is day 1 of 33 or something. It’s going to be alright.  Going to bed now. Adios!”

Day 1 was a good day!

Let me explain: I was sent to Kuwait to work on a huge project for my employer, a big marine contractor. I had never been to the Middle East, and this was my first assignment abroad. I was super excited to work hard and enjoy the project. In fact, I was actually looking forward to my very first day!

But when that next day arrived, I wasn’t so excited anymore.

My First Day in Kuwait

Day 2, happiness rating: 7,00

“First day was OK, but that’s all…

My colleagues are alright. The office is nice. And my desk is fine. But man, these hours suck.

Breakfast was fine. Lunch was awesome. Dinner was terrible. I don’t know… I guess today was alright. I just have to figure out how I’m going to find my pace with the project. It’s going to be a busy time.

Skyped with my girlfriend, which was nice. My apartment is still nice. I want to prove myself to my colleagues. Going to bed now. The alarm is set for 6:00 again. !@#$ me… Bye!

My first day on the job was OK, as you can read from my journal entry. But you may have noticed that I’m already a lot less confident in my writing. It looks like my optimistic energy pretty much evaporated overnight. You see, I was going to work at least 12 hours every day, for the next 5 weeks. I knew it was going to be tough.

I was hoping my work would actually be a source of energy, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was actually very demanding.

I quickly forced myself into a rhythm of working, working, working, eating, skyping, spending an hour on something that would actually be relaxing, going to bed way too late, sleeping way too little, cursing my alarm clock the next morning, and repeat.

That repetition resulted in the complete loss of my energy.

View from the vessel
Spending another day offshore on one of the vessels.

Slipping

After 1 week, my happiness journal looked quite depressing already:

Day 8, happiness rating: 4.50

I survived my first week in Kuwait. Hurray. Today was fine, despite the sleep deprivation. Woke up feeling extremely tired, but coffee pulled me through. The work today was alright. Better than expected actually, but still exhausting.

When I got back to the apartment I skyped with my girlfriend. But man, that sucked. We got into an argument, which seems impossible to fix over a shitty Skype connection. It absolutely killed whatever was left of my energy and mood. !@#$ this sh*t.

I just want to go to bed now. I don’t want to be tired again tomorrow. Hell, I just wanna go home. Where the !@#$ are my hobbies?

Just going to bed now, so this period will be over sooner. Cheers.”

Boy, that escalated quickly. Right?

What happened?

So I continued to live and work in Kuwait. The project progressed at a fast pace and it was always busy. Work sucked up all my energy. My days were long and my personal life suffered because of it.

I left my apartment at 6:30, worked from 07:00 to at least 19:00, and was back in at around 20:00. No matter how much I liked my actual job, I eventually got exhausted from it. It was unpreventable, I think.

In the meantime, I lost access to all my hobbies when I was in Kuwait. I suddenly had no guitar to play on at night, no more friends or girlfriend to have fun with, no more video games to take my mind off the work, you get the idea. I lost access to the biggest sources of my happiness.

In fact, my relationship actually turned into a negative happiness factor as a result of this long distance thing.

View from apartment
The town I was staying in wasn’t so bad, actually! I quite liked the view from the rooftop of my apartment building.

Fighting Sleep Deprivation

I made another very big mistake during this time: I forgot to prioritise my sleep.

You see, after getting back to the apartment at around 20:00, I still felt like I wanted to do stuff I actually enjoyed. Stuff like watching a series, doing some exercise or just walking outside.

But I also wanted to Skype with my girlfriend, have dinner and take a shower.

Before I knew it, it was already past midnight. Sh*t…

This happened just about every single day. I worked over 12 hours every day, while sleeping way too little. It eventually caused me to burn out, even though I was only in Kuwait for a total of 5 weeks.

I now know that sleep deprivation can have a very bad influence on my happiness. I wish I knew that back in 2015…

Hitting Rock Bottom

On February the 9th, I experienced my worst day.

Day 23, happiness rating: 3,00

“I’m shattered. I have never felt as depressed as I do today. What a miserable feeling.

