Meaningful Measures of Happiness
Updated: Mar 3, 2020
I am really happy today; in fact, I have been really happy for some time now. My happiness is rapidly being overtaken by excitement because, hand-in-hand with my wonderful business partner, best friend and the woman who knows far too much about me, we are about to set off on our new venture and leave behind a world where we have been so well protected and supported. Our fledgling business is about to launch itself into the real world and we are now the proud joint Directors of CoCreation Partnership Limited.
For far too many years now we have both worked in the corporate world which, although provides a comforting blanket of support and protection, also comes with its challenges. I leave a job where I have not always been able to look in the mirror and say I have been happy. Yes, I have been challenged, pushed, respected. I have laughed (and cried), I have been frustrated, and I have been excited and scared in equal measure. But on reflection, happiness was not an emotion that featured in my work life. Indeed, it is not a question that was ever asked of me nor did I ever ask it of my team. Looking back, it’s not a question that was ever asked often enough, and it is not seen as a recognisable measure of satisfaction: take a look at your employee survey – is there a happiness question on there?
Happiness is important, because the alternative is a process of loosing faith replaced by a need for external validation and control, a slow embrace of fear and negativity, and the death of personal responsibility and loss of heart.
So, going back to me and my happiness: when had I lost it, where had it gone and how did I get it back?! I recognise that outside factors can impact significantly on how your work-life balance plays itself out, but I also know that happiness depends on our personal beliefs and actions.
Aristotle enshrines happiness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself. In his world happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue, though his virtues are more individualistic than social. Yet, Aristotle was convinced that a genuinely happy life requires the fulfillment of a broad range of conditions, including physical as well as mental well-being. Looking at his seven habits of happy people I wondered how these related to me:
Relationships – I truly couldn’t be happier with my husband, son, close family, all my different friends, and my cat! I talk a lot, I love people, I love talking to people, but equally I love listening to people. I am incredibly lucky that I have a fantastic network of truly inspirational friends, who support and love me unconditionally (I think).
Cultivate kindness – I love doing nice things for people I know, but I am not brilliant at doing nice things for strangers. but I am working on that because the research shows that helping others and random acts of kindness is good for our mental health, and supports our emotional wellbeing. Being kind and compassionate also helps to build trusting relationships in a professional environment.
So those were (and probably still are) my positives and are the habits that I do well. Two down, five to go!
Exercise and Physical Wellbeing – What I am calling a ‘blip’ last year made me re-evaluate my life. I now make time to exercise and look after No.1 (and then No.2 and No.3, and not forgetting No.4 – in no particular order). I am not perfect in this area but I am starting to see how not looking after myself quickly impacts on how I am feeling. Storm Keira and Storm Dennis need to go and do one – two weekends of being housebound is dangerous!
Flow - If we are deeply involved in trying to reach a goal, or an activity that is challenging but well suited to our skills, we experience a joyful state called "flow." At some point, I realised, I had disengaged with my flow: my flow was ebbing rapidly, and I had work to do to understand what creates joy, excitement, and motivation for me in order to get it back.
Spiritual Engagement and Meaning – I am definitely spiritual. I love open spaces and working with the elements to get me up and down mountains: it’s my favourite place to be. My stress levels drop and my mind opens – I plan my whole life while walking or cycling because it is a time when I am totally open to all possibilities, nothing can get in my way when I am in that beautiful and peaceful place.
Strengths and Virtues – I had definitely lost sight of my strengths and virtues. This is probably a very ‘female’ affliction but on reflection I realised that I didn’t really think very highly of myself and my skills. Setting up CoCreation Partnership made me realise that I am good at what I do! And the best realisation was that I don’t have to be the best to be valued: I am excited about learning, bringing in new ideas, and getting better all the time.
Positive Mindset - Optimism, mindfulness and gratitude – I have in buckets and spades! I haven’t always had it, but I do now. At various points in my personal and work life these values have slipped; I now make time to listen to myself and remind myself that I am an incredibly lucky person.
Imagine if the seven virtues formed seven questions on our employee surveys. As Lianne reflected in her Happy New Year (and here’s to a decade of positive social change) article, we know that change is coming. Whether it’s how our country works outside of the European Union post-Brexit, how we tackle climate change, or bring our communities together to build healthy local economies, lifestyles, and environments, we have some mighty challenges to tackle.
To succeed we need to move away from a position of delivering services for turnover and margin and instead deliver services for people. Perhaps we could learn something from Bhutan, where prosperity measures include Gross National Happiness and the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and natural environment. Indeed, to tackle the economic, environmental and social challenges facing us we need solid foundations to work from and a meaningful measure of happiness in all areas of our personal and working lives is a very good base from which to start.