Attracting Happiness: 6 Solid Foundations To Personal Satisfaction


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Imagine a place where they value what truly matters, arguably, the ultimate why. Why do you work so hard? Why do you want more money? What does it do for you to be able to afford anything you want? What does it mean to you to be able to do what you want?

Ayn Rand, the Russian American writer declares this in her novella, Anthem,

“My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own purpose.”

While the capitalist world and even China, apparently measures the means, this idealistic Shangri-La measures the intangible end,to gauge its growth. Would you like a place where you compare happiness and not riches?  Happier than the Joneses. Where the whole nation is driven to focus on sense of well-being instead of material output? Where the level of flourishing outweighs the control of wealth? Is there such a place, in the first place?

You can’t count happiness but you can count money. How do you use happiness as a unit of measurement? Maybe, it’s all fluff.

Happier than the Joneses

The small kingdom of Bhutan is trying to do something different. The government is measuring the country’s progress by happiness instead of output. Although they are among the poorest countries, it is reported that roughly 90% of their population are happy. The happiness index is measured using scores in 72 indicators. About 50% ‘have sufficiency’ in 50-65% of the domains, they are assessed as ‘narrowly happy.’ About 30% are ‘extensively’ happy. The final 10% are rated ‘deeply happy’ for enjoying ‘sufficiency’ in 77% of the indicators.

I wonder, can you be narrowly happy? What is narrowly happy? Even extensively happy? Or deeply happy? Well, if enough people in Bhutan say “yes” or do not say no, then, I guess it’s a yes. No one question first.
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In my work life, I embraced ambiguous greenfield assignments like a python embraces it’s soon to be meal victim. Nobody knows nothing about anything! You get to set the success indicators. No one dare to question. They don’t want to mess with the projects. Most people need to have clear direction. They don’t want to assume leadership. Let the one upstairs decide what to do. They’ll just get stuck and unhappy.

Well for Bhutanese, it was a tops down direction. A royal decree. The wise fourth king of the kingdom of Bhutan decided, in 1972, that he would not measure the progress of his country by Gross National Product (GNP). Instead, he would focus on Gross National Happiness (GNH).

If you are a Bhutanese, His Royal Highness wanted to know if you were happy enough, not if you were wealthy enough. Simply said, he did not believe that money translated to happiness.
That said, you know that ‘enough’ is a moving target. No one gets enough of anything once he gets enough of it. Then, there is a new enough. And another, and another…

The GNH index defines the different shades of happiness for the overwhelming percentage of Bhutanese who are happy. The skewed happy bell curve has 10% deeply happy, 30% extensively happy, 50% narrowly happy and 10% yet to be happy.  ‘Yet to be happy’ is a happy way of looking at unhappiness. It speaks of a positive expectation that all Bhutanese would be happy. Eventually. Promising as it looks, this idea has not gotten a lot of attention, although no one is saying loudly that it is a bad idea.

Considering they have only 770,000 plus a few people, a comparatively tiny nation with very little clout in moving Wall Street, and the difficulty of measuring something as dynamic as emotion, the effort has not gained a lot of focus nor traction. There are some half-hearted attempts to make some kinds of adoption, no big shout outs.

Eleanor Roosevelt said this, “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” 

Maybe GNW (Gross National Well-being) is a better measurement that GNH. It is popularly believed that you can’t find happiness, happiness finds you.

“If you observe a really happy man, you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under a radiator.”                                                                               -W. Beran Wolfe
You finding happiness, happiness finding you. All the right words are in but the twist offers a different perspective.
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For the rest of the world, the perspective about money’s role in happiness is not changing. Yet. The forms of money may change. Cash has given up some space to cards. As the Covid 19 pandemic raged, cashless transactions will be forced into traction.

In the next few years, expect an upheaval to the currency. China is fast moving into crypto currency and the US is scrambling for lead. The block chain system is gaining relevance fast.

The good thing about the contact virus spreading is that people will keep their hands to themselves. No one’s gonna grab anyone’s anything. The me too question will only arise if you catch the virus, like, “What, me too?”

Back to the serious business about happiness.
We are still die hard believers in money as the elixir of joy. Why make a change when you think you are in a good place? At least money or the comparative lack of it gives you a reason to be less happy, so that you will work harder, and you will be stressed. To live a comfortable and less stressful life, you will work harder for that better paying and more challenging, therefore a more stressful position. And, so the hamsters’ wheel keeps turning and you keep running. But you remain where you were. Not getting any closer to the happiness you seek.

All said, we must laud the Bhutan leadership for getting its people focused on other aspects of life than the most addictive opiate, money. The nine domains, the performance to which is measured by 72 indicators are soundly balanced.

You don’t have to or want to get into the mega-complex algorithm. The happiness of Bhutan’s people is defined through the analysis of scores across the 9 domains, 38 sub-indexes, 72 indicators and 151 variables. Whew! They are really serious about happiness in Bhutan.

We should be serious too.  A renowned psychologist and senior scientist at the Gallup Organization, Ed Diedner found that happiness contributes to longevity and better health. It’s the ideal loop. Happiness enables you a longer and healthier life; a longer and healthier life makes you happy.
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How do You Claim Your Happiness?