I can’t keep up with this. I’m completely unhappy, and consciously counting down every second of every day. I wanna go home. I’m going crazy here. It’s a miserable lifestyle.

I can’t believe how anyone would voluntarily want to live this kind of life. !@#$ this project. !@#$ my employer. I’d rather not work at all, then to have this job for the rest of my life. It’s unbearable.

I’ve got no passions. No enjoyment. No fulfillment. I honestly don’t think I laughed even once this week.

I’m going to watch a series now (The Walking Dead has started again). And then I’m going to sleep. These days are worthless.

Just Whatsapped with a friend I met in New Zealand, and it makes me think back of that wonderful country. I had such fun during that time.

I cannot think of ANYTHING more interesting to say… I just hate it here.

Message to future self: Don’t you EVER romanticise this period, you idiot! Don’t ever say that this wasn’t so bad after all. You DON’T want this, and you are absolutely MISERABLE!

Hence the 3.0, the worst happiness rating ever..”.

That shitty day happened almost 3,5 years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Maybe because I have direct access to my mind during that time via my happiness tracking journal?

Anyway, I still hear my younger self loud and clear: I’m never EVER going to romanticize this period. No way.

The Power of Tracking Happiness

You see, that’s part of the power of tracking happiness.

Everybody romanticizes periods of their lives every once in a while. I have done it myself as well. But this is dangerous. Having access to your personal happiness ratings allows you to relive every period of your life, whether it was a good or bad period.

I still know damn well how much that brief period in Kuwait sucked. And for that I am very thankful these days.

Why is this important?

Because I can use this knowledge to steer my life in the best direction possible!

Ever since those 5 miserable weeks, I have tried my best to not get myself into a similar situation again. And when I did eventually have to work on another project abroad, I made damn sure that I had a better plan.

The work itself in Kuwait was tough. But I made some pretty bad mistakes that were unrelated to my work that made this period even worse. I neglected my sleep, my long-distance relationship was way too bumpy and I had none of my hobbies with me.

By tracking happiness, I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to improve a new “challenge” like this.

And that’s what I did. During my next “challenge” abroad, I made sure that I got sufficient sleep, had a hobby that I could enjoy while not at work and that my relationship had no communication issues. These decisions allow me to be much happier with the work I do, since I simply cannot control everything.

I used the knowledge from my happiness tracking journal to improve my life.

And that’s the reason why I think tracking happiness is in itself an extremely powerful tool. Not only is it fun, it actually allows you to steer your life in the best direction possible!

Hugo is the creator of TrackingHappiness.com, a site about tracking the things that influence your happiness in order to steer your life in the best direction possible. He loves spending time with his girlfriend, running, playing music and looking at nerdy data.

 

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mental-math-and-abacus

Going Mental with Math, and Attempting the Abacus

Read Time: 5 minutes

Are you good with mental calculations? I certainly wasn’t. I always had issues with even the most basic problems. My confidence really took a hit because it would take me ages to answer a simple math question, like how much change someone needed, or how we’d split a bill.

It affected me in a lot of ways, but I never took any steps to get around it. I just chalked it up to being bad at mental math. Not too long ago, I had a couple of interview rounds in which passing a mental math assessment was a requirement. Knees week, heart in my throat, I took the tests, and failed spectacularly.

I missed the benchmark by a mile both times and knew that I had to do something if I wanted a job in the industry.  That’s how I began my latest experiment: improving my mental arithmetic.

If improving your mental math skills is something you want or need to do, you might want to try the approach I took.

Here’s how I got started:

I downloaded a mental math app on my phone and started doing the practice problems during my morning commute on the train.

The app I use is called Math: Mental Math Games, although there are a lot of other options out there if you’re looking for one. I like this particular one, because there are a couple of features that I find quite useful, like the helpful tips section that demonstrates techniques or shortcuts that you can use to speed up your calculations.

There are different modes, but I tested myself on speed to figure out my benchmark. The speed training has a set of ten problems, and a timer, to track your performance.

