Ask That Happiness Count

In leadership we get what we focus on, and with metrics what gets measured gets managed. The power of attention and attraction helps explain why the global emphasis on gross domestic product (GDP) as the primary indicator of societal wellbeing is a major culprit in fueling climate change and collective malaise. When disaster and war count for growth, and love does not count at all, we can see how our system is set up for producing outcomes that are misaligned with what most of us say matters most of all. Fortunately, the chorus of voices that began sounding in the 1970s, including His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck who pioneered Gross National Happiness (GNH) in Bhutan and RLI friend Hazel Henderson of Ethical Markets who coined the “love economy,” has grown enough momentum to result in a 2011 UN General Assembly resolution that the GDP “does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people in a country” in this age of sustainability.

Last week, hundreds from all sectors around the world gathered at the UN to explore “Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm” with the government of Bhutan. Framing the importance of the event, Prime Minister Thinley of Bhutan stated that, "The GDP-lead development model that compels boundless growth on a planet with limited resources no longer makes economic sense. It is the cause of our irresponsible, immoral and self-destructive actions... "The purpose of development must be to create enabling conditions through public policy for the pursuit of the ultimate goal of happiness by all citizens."

Whether looking at the Happy Planet Index, where the US ranks 114 out of 143 in measures that include long and happy lives, or the OECD Better Life Index where the US misses the top ten because work-life balance and life satisfaction count, it is evident that we need to remember that the Declaration of Independence defines happiness as one of our core values. At this time of global momentum, contact your local, state and national leaders to ask for a focus on what matters and away from misguided measures and unsustainable growth expectations.

Then smile while you do something that you love with someone that you love.

Image Source: Flickr user laihiu