So, if you are yet to be happy, like 10% of the Bhutanese, how do you claim happiness? Surely, you are not born to be sad. The foundation of happiness is being positive about things. It is hard to imagine that you are negative and yet happy. Try to look for positives. If you see a pile of horse shit, look for the horse. “Happiness is a choice, “cliche or axiom?
Even if you believe that happiness is a choice, you can’t order for happiness like you do for sundaes. Or burgers, if you like grease more than sugar. Happiness is more likely a result. Like Beran Wolfe said, you have to be engaged in something meaningful deeply for happiness to find you. In that sense, happiness is a journey, not a place. You have to be doing meaningful and enjoy happiness while you are doing whatever you are doing that is meaningful or purposeful to you. No commas, it’s a loop.

Before you go for the overdose, take reality into consideration. Obviously, you can’t be happy every moment. That would be a psychotic aspiration. You can’t be happy when walloped by a tragedy. You need to grieve. Take time to do that and move forward. Sadness has it place in our life. It keeps us in touch with our values. It keeps us human as do all other humanly emotions and desires. Sadness enhances our value for happiness, like bitterness makes the sweet sweeter.

Beside accepting this reality, and enabling through doing something meaningful or purposeful, you have to embrace the following six foundations to deep, lasting happiness.

1.   Keep working for the money.  Wealth is still relevant. In the UN report on the world’s happiest nations, most of the happiest countries are comparatively well to do countries, such Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Australia and UAE. US is 14th. China is an outlier at 93rd
Although, they are close to 50 years using the GNH as a measure of progress, Bhutan is still nowhere near the happiest. In the 2015 report, they were 97th on the list. Possibly the 50% narrowly happy were not happy, after all.
The poorer countries in Africa ranked the lowest. Countries such as Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain plunged in ranking as their economies tanked.
However, there is a set point to the influence of wealth on happiness. Researchers found that after $ 75,000.00 a year, an increase in annual income will not effectively increase the level of your happiness.
Okay, but more money will not naturally make you unhappy as the lack of it will. Money gets the vote.

2.   Work to get healthy. And stay healthy
   You cannot be a happy sick. Or a sick happy.
Listen to your doctor’s advice. Eat healthy. Exercise. Go outdoors. From the 9 domains they measure in Bhutan for their GNH, health is viewed as the third most important. Psychological well-being is also rated. The fundamental state to being in good spirit is good health.

3.   Keep loving. Preserve healthy relationships. With friends, with spouse, with family and with the community.  You can’t be happy when all around you are down, especially those whom you care deeply.
Practice the positivity ratio to keep your relationship robust. Renowned psychologists, John Gottman and Barbara Fredricksen recommend of the 5:1 and 3:1 ratio respectively.

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For every negative thing you say about a person, find 3 to 5 good things to say. This is a good practice with a personal and even with a business relationship.
I can assure you it’s more fun catching people doing things right than doing things wrong.

Caveat. Don’t overdo the balance. The advice is not to go over a 13:1 ratio. It seems that it will do more harm to the relationship than good.

It means sense. If you are wildly praising me to incredulity, I would be focusing more on your state of mind than savoring the attention.

In the Bhutan measurement, the unmarried and the married were the happiest. The divorced and the widowed were the unhappiest.

I guess the happiest singles are those who have healthy relationships with friends and family. With a healthy family relationship, there is caring and a source for comfort.

Community relationship provides a sense of belonging. Being part of a tribe fulfills your craving for identity. You are happiest when you know you belong. And, you are happier and healthier when you are actively engaged with your tribe.

4.   Get fired up. Having a purpose bigger than yourself is important too. Playing a role in the community strengthens your sense of self-worth. With a purpose bigger than yourself, you are on fire, feeling alive moving in a positive direction.

5.   Give and give again. You always feel good when you are giving. We are wired this way. It is not necessarily just money. It can be time and effort. Giving raises your sense of self-worth. You cannot deny goodness in helping the needy. When you give, you realize goodness in yourself. You feel good. You feel happy. Researchers say you will live longer. With less illness. So, give again. What you get from giving is more valuable than what you get from taking.

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”                                                                    -Epictetus

6.   Be grateful!  Be grateful for abundance you receive. Be grateful for nothing than just being alive. Whatever you have is better than nothing. Some people don’t even have nothing. They are in debt.

Enjoy what you have. Gratefully share what you can share with others. 

Remember, “Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.” Do not take what you have, your blessings and well-being for granted.


To be grateful is to be happy. A best practice is to keep a gratitude journal. Find 10 things to be grateful about daily. Write them in the journal. Send thank you notes to those who’ve have served you. To those who’ve have assisted you. To those who’ve accepted you.

The journey to greatness is built with gratefulness.

Who’s happier? Men or Women?

Finally, there is this thing about men being happier than women thing. The Bhutan survey shows that men are happier than women. It seems that some surveys in the West also concur with the Bhutanese results. The reasons given in the analyses range from the fact that women place more importance on beauty, have more to do for the family, and are less successful, career-wise. There is even one analysis that drills down to the differences by age:

-- 41: Age at which men's financial satisfaction exceeds women's financial satisfaction
-- 48: Age at which men's overall happiness exceeds women's overall happiness
-- 64: Age at which men's satisfaction with family life exceeds women's satisfaction.

It is hard to say that to be happy, you must be a man. It is also hard to say, “don’t be vain if you want to be happy.” I guess you have to figure it out yourself. Make it a challenge to ‘out happy’ the man next to you. Keep the positive outlook. Keep thinking that you are winning the challenge.

Summary

“No medicine cures what happiness cannot. I’ll far rather be happy than right any day.”                                                                  -Douglas Adams
Improve your odds to a flourishing life.  Create the conditions for happiness to find you. However, embrace the reality; you can’t be happy every moment. Sadness and grieving is a normal in life. Strengthen these six foundations to keep happiness around you.

More of the  story here.

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