I was shockingly slow at even the most basic level. I’m not kidding, I’m pretty sure this was preschool math and there are toddlers who would’ve gleefully decimated my time, taken a nap, and woken up to find me still struggling with the questions.

I started by taking note of the time it took me to answer the ten problems on day one. This is something you should do if you’re going to try this yourself, or you won’t know how much you’ve improved.

My time was over 30 seconds on the ten single digit subtraction and addition problems. I had a lot more difficulty on the double digit addition and subtraction problems, with an average time of almost two minutes, and over five minutes on the triple digit problems.

So here’s a quick summary for easy comparison:

Time taken to complete 10 problems

  • Single digit subtraction and addition = 30 seconds
  • Double digit subtraction and addition = 2 minutes
  • Triple digit subtraction and addition = 5 minutes
  • Double digit multiplication = N/A

Yeah, it took me an average of three seconds to answer a problem like “7 + 9”. For double digit multiplication problems, like “43 * 57”, I didn’t have a benchmark time. I was so bad at them, I couldn’t complete the ten problems at all.

The results of the experiment

After just a couple of days of practice, my speed was a lot better. It’s now been over a month, and my average times are as follows:

Time taken to complete 10 problems

  • Single digit subtraction and addition = 8 seconds
  • Double digit subtraction and addition = 30 seconds
  • Triple digit subtraction and addition = 50 seconds
  • Double digit multiplication = 2 minutes 40 seconds

I know these times are nothing to be bragging about, especially my time on the multiplication questions, but it’s a major improvement for someone who couldn’t answer them at all just over a couple of weeks ago.

This is good news if you’re looking to attempt this yourself, because I noticed that improvement occurs quite quickly.

Tricks and technique

Improving your mental math skills isn’t just a matter of attempting a bunch of questions on repeat. A few simple tweaks can really improve your ability to perform calculations in your head.

Schools tend to teach math in a way that’s clunky and impractical for quick mental calculation. For instance, most of us were taught to do math from right to left, but it’s far more natural to do it from left to right, especially when calculating mentally.

I used a combination of the app mentioned above, and an online course from The Great Courses, The Secrets of Mental Math. I found the online course to be especially useful. It’s well structured and the techniques are explained in full.

I can now calculate the square of any double digit number in my head — something that I always thought would be impractical because I would be too slow at it.

If you decide to give the course a go, you’ll probably find the presentation of the course to be quite cheesy, but the content is practical and very helpful. This isn’t a paid advertisement or anything, it’s just a recommendation I’m making because I found it worthwhile. The course is often on discount, so I’d suggest waiting for the sale.

What’s next?

If you’re interested in improving your mental math even further, you may want to consider learning the soroban or Japanese abacus. 

I tried my hand at learning the abacus, and while I’ll need lots more practice, I have noticed that the abacus offers a couple of significant advantages over regular mental arithmetic:

  • There’s significantly less cognitive load:
    • Consider trying to add the numbers 74, 986 and 17, 239 mentally. I’m sure you could do it, but I’ll bet keeping those numbers in your head will be a challenge in itself.
    • The beads on the abacus provides a visual form to the numbers and allows you to hold the numbers in your head with less strain on your memory.
  • It’s a lot quicker:
    • I’ve found that the using the abacus is like executing an algorithm to solve math problems. You barely have to think about the numbers, because the calculations become part of your muscle memory.
    • This factor, combined with the lower cognitive load, makes you a lot faster. It’s almost impossible to articulate, so you’ll have to try it yourself to know what I mean.

If you want to learn the abacus, you can certainly do it online. There are many options available, but as I haven’t used them myself, I won’t make any recommendations.

As it turns out, I’m no longer trying to apply for the job that required mental math skills, but sharpening the skill was definitely worthwhile. I’m going to continue working on my abacus skills too, perhaps at a more leisurely pace.

Mental math can come in handy in ways most people wouldn’t necessarily think of. Par exemple, if you’re quick with math and have some knowledge of basic probabilities, you could improve your odds of winning at poker. Those game nights could become a lot more fun with a couple more tools under your belt.

I hope you’ve found this useful, and if you do decide to give this a go, keep me updated on your progress! If you’ve found other ways to improve your mental arithmetic, leave a comment and let me know how you did it.

