What Makes You Happy?


If you have read our book or  our blogs you know we are big fans of the book Blue Zones by Dan Buttner. Mr. Buttner has studied what makes people happy and healthy around the world. We learn there are different definitions of happy but there are lots of commonality amongst the happiest people in the world. If you have not had a chance take some time and read Blue Zones.

Recently the annual World Happiness Report was published and Dan Buttner wrote an article for National Geographic on the latest findings. It was interesting to see that people are happy around the world but what drives their happiness differs greatly.

“The Happiness Report’s central purpose was to survey the science of measuring and understanding subjective well-being.*” The report analyze results from a world Gallup survey looking at five categories:
• Social
• Financial
• Physical
• Community
• Purpose

The 2017 report found that almost 3/4 of human happiness is driven by six factors: strong economic growth, healthy life expectancy, quality social relationships, generosity, trust, and freedom to live the life that’s right for you. While the importance of these six factors differs in driving happiness for each person  and in each country a focus to improve individual factors even incrementally will certainly improve your overall happiness. Your  task is to figure out what factors are most important to you and focus on improving those aspects of your life.

The NG article highlights three of the world’s happiest places and also gives an example in the USA of Boulder Colorado. It is fascinating to see how different values drive different needs and ultimately different definitions of happiness. The three happiest places were Costa Rica, Denmark and Singapore. One commonality was relatively strong economies but after that happiness drivers differs from location to location. There is no doubt that being born in North America is a gift, and Canada specifically, with relatively strong economies, a social safety net and for the most part a socially progressive view of the world. Despite our foot up in the world,a strong economy, and financial security is not enough to ensure personal happiness.

Happiness is not a one size fits all proposition, learning what makes you happy is an important step in helping you plan your life.  Recently during a discussion with fellow Victory Lappers the topic of how we were feeling being away from our first careers and out of the corporate environments came up. All of us agreed the change has been positive, but not without its challenges. Each of us had a story of running into old work colleagues who either looked down or could not understand how we could feel fulfilled or happy not working in a traditional corporate environment.

In my case the individual seemed to take great glee in the fact that he continued to work for the corporation and he wanted to share a list of individuals who were no longer working for the bank. Somehow he viewed this as a winner and loser list based on his criteria. Winners those working for a corporation and me and the other people no longer were part or the bank. Oh if he only knew how wonderful life could be outside of the traditional corporate environment.

In my colleague’s example, he had an interaction with a former workmate, and he was left feeling that his former workmate felt he had become lazy or wasn’t working hard in his new career. Again people make assumptions based on what they have learned and it’s hard to have a paradigm shift if all you have ever known is one way of living. I can say my colleague is one of the most balanced and articulate individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting. He has chosen to work on his terms and is cherishing the time he has created spending it with family and friends. In both examples our former workmates could not understand that happiness is not about the title on their business cards or how much money they have in the bank. It is about things like relationships, experiences, community, and health. We can certainly understand the reaction of former workmates, it is very difficult for people who have worked in a corporate environment for their whole careers to understand that happiness means different things to different people. In a corporation we interact with people with similar goals, if you are lucky enough to step out of the rat race you can learn what makes you happy and happiness is certainly not at the expense or “misfortunes” of others.

It is clear that the millennials  have a very different view of what drives their Happiness Index. Careers won’t be with the same corporation for 30 years,  being a good global citizen is important and having a strong purpose ranks very high for this group. I think this is a positive change and reinforces the need to understand what drives our kids.

When you evaluate your happiness drivers, especially in VL, don’t let what you think they should be based on your years of running with the herd limit you. Instead open yourself up to what is in the realm of the possible. Having a need for achievement is wonderful but it no longer has to be climbing the corporate later, maybe it is becoming a blogger, helping a small business, building something with your own hands, helping your grandchildren to be the best people they can be. All noble endeavours.

*World Happiness Report 2017

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