On June 28, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly passed Assembly Resolution A/RES/66/281, which states, in part:
The General Assembly, conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal, recognizing also the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples, decides to proclaim March 20 the International Day of Happiness.
I would guess that March 20th will come and go with little of the world’s population even contemplating happiness, which is a loss of a real opportunity for much-needed change. Pharrell Williams is doing his part to raise awareness, and that will go a long way, but sadly, we are still failing to focus on happiness as a worthy outcome of our efforts.
Why should rabid capitalists like us care about anyone’s happiness but our own? Think of it as enlightened self interest. Dozens of studies in the past few years in the fields of psychology, sociology, economics, education, business, law enforcement and political science all reach the same basic conclusion on this point — happiness is achievable, and a happy society is more profitable. Yes, economically profitable. Happiness = Mo’ Money!
Happy employees are less likely to take sick days, attack other workers or steal from their employers. Happy workers aren’t going to up and quit in the middle of their shift, wreaking havoc and increasing turnover costs. Happy professionals are generally more productive and measurably more creative than their unhappy co-workers, which has both tangible and intangible effects in the market. Happy people are healthier, thus causing less of a strain on an employer’s insurance or the public healthcare system, and less likely to engage in crime, reducing the need for police, courts and prisons. In short, happy people produce more and cost less. For all of us.
And yet, we still see happiness as a secondary goal, running far behind wealth, advancement, power, financial security, fame and whatever else our most “successful” countrymen seem to achieve.
Companies need to be reminded now, more than ever, that happiness is not only a valid metric by which to measure success, but also good for the bottom line. When Cadillac runs a commercial announcing that the way to get their latest car is to work more hours in the day and more days in the year (despite the fact that the hardest working people in our country — janitors, bus drivers, food workers, nursing home employees, etc. — will never be able to afford that car), it’s time to start a conversation about values. To hit the brakes on unfettered production and consumption and acknowledge not only how to be happy, but why it matters. It’s not about acquiring things, but rather our enjoyment of them. It’s not about working more hours, but instead learning how to embrace life, and everyone and everything in it, regardless of what kind of car you own, if you own a car at all.
There’s still plenty of time until the International Day of Happiness on March 20th. It’s not too late to make a plan to acknowledge and celebrate — to let everyone know that you place a premium on happiness, and want to help others get there. Use social media to spread happiness. Ask your co-workers to write down their favorite quotes about happiness and cover one wall of the office with them.
Employers — have prizes throughout the day, or give everyone a book or token to help them achieve happiness or remember to make it a priority. If you can afford it, give your workers a free hour on March 20th, either to come in late, leave early, or take a long lunch. It may feel like it hurts your bottom line today, but in terms of lowering turnover and increasing employee happiness, it will pay off in the long run.
We are just now starting to get it — spreading happiness has a lot of very real benefits, both for the individual and for society, so take a moment to decide that you want to be at the forefront. Add happiness to your list of goals and benchmarks — and not just your own, but the happiness of your family, friends, co-workers, employees and total strangers.
We have been driven by profit for so long that shifting that focus will be like turning an aircraft carrier — it takes a long time and a lot of ocean, but isn’t it worth the effort? After all, once we refocus, we’ll be headed toward greater happiness for all, which conveniently, leads to more profit anyway.
As part of the International Day of Happiness celebrations, anyone who visits SpeakHappiness.com can get a free copy of the “One Day of Fluent Happiness” workbook.
Valerie Alexander is the author of Happiness as a Second Language, a #1 Seller on Amazon in both the Happiness and Self-Help categories, and she runs workshops and seminars for companies and organizations seeking to maximize their results by making happiness a priority. For more from Valerie, please follow Speak Happiness on Facebook and Twitter.
August 9, 2014 //
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