 

 

tracking_happiness

Tracking Happiness – Changing My Life One Data Point at a Time

Read Time: 15 Minutes

I conduct two-week experiments all the time to try and push myself into learning new things. I call these short-term experiments “sprints”, a term borrowed from a framework called “Scrum”, which is extremely useful and I will talk about in an upcoming post.

Basically, at the end of every sprint, I take some time to consider the effectiveness of the experiment, make changes, and think about whether or not it’s worth continuing the experiment. This time, I decided to try something relatively new to me.

How the Experiment Began

I was on Reddit when I came across a unique blog. Its title was “Tracking Happiness”, and it caught my attention because I had been in a rough spot at the time and had been thinking about the concept of happiness and trying to figure out certain aspects of my life.

The author was describing his life in great detail, and had graphs and correlations that very clearly indicated his levels of happiness over certain periods of time. He was quite literally, tracking happiness and analysing it in a precise, methodical manner.

My interest piqued, I decided to learn more about his methods and why he was doing this. There’s an interesting backstory on his blog, which I urge you to check out. He’s been doing this for three and a half years now, and he’s meticulously recorded and tracked his happiness levels every single day.

The idea behind it was to figure out what made him happy, and just as important, what didn’t. This way, he could focus more on the things that increased happiness levels, and avoid the things that had a negative impact on those levels.

I found this very interesting and began to track my own happiness levels for two weeks, just as an experiment. I wasn’t sure if I would be committed enough to do it on a continuous basis, so I thought I’d start small, but I’ve now passed day 50 and have no plans to stop.

What I Learned

Alright guys, this is a pretty long section, so bear with me on this.

Now that I have some useful data to look at, I decided to share what I’ve learned from this experience with you.

I have to say, I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but it was eye-opening after just a few days of consistent tracking. I started to notice little things that negatively affected my happiness and wellbeing. The worst part? I was allowing these things to happen, unaware that I could take control.

Over time, I started noticing trends and realised that I would have to make changes if my happiness levels were constantly low for more than a couple of days. Whenever this happened, I would reflect on my situation and attempt to figure out what was causing the issue. It’s important to do this because each day builds on the next.

To quote Redditor JHawkeye143 who has been tracking happiness for a year now, “Life is incremental, but compounding. While our experience of life is discrete due to sleeping everyday and our consciousness not being continuous, our perception of this experience is a collective of these incremental conscious periods. There is no such thing as “resetting” overnight. Changing your life requires time and effort, but it pays dividends.”

Your experiences make you who you are, and by that same logic, each day of happiness (or lack thereof) affects the next, even if it is in some minor way. If I was unhappy on one day, I would try and figure out the reason behind it. Once I did that, I would work on it, and hopefully fix the problem, so I could work on raising my happiness levels the following day.

This actually reminded me of Steve Job’s famous Stanford Commencement speech. If you haven’t watched it, definitely do, but I’ve highlighted the exact section I was thinking about just below the video.

 

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like, “If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”

It made an impression on me… and since then, for the past 33 years I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today.”

And whenever the answer has been, “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

– Steve Jobs

This was similar to what I was describing before. If my happiness levels were low for a few days in a row, it was a sure sign that something needed to change.

Tracking my happiness levels reminded me to be more mindful in general, because I received two alerts a day on my phone which would ask me to key in how I felt and asked me for a short summary of why I felt that way. This has become my version of journaling, and it takes less than a minute.

I actually found that I can better deal with my negative emotions once I write down how I’m feeling in the app. I’m not sure why, but I think the physical act of putting your emotions into words actually has a powerful impact on allowing your mind to process the issues, rather than shoving it into a dark corner, only for it to blow up at a later date.

There’s an episode on Joe Rogan’s podcast in which psychologist Jordan Peterson discusses something similar (I strongly recommend listening to all the episodes involving him, they’re absolutely thought-provoking and enlightening).

