The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan introduced a new measurement of national prosperity, focusing on the “happiness factor” rather than economics. After a little digging, I discovered a growing interest in this concept, known as “gross national happiness” (GNH). The idea is that sustainable development is only possible if metrics of progress holistically include non-economic aspects of wellbeing. Health. Happiness. A good life.
They place a higher value on GNH than GDP because understanding what humans need to be happy is vital to societal growth. GNH measures fulfilling conditions of “a good life” in 9 domains such as education, leisure time, a sense of belonging in the community, resilience, and how integrated one feels with the culture. In essence, happiness in one’s life fuels success.
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.
Moreover, statistics also show that among Bhutanese graduates studying abroad, a high percentage return home to begin their careers even though salaries are significantly less than opportunities overseas. Is it possible that the youngest members of their workforce are choosing happiness over money?
The fundamental ideology of Bhutan is that people will work harder and contribute more to their organizations and to the greater good of society when they are truly happy.
“True happiness creates sustainable progress because it comes from contributing to the greater good and realizing the brilliant nature of our own minds.”
It’s no secret that we tend to excel at the things that we enjoy or make us happy. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but generally if you love tennis, for example, you’ll play more. The more you play, the better you play. And, whatever the “game” – golf, tennis, cooking, discourse, nuclear physics… pick your passion… we’re social creatures, and we tend to “play” more with people we like who share our passion.
People who love what they do and love the people they do it with will not only be more engaged, but they are more likely to do it better. Apply the “gross happiness factor” concept to the workplace; everyone impacts organizational happiness, and that metric significantly impacts organizational success. If you subscribe to that, part of your job description is to be happy.
Wait… you think it’s not your job to contribute to the “gross happiness factor” in your organization? Think again.
A TINYpulse Engagement Survey collected more than 40,000 responses from employees in over 300 companies. Respondents overwhelmingly cited “people” as the greatest factor of job satisfaction, followed by “Freedom/Responsibility,” Culture/Atmosphere,” “Variety/Learning,” and “Challenges” as the top five.
Combine those ingredients and you have just discovered the secret sauce for organizational happiness. This is the place where people want to be… not just show up to work, but work to be part of a successful team. The more they contribute, the more engaged they are, the better the team becomes. The better the team becomes, the more engaged people are, the more they want to contribute. Not a bad cycle to be stuck in…. eh?
Okay… So it’s not an Einsteinian revelation. Maybe it’s more accurate to call it uncommon sense given the current statistics of employee engagement, job satisfaction, and organizational culture.
I’ve worked in a few dysfunctional organizations in my lifetime. You can “feel” the culture as soon as you walk in the door. There is little sense of team spirit, not a lot of happiness or energy, and lots of clock watchers. You get the sense that there are “silos” full of people operating under the radar either out of apathy or fear.
I’ve also worked in organizations that had positive, creative cultures – the kind of culture that empowered and inspired people and fostered creativity, collaboration, and a collective vision to succeed. People feel valued and energized to work, learn, create, and collaborate. People not only want to move the needle, they want to do it together. They are happier doing it together.
Think about your own level of happiness. Think about the level of happiness among your team, department, or organization. It really doesn’t matter what box on the org chart has your name on it. Whether you’re sitting in the C-suite or at the receptionist desk, every individual contributes to and is impacted by the gross happiness factor of the entire group. And, like the Bhutans entering the workforce, salary isn’t one of the top factors for job satisfaction.
Jim Murray addresses the rewards of making contributions over making money in his recent post, Alfa Post. The Basic Ground Rules for Walking the Talk in My World. And Maybe Yours Too. In this piece, Rule #3: There Are More Ways to Get Paid Than Money, really resonates:
“Sometimes it’s just about the favour you are doing for someone. Sometimes it’s about the investment you are willing to make in someone with the possibility of either gaining or losing from the experience. And sometimes it’s just about helping and giving something back with no expectation of reward.”
Honestly, it doesn’t take much to make a significant deposit in the happiness account.
Make time to share your passion. Invite a colleague to share his/her knowledge and expertise. Look for opportunities to both teach and learn. Engage with another person in a way that says, “what you do here matters.” Recognize the efforts and contributions of others. Find the “nuggets” in your experiences and embrace them. Embrace them with the kind of delight you feel when you reach into the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn for awhile and are surprised to find a twenty dollar bill.
Here is my challenge for you: Make an intentional deposit every day in the happiness accounts that matter to you. At work, with family, with friends, at church… wherever you invest yourself. If it doesn’t make a difference, call me and we’ll talk.
Check out Happiness Part 2 to learn what actually happens in a happy brain.
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Dr. Melissa Hughes is the founder and principal of The Andrick Group. Our mission is to engage, inspire, and educate people who are looking for ways to more effectively teach and learn. We deliver tailored, dynamic workshops to help organizations improve their work by learning about learning and thinking about thinking.