Monday, March 15, 2010

Happiness - My Core Value

When one considers core values happiness is not always on the list. A short list of typical core values includes: integrity, reliability, freedom, justice, etc. Even long lists of values may leave happiness off the list.  This is intriguing, and I wonder why.  Is it too self-centered, too narcissistic, to desire happiness for one’s self?  I do not think that to be true.  I believe that happiness is a wonderful value to hold, perhaps a better value than many others.

The founding father’s inshrined this value within our declaration of independence.  Giving the pursuit of happiness equal weight to the rights of life and liberty (Declaration of Independence, 2010). Recognizing that while the framers of the republic considered life and liberty an unalienable right, one does not have a right to happiness, just the right to pursue happiness.  The pursuit of happiness should not be allow to impinge upon other’s rights.  Therefore an inherent requirement for just societies, for rules of conduct, and for many qualities found in other core values.

For over 200 years we Americans have been free to pursue our happiness, yet it is not evident that we are a happier people than our forebears.  There is no guarantee implied that we will achieve happiness.  In the business world which we have optimized our society for in these 200 years it is common to measure results.  One global measure of success is the Gross National Product (GNP) of a country.  This measure focuses upon the total output of the nation in terms of goods and services minus the total consumption of external goods and services.  This measure has steadily climbed and become one of many finical benchmarks that we measure our wealth. GNP does correlate well with happiness in some studies. Wilkinson (2007) states; “high levels of economic freedom and high average incomes are among the strongest correlates of subjective well-being” (p. 1).  Measuring happiness is difficult, and somewhat subjective.  However many people, organizations and even countries are attempting to measure and increase happiness across their constituents.

As Maslow described people have basic needs and once these needs are met they may will strive to fulfill higher order needs.  At the top of his pyramid of needs we find self-actualization (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 176).  I would argue that this is just another term for happiness.  A person that is happy will have found an area that they can achieve self-actualization within.  This may be parenting, or athletics, or politics, or perhaps finance, but self-actualization, becoming more in-tune with what one desires to be, makes us happy.

At the forefront of the trend to measure and optimize a group of people’s happiness is the country of Bhutan.  Their King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, instituted a policy and a measure of Gross National Happiness (GNH).  For His Majesty, “a GNH society means the creation of an enlightened society in which happiness and well-being of all people and sentient beings is the ultimate purpose of governance” (Center for Bhutan Studies,2009).  The reasoning behind this is sound.  Indicators such as GNH embody values of the people and their government, the indicators influence policy, they create a scoreboard in the imagination of the people, and most importantly they will drive society to change (Center for Bhutan Studies,2009).

Happiness may be difficult to define or quantify and measure, however, no more so than other phenomena that social science tries to model.  Yet, this indicator may have a much larger impact upon our daily lives than any other standard.  If I could optimize only one dimension, happiness or wealth, for example, I would certainly choose happiness.


References

Declaration of Independence. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 04, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/285012/Declaration-of-Independence

Wilkinson, W. (2007). In Pursuit of Happiness Research: Is It Reliable? What Does It Imply for Policy? Retrieved February 4, 2010, from The Cato Institute Web site: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=8179

Robbins & Judge (2009). Organizational behavior. Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson Prentice Hall.

Center for Bhutan Studies (2009). Explanation of GNH Index. [Web site] Retrieved February 4, 2010, from Gross National Happiness web site:  http://www.grossnationalhappiness.com/gnhIndex/intruductionGNH.aspx
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