If you check out the video below, skip over to about 6:50, which is when he starts talking about dealing with the weight of emotions by writing about them, and 12:00 is where he describes how the psychological process works. Although Peterson is talking about a much longer timeframe, I think it has the same effect when you’re doing it for day-to-day issues.

On the flip side, I also have a greater appreciation for the good things that have happened throughout the day. It’s amazing how much we can take for granted, and we tend to have the habit of only remembering the bad stuff that’s happened. It’s so important to consider and be grateful for the good things as well, because when you do that, it can actually raise your happiness levels. A lot of people find “positivity-talk” to be positively nauseating, but it can help.

Once I started tracking my happiness, the app I was using would create a little graph for me, indicating my happiness levels over the past week. The visual effect of seeing bad times pass and good times coming around again has had a powerful impact on me. Nowadays, when I’m having a particularly bad day, I am a lot less depressed than I used to be, because I am constantly reminded that it’s a temporary situation, and it will always pass, eventually.

The other benefit of tracking my happiness was that I started changing my habits and actions. I became far more proactive in terms of making myself feel happier. For instance, I started working out a lot more, and because I’m tracking it, I’m far more consistent. Like Peter Drucker said, “what gets measured gets managed”.

Tracking my happiness also involves me making quick notes about what I did during the day. If I noticed that I hadn’t worked out in two days, I would push myself to hit the gym the very next day.

The added benefit or working out a lot more is that it has also improved my mood and my ability to manage my emotional state. I strongly believe that working out can affect your mental state far more than you would expect.

Tracking my happiness has had a tremendous impact on how I’m living my life. I’ve started becoming more productive and I’m noticeably happier, and I’m constantly making better decisions to improve my wellbeing. If you’ve never done this before, do consider giving it a go.

The only potential drawback that I found was that rating your happiness is a very subjective affair. You have to be honest with yourself and you need to take into account the entire day, and not allow yourself to only think about how you are feeling in the moment of making the rating.

Redditors Weigh In

When I decided to start this two-week experiment, I decided to go on Reddit and invite others to join me, and I actually had the opportunity to interview a number of Redditors after they had completed the experiment, and I asked them about their experience. The responses highlight some important points that I think will help you if you decide to try the experiment yourself.


JHawkeye143

Have you noticed any improvement in your happiness levels since you started tracking it? Why do you think that is?

My life has changed drastically since beginning this process. I have changed jobs and moved to a new state almost directly because of tracking my life. After realizing how unhappy I was, it was simply determining why and working towards resolving that. For me, it spurned from being unhappy with my job and station in life so I worked to change that.

Are there any drawbacks to tracking happiness that you can think of?

If you discover that you are unhappy, it becomes a daily reminder. In my experience the process of reminding myself of how unhappy I was became a chore and seemed to exacerbate my condition. I think its crucial to be proactive and decide to take action to change your situation in this scenario, or you risk a serious cycle of rumination.

Would you recommend tracking happiness to others, and if so, why?

Most definitely. This has been the most influential thing for my state of mind since graduating college. In a world where we seem to be becoming more concerned with tracking our physical fitness and health, I find it equally (if not more so) important to maintain our mental and emotional health. The first step to proper maintenance of anything tracking its progression and diagnosing causes for outcomes.

My personal logger consists of an hourly activity tracking gant chart, a journal tab, and a happiness tab. The happiness tab is fairly simply: good day, meh day, bad day. I’m a fairly resilient person, and have a hard time qualifying something as a bad day (this was my reassurance to myself that I do not have clinical depression) but through June of this year I was about even split or leaning towards mostly “meh” days versus good days.

This was my tip that I was in a situational depression and something needed to change. If you don’t consider yourself to be extremely happy, I recommend you track your life and find causes for your unhappiness so you can change them. We experience this life day to day, but we can observe these things and change our lives for the better with a little bit of effort.


wtfudgery

Would you recommend tracking happiness to others, and if so, why?

Without a doubt!!! From what I have experienced, gratitude and happiness go hand in hand. If I am miserable, then I’m probably taking parts of my life for granted. If I’m happy then I’m focusing on the right areas of my life. Also, I don’t think anyone enjoys being [un]happy. If I notice a trend in bad days, I have to figure out where the problem lies and work on it. Is it my depression creeping up? Is it the people I associate with? Is it the situations I have put myself in?


