October 15th, 2012 15:30 EST
Which Brings YOU Happiness: Love or Money?
If I asked you to rate how important love and money are to you, giving each a proportion out of 100 percent, what would you say? Of the hundreds of people asked that question, two thirds rated love more important than money with men rating money more important " as high as 70 percent compared to 50 percent for women.
For women, a partner`s personality characteristics " caring, supportiveness, trustworthiness " matters most in attraction. Admittedly, that`s what women record on a survey, but when asked in-person, they mention money.
True to stereotypes, men still measure their personal worth and their sexual prowess -- by their portfolio. I like to say, "As the Dow Jones goes, so do men`s erections."
Given my extensive work about attraction and making couples happy, I am thrilled about the emerging trend of governments posing alternatives to national economic success by measuring the satisfaction, well-being and happiness of the people. Countries in the developed world pioneering this change include France, Great Britain and Japan. Despite an apparent vested interest, given growing economic collapse, eroding resources and devastating environmental destruction, their efforts are still impressive and revolutionary.
Guess who`s leading the charge: the tiny Royal Kingdom of Bhutan. As a small isolated country in the Himalayas, Bhutan may more easily bank its success on its citizens` satisfaction. Credit goes to the Buthanese king who came up with the new national accounting concept decades ago, leading to the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. GDP makes no sense, the Bhutanese argue, since cutting down and selling their beautiful forests might mushroom their market value but destroy national beauty, endanger wildlife, shift biodiversity and instigate landslides.
Further legitimizing this trend is that economists experts stereotypically associated with financial, not emotional, matters promote this new deal. Three economists (two of whom are Nobel Laureates) were commissioned by France`s former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who ordered the country`s statistics agency to put more emphasis on measuring the well-being of the population than on economic production.
The campaign is gathering steam. All 193-member United Nations states passed Bhutan`s UN General Assembly resolution 65/309 by consensus in July 2011, "to pursue public policy steps that would better capture the importance of pursuing happiness and well-being in development and to hold a conference on Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development." At the high level meeting hosted at the United Nations by Bhutan`s Prime Minister, H.E. Jigmi Thinley, the collection of speakers and attendees was impressive: United Nations officials, including the Secretary-General and the Presidents of the General Assembly and of the Economic and Social Council; scientific, economic and civil society experts; and world leaders from countries like Finland, Japan, Morocco, India, Israel and Thailand. Prince Charles appeared by video, supporting the UK`s new well-being policy.
The campaign continued at the recent United NationsCommission on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (popularly called Rio +20 given that the first international conference happened 20 years). Hundreds attended the Bhutan Prime Minister`s side event. At a related meeting on "Measuring What Matters: A Coherent Global Framework," more country voices were heard in support of the initiative (e.g., Zambia, Denmark and Italy).
Chairing that meeting, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark, said, "Development is about far more than growth in GDP per capita "it must lead to tangible and positive changes in people`s lives."
Civil society organizations are also on the case. TheGross National Happiness World Project and the Seattle Happiness Initiative offer resources to help people enhance their well-being. GNH conferences have been held in Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands and Thailand. An art installation, The Happy Post Project, aims to have 10,000 post-it notes with answers to the simple question What makes you happy? An exemplary ecovillage in Brazil founded by the FutureVision Institute, operates on empathy, deep listening and support networks, qualities that emerged from a large-scale poll of citizens about their happiness.
Critics contest the definition of happiness as a naÃ¯ve and ethereal mood. Yet, the Bhutan initiative proposes a state that comes from living life in full harmony with the natural world, with our communities, and with our culture and spiritual heritage, in contrast to current economic systems that create alienation from the natural world and each other.
Think about your own life. Wouldn`t you agree that we are over-obsessed with materialism, and that deep social connections and support can contribute more to our soulful well-being? Japan is a model. Consistent with the country`s emphasis on bonds between people ( kizuna in Japanese), their Councilon National Strategy and Policy is recommending government policy based on 130 well-being indicators focused on bonds between families, communities and nature.
Another common criticism is that happiness cannot be measured. Evidence to the contrary is presented in the World Happiness Report co-edited by Columbia University economist and Earth Institute founder Jeffrey Sachs and by a growing body of knowledge in the new psychological field called Positive Psychology. Research abounds by eminent psychologists like Ed Diener and in papers published in the new journal, Health and Well Being, launched by the NGO I represent at the UN, the International Association ofApplied Psychology.
According to the Paradox of Happiness, happiness is not proportional to economic wealth. As Sachs said, any increases in U.S. productivity over the last half century did not coincide with increases in happiness, while other countries with much lower per capita income have gained in happiness.
Sometimes well-being and wealth do correlate. The World Economic Forum concluded in its 2012 Report from its Global Agenda Council on Health and Well-being that happier workers generate better performance for companies; happier people have more successful families and create more harmonious communities.
You might be tempted to think that poorer people can be happier because their life is simpler (I found such an apparent Shangri-la in remote rural Vietnam). However, once exposed to technology and hand-held devices, showing people what they don`t have, I fear this blissful innocence will fade.
Overall, I am delighted at this evolution of emotion eclipsing economy since this is what I am advocating about at the United Nations. But there needs to be more traction and action on the governmental level. Also, more psychologists need to be involved; only the Father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, spoke at the Bhutan UN meeting. Four years after my psychology NGO began actively lobbying for inclusion of psychosocial well-being in the indexes of the UN Human Development Report, the 2010 Report included numerous dimensions of personal satisfaction and perceptions of happiness adapted from the Gallup World Poll (based on saying yes " to items like being treated with respect and having a purposeful life and social support network). But one only measure appeared in the subsequent year.
Mental health must be included in any postulation of happiness. As defined on the World Health Organization (WHO) website, mental health is a state of well being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with their mental stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
The new measures discussed in Rio focus more on ecology than emotions. My favorite measures so far, besides Bhutan`s Gross National Happiness Index, are the Your Better Life Index " and the Happy Planet Index, " acknowledging how green a country is besides how satisfied the people are. Costa Rica won the latter last year.
Our United States Constitution insures our right to the pursuit of happiness. While developments to measure contentment versus consumerism continue on the national, international and administration level, you might just ask yourself " and your partner which brings you happiness: love or money?