Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What's so happy about limits to growth- repost from CSR Wire

Scientists, modelers and environmentalists have long been telling stories of doom and gloom. One of the first doomsayers was Donella Meadows. She convened a group to analyze what would happen to our population and our planet if we continued on the trajectories for industrial production, agriculture, waste, population and population.  This was in the ‘70s. Donella and her crew found that if we change one of those trends, such as a world without waste where everything is reused, recycled, or re-engineered for no-waste, we could save ourselves and the planet.  They called their theory “Limits to Growth.”

What happened? The data did inspire some changes. The first Earth Summit was held and conventions like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, commonly known as the Kyoto Protocol, were created. Environmental laws were passed across the globe, and actions like the Montreal Protocol did reverse acid raid and the depletion of the ozone. But it is not enough.

And the data tells a scary story.  Scientists at MIT recently gave an update on Limits to Growth forecasts. The numbers tells us that we are headed for a very bad place.

So why didn’t the data change our actions? Why do we keep doing the same thing when we know that doom and gloom is coming?

In the simplest of terms: you get what you measure.

Today Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the primary and prevailing measure governments use, profit the measure for businesses, and personal wealth and income for personal life.  What happens when we use economic growth to guide out society, consumption to guide our society, the wealth or income to guide our personal life?  

It turns out that the measurements we use have a big impact on our value system. Research by Tim Kasser, the scientists whose work is used in our Gross National Happiness Index in the time-balance section, tells us that the cultural values that emerge from a money-driven society are:
·      financial success,
·      image – including a bigger house, fancier car, nicer clothing and more youthful appearance, or more stuff and ,
·      popularity – higher status, being at the top of the pile in a hierarchical system.
And most importantly, the values of caring for others and nature, giving to others, and compassion (taking action where you see others or yourself hurting) are diametrically opposed to the values that emerge from a economic growth and consumption based system.  As we focus more on GDP, wealth and profit, we value community, caring and compassion less.

It really is true that what you measure, you get. 

This means there is a simple solution: if you want to change outcomes, change your measurement. And that is where happiness comes in. 

Happiness measurements are being used around the world, in England, Bhutan, Canada, China and the US. Governments and grassroots activists alike are experimenting to transform our society by using a happiness and “Beyond GDP” measurements.  In the US, the mayors and councilmember in Somerville, MA, Seattle, WA, Eau Claire, WI and now Santa Monica, CA are experimenting with happiness and wellbeing metrics.  The US Census Bureau has even begun exploring how to measure wellbeing.   Over 37,000 people have taken the Happiness Alliance’s Gross National Happiness Index, and over 100 grassroots activists across the US are using happiness metrics to transform our value system from one based on greed to giving, grasping to contentment, and craving to caring.

And yet these efforts are small scale, and unless happiness or “beyond GDP” metrics are adopted on a much vaster scale, our continued growth in industrial production, agriculture, waste, population and population will lead us into a crisis. What then?

Then we live in a resource constrained world. We will reach a place where there is not enough of the resources we depend upon to take care of our needs.  We will be in dire need of a new way of meeting our needs. And this is where happiness, wellbeing, beyond GDP and sustainability metrics will guide us in finding ways to meet needs of people and the planet.  

Imagine a scenario in which you and your loved ones do not have enough food to eat or clean water to drink, cook, clean or do your chores. What do you do? In a society that highly values financial success, image and popularity, you are likely to compete, perhaps to fight. In a society that highly values community, relationships and nature, you work with your neighbors, family and friends to find ways to meet those needs together.  That is why happiness measurements have everything to do with limits to growth.

Written by Laura Musikanski

Friday, September 26, 2014

Happiness goes to the movies

This evening I presented at a local screening of the film "Happy" for Wallingford Meaningful Movies in Seattle.  People who come to Meaningful Movies are committed to sustainability, social justice and a better future for all.  They are environmentalists, advocates and grassroots activists. A few of the participants had taken the Gross National Happiness Index and we talked about their scores.

This month marks the forth year of my work with the Happiness Alliance, and I have seen only a few groups score as high as the 23 who took the GNH index.
What is remarkable about this group?  They scored higher on every section except the UK Happiness Index, which measures affect (how you feel) and satisfaction with life (is your life worthwhile). Remember that this group is deeply committed to a better future.

We talked about what these results mean.  In simple terms, everything in these people's lives are about as good as they get, but they did not feel that way. Perhaps this is an effect of deeply caring and deeply being aware of the state of our society, economy, personal lives and environment.

We talked about leverage points for happiness and how to focus on the positive.  This was an easy audience. They intrinsically "got it." Practicing compassion, gratitude and giving expands the capacity for changing the world.

Thank you to the Meaningful Movies super wonderful peeps!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On the connection between personal happiness and social change.

August is a funny time for volunteer non-profits, particularly August.  Board meetings are often not held in August.  Foundation deadlines often don't fall during August.  Meetings are harder to schedule - people scramble to take that summer vacation before its too late. And, of course, summer day beacon for lassitude and the easing of heat in the evening threaten the cooler months.