I also had the chance to ask the same questions to the author of the Tracking Happiness blog himself, and he had some fascinating points to make. Here’s the complete interview:

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from tracking your happiness?

Tracking my happiness has been great for many reasons. The one that sticks out the most is that it allows me to rationally reflect on every kind of period in my life.

Humans are sometimes pretty poor in judging the value of certain events, especially when emotions are involved. By tracking my happiness and the factors that have influenced it, I know exactly what influenced my life at the time.

I’ve learned to use this data to steer my life in the best direction possible. I’m not saying that I’ve turned my life around with a complete lifestyle change, but I have been able to make the best and reasonable decisions possible based on my newfound knowledge. In short, I now know what’s best for me. And I can use that every day to get the most out of my life.

Have you noticed any improvement in your happiness levels since you started tracking it? Why do you think that is?

It’s hard to measure the exact effect of my decisions, since I don’t know what my life would have looked like had I made different decisions in the past. That said, I am currently very happy, and I’d like to think that’s a result of my informed decisions.

For example, my relationship has been conflicted many times – primarely during long distance periods – and we have discussed the topic of a breakup several times. However, we both knew that our relationship was great, and made both our lives happier. So we both decided to fight for what we had. Our relationship is currently as good as it gets, and we’re very happy to have made the decision to stick together, through thick and thin.

Another good example I always refer to is arguably my biggest passion: running. Running is a difficult sport, and a lot of people would probably agree with me. Running takes discipline and endurance. When it’s raining or cold, it’s not always easy to get dressed and step outside. But tracking happiness has learned me one thing: running always makes me a happier and better person in the long run (pun intented ;-)). After a run – no matter how I initially felt – I always feel better. Ever since I started tracking happiness, I have been running a LOT more. I’ve since ran 4 marathons, and continue to run through wind, rain and snow, knowing that it will eventually make me a happier and better person.

Do you think you will continue to track your happiness after the two week experiment?

[I] have been doing it since December, 2013 and still going strong! I plan on doing this for the rest of my life, and want to inspire people out there to do the same! Tracking happiness becomes more and more valuable as you grow older and your life changes and transforms into something else. We need to be able to steer our life in the best direction possible, and by tracking our happiness, we will know exactly what it is that makes us happy.

Do you feel that you were being objective when you were rating your happiness (did you take into account all the factors or just how you felt during that moment, etc)?

This is a difficult and critical question. It is a fact that we are humans and are influenced by emotions, biases and flawed decision making processes. I will never argue that. We are not robots, it’s that simple.

However, tracking happiness is about rationally quantifying a feeling of happiness. This surely must sound very hard, considering what I’ve just said about biases and flawed decision making processes.

But the key here is consistency. As long as you are consistent in using the same scale and method of rating happiness, your data will eventually become valuable.

It doesn’t matter if I rate my day with an 8, while you rate the exact same day with a 6 (hypothetically speaking). As long as the relative difference between happiness ratings remains consistent.

I rate my happiness based on how I feel at the end of every day. I try to include the entire day within this single happiness rating. Of course, I would be naive to think that every single happiness rating is a perfect judgement and totally un-biased without forgetting about certain emotions I’ve had during the day. Again, we are not robots.

Consistency and continuity are very important here. As long as you keep it up, your data will eventually become more valuable and reliable.

Are there any drawbacks to tracking happiness that you can think of?

No! 🙂

Would you recommend tracking happiness to others, and if so, why?

I like to imagine a world in which every single person is trying to be as happy as possible, without being influenced by external limitations, such as cultural expectations, peer pressure or jealousy.

We are all different, which means that we all have different reasons to be happy. We all have different happiness factors. But we should all pursue the same goal, and that is to live the most long and happy life as possible.


Some Tips on Tracking Your Happiness

If you’re the kind of person who is interested in the idea of having a structure to your day, morning routines, journaling, etc., you’ll probably find this to be quite beneficial to add to your routine!

In my opinion, I think there are a couple of things you can do to improve the benefit of tracking your happiness, and to increase the accuracy of your ratings.

  1. Track your happiness levels at the same times every day
  2. Think about how you felt when you woke up, and the progression throughout the day
  3. Journaling can be an excellent companion tool to this, and you can look back and see exactly what was making you happy or unhappy on a particular day. This is particularly helpful when looking at trends and deciding to make changes.
  4. Make it easy and convenient. If it’s too detailed or time consuming, you may eventually give up. You can always build up to a more detailed record.
  5. Start with the two-week experiment and stick to it. The data is only useful if you can spot trends.

If you want to know exactly how to track your happiness, head over to the “Method” section of the Tracking Happiness blog for a concise description of what to do.

Before ending this post, I’d like to acknowledge that happiness itself is extremely subjective, and some say that it isn’t the final goal or the most important aspect of life for human beings. It turns into a philosophical debate with no real answer as of yet. If you’d like to weigh in on this, please leave your thoughts in the comments! Personally, I think happiness is elusive if you chase it, and perhaps counterintuitively, you need to stop searching for happiness in order to find it.

Now I know that seems very contradictory to the entire post, but I think that tracking happiness and actively chasing it are two different things. There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve yourself and figuring out what brings you enjoyment, so you can focus on those things. Again, it’s subjective, and everyone looks at this differently. Try it out, and let me know what you think!

the-subtle-art-book-review-mark-manson

Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Rating: 9/10

Here’s a book that just doesn’t give a f*ck about what you think or how you feel. It’s eye-opening, thought-provoking, and above all, brutally honest. There’s a lot of swearing in the book, but don’t let that put you off, the content is absolutely brilliant.

On his website, Manson describes the book as “The self help book for people who hate self help books”, and I think you’ll agree that it’s quite fitting once you’ve read the book. He talks about how conventional advice just doesn’t work, and compels us to learn about ourselves, question our beliefs, and start critically evaluating our situations. It lives up to it’s subtitle and certainly provides you with a bunch of counterintuitive ideas that help you find happiness.

The way Mark Manson presents his narrative was extremely relatable to me and I thoroughly enjoyed the read.

I have a simple test to determine how much I liked the book: Would I gift it to someone?

I definitely would. In fact, I’d present this book to pretty much anyone, and honestly, if you read the book and take Manson’s advice, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be a lot happier, and you’ll be able to see things from a different perspective.

I actually enjoyed reading the book so much that I started reading Manson’s blog, which largely contributed to the material in The Subtle Art. 

Some of the ideas in this book may be stuff that you’ve thought about already, but having them laid out in such a clear manner and having thought-provoking questions shoved in your face, is a transformative experience.

My key takeaways:

  • I learned to look at my life from a completely different perspective
  • I’ve learned to question more of my thoughts and actions, allowing me to have a better grasp of why I act or react in certain ways.
  • I gained some insight into how deeply rooted some problems can be, and the book gave me a framework to deal with them.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the book to be quite existential in nature, and it really struck a chord with me in so many ways, allowing things to really sink in and make sense.

For me, this book has provided a lot of clarity in terms of relationships, understanding my own thoughts, struggles, happiness, and life itself.  I gave it a 9/10 because I felt that there were some tiny parts that were slow and slightly clunky, but it’s something that can be easily forgiven.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is up there with the best. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy. If you’ve already read it, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Click on the image to purchase the book. It’s an affiliate link, so I make a tiny commission off every purchase, which goes into supporting the blog! 

How to Find a Mentor

Having Trouble Getting a Mentorship? – Create Your Own!

Having a mentor can be extremely beneficial for your progression in virtually any field. They can accelerate your learning curve exponentially, help you shape your ideas and empower you. Given all of these potential benefits, I thought it would be useful to have a mentor of my own, so I started making a shortlist of people whom I could pick to be my mentor.

Enter Tim Ferris – World Renowned Author, Angel Investor and Polymath. 