At the same time,  August can be great time to get things done. Not much is happening to divert your attention.  Earlier this summer, the Happiness Alliance's board gathered for its second annual retreat. We met on a houseboat on Seattle's Lake Union. We talked for two days while the ducks paddled past, neighbors plunged into the water to escape the afternoon heat and the houseboat swayed in the wake of summer boating traffic.  The dreams and plans from our annual meeting the last year were all coming true, and we were excited to create our dreams for this year.

One of those dreams is to contribute to the mending of gap between personal happiness and
social change in the happiness movement.  Our work - that of the Happiness Alliance - is all about helping to create a new economic paradigm: one where money, consumption and economic growth is not paramount and the well-being and happiness of all beings is paramount.

 Imagine if the government used a comprehensive measure of wellbeing - the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index could be the subjective side of this - instead of just Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Imagine if companies cared as much about their employees and the communities they operated in as they did about profit. And imagine if your internal and socially conditions marker for your success where whether you were happy, and not your financial status.

And so, in the last month I have been working with my board members and others to create resources for personal happiness.  Many of them are on our home page
and one of my favorite is a short (8 min) video explaining the connection between positive psychology and the happiness movement:
I am looking forward to this next year, and to what focusing on the connections between personal happiness and a new economic paradigm bring.
- Laura Musikanski, JD, MBA
Executive Director of The Happiness Alliance, home of the Happiness Initiative and GNH Index 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Economy Coalition HackPad notes

Today one of the New Economy Coalition's project meetings happened - on hackpad. We met online, on the phone, 100% virtual to explore the questions:

When you think about what is essential to the success of the movements for Thriving Resilience and a New Economy, what key alignments have we established, what tensions need to be resolved, and what deeper inquiries must be undertaken? 

Mike Toye from Quebec, Canada identified the trend we are seeing in a new set of principles. He laid
out two sets (below).  The timing of the conversation was interesting for me - I had spent the better part of the night before talking with my better half about values, principles and their place in the happiness movement. We had discussed the evolution from "might makes right" to chivalry and then the golden rule, the stories that encapsulated these cultures, the timing of these stories, the common thread among them and where we are when follow that thread.  Our resolution from that conversation was to explore values, principles and the emerging story for the happiness movement, with a perspective of reverence for what is worthy of being celebrated in our past.

My personal belief is the more conversations we have like this at a personal and professional level, the more principles are issued, the more values are identified, the closer we are to the new economy - one based on happiness, social justice, sustainability and resilience for all beings.

The principles Mike identified:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Money, Happiness and a New Economic Paradigm

Is our organization, the Happiness Alliance - home of the Happiness Initiative and Gross National Happiness Index - all about money? No.
But money helps. It seems paradoxical, hypocritical, a contradiction.
But it's not.

In fact, when we talk about a new economic paradigm, social change, sustainability and the happiness movement, we are not talking about replacing money. Money still matters. It is still the medium we use for exchange. It's just not the main thing we all focus on, use as a measure of our own self-worth, our organization's value, our countries success.  Instead we use the metric and goal of happiness (well-being), sustainability, resilience, and justice for all.

In the meantime, we live in the metric driven world where money, wealth and gross domestic product reign supreme. And in that world, there are ways to meet basic needs without money - thanks to the virtues of generosity, caring and collaboration. But we still need money. In fact, in a happiness driven world, we will also still need money - as a medium of exchange. We will just treat it differently in our hearts, in our society and in our lives.

This is all to say that we are running a fundraiser. We need money - donations - to fund the Yes, it's paradoxical. Yes, it's ironic, and yes, it's necessary. 
transformation from a money driven society to a wellbeing driven one.

So please give- give to the happiness movement.  There are three ways to give: to our Gross National Happiness Index, to fund important features dearly needed including a personal profile and automated group use of the GNH Index, and the Happiness Data Playbook.  Learn more here and give

Sunday, July 6, 2014

How Happy is LA? Mika Kim - Happiness Initiative Leader - tells us

Mika Kim, Happiness Initiative Leader and Chief Happiness Officer of  just issued the first Happiness Report for LA.

Learn More - Check it out here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Meaghan Rodeck on How to Stay Connected when Off the Beaten Path

Find Happiness Off the Beaten Path? How to Maintain Balance With the Real World

We know happiness isn't about self-gratifying behavior, but sometimes, when we find our happiness off the beaten path, it can feel selfish because the people we love are often asked to come along or live with us being frequently (even persistently) out of touch.  

Whether your bliss is serving overseas in disaster relief, volunteering in the back countries of our National Parks or something else altogether, it's hard on the people left behind when they don't hear from you.
Though you may not have tons of time for conversational catch ups, it's important to let the people who love you know that you're still alive and well.
If you're outside the realm of reliable cell networks or the reach of the Internet, the most reliable option is a satellite phone. Companies like Iridium offer satellite phones as short term rentals or for sale if you spend enough time off the grid to need the hardware full time.
If your environment is at all dangerous, the importance of regularly checking in cannot be overstated. Help your loved ones have peace of mind, and prevent wasting resources sent on an unnecessary rescue mission because you failed to check in.
It's easy to check in via social media, email or text when you're using a fully charged smartphone on a reliable cell network. However, setting up a foolproof and satisfying communication plan without normal technology capabilities is a little more challenging.