Throughout my early teens, I was already fascinated by the concepts of accelerated learning, self-optimisation, and getting unconventional results by utilising unconventional methods. I would always try and figure out the easiest and most effective way to get something done. No one does all of this, and more, better than Tim Ferriss. If you haven’t heard of Tim Ferriss, you should certainly do some research on him and I promise it won’t disappoint.

You can check out his blog: fourhourworkweek.com/blog/  

Why Tim Ferriss?

When I first read the Four Hour Work Week, I was mind-blown. I instantly knew who my ideal mentor would be. I’d found someone who shared the same passion for everything that I enjoyed doing, except he was on a completely different level, far beyond anything I had imagined.

The reason I picked Tim Ferriss was because he is, in fact, a polymath, and exactly what I aspire to be. Secondly, I noticed that Tim was also utilising the tools that I had learned about from elsewhere, however he was applying them in ways that I had never thought of, which I found to be extremely interesting. He also has a knack for asking very simple, yet powerful questions which get you thinking and questioning everything, which can lead to some very interesting results.

To elaborate on the previous point, Tim has dabbled in a diverse array of fields, including his own television show (The Tim Ferriss Experiment, in which Tim attempts to master a new skill within a week), judo, language learning, self-experimentation, accelerated learning, and angel investing, just to name a few. He has enjoyed tremendous success in almost all of these fields. He is the living embodiment of my goals, and that makes him an ideal mentor in my case.

(Side note: I think the phrase “living embodiment” is quite superfluous, and yet I seem to find myself using it relatively often)

If I could have Tim Ferriss as my mentor, I certainly would. However, If you don’t have access to someone whom you would really like to be your mentor, what can you do?

You create your own mentorship.

How the Self-Created Mentorship Works 

Since I didn’t have access to Tim Ferriss himself, I looked at everything I did have access to and started with that. I voraciously devoured all of his books and searched for all kinds of material which he had released over the years. When I discovered his podcast, I began to listen to that too (It’s called the Tim Ferriss Show).

Side note: The Tim Ferriss Show basically involves Tim interviewing and deconstructing world-class performers from a variety of fields, and extracting the tools and tricks which we, the listeners, can put to use. I highly recommend the podcast, there’s an insane amount that I’ve learned from that alone. I’ve also recommended a couple of other podcasts, which you can check out: Podcast Picks of 2017: Productivity, Language, and Culture.

I also follow Tim’s progress through his blog, his Twitter page and of course, his podcast and try to make notes of all his titbits of knowledge that he imparts through all of the various channels.

Books, of course, are possibly one of my favourite ways to learn from my chosen mentor, because it distils all the information and leaves the reader with only the most useful and relevant content, which can be easily accessed and reviewed at leisure.

How to Create Your Own Mentorship Program

  • Find an individual/individuals whom you admire or aspire to emulate
  • Look for articles or books that they have published and read them. Write down questions and take copious notes
  • Search for other resources on your chosen mentor – read about their history and understand how and why they do what they do; it’s all about getting into their mindset and understanding how they work
  • Look for others’ work on them
    • Sometimes your mentor will not release their own material (Warren Buffett is a case in point). What you can do instead is to read books about them by other authors. These can be great because the author sometimes adds their own insight which can be very helpful.
  • Search for videos, interviews and other types of relevant content which can help you gain an insight into your mentor’s thought process
  • Finally, try connecting with your mentor. Some of them may have a Twitter account and you could try tweeting them. Hey, you could get lucky!

Now I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t anywhere near as great as having direct access to your mentor, but it’s the next best thing. I can honestly say that I’ve learned so much from all the different sources of information, even though I could not speak to my “mentors” directly.

I strongly encourage you to find someone whom you admire or would like to emulate, and embark on the journey yourself. It’s actually quite exciting to discover the information you require and try to search for all the answers by relying solely on yourself. It’s a challenge, but one that’s definitely worth it.

In fact, with this self-created mentorship program, you can have as many mentors as you want. Some of my other mentors include  Warren Buffett, Derek Sivers, John Mayer and many other incredible, talented individuals. There’s a wealth of knowledge that you can learn from your mentors, so go ahead and give it a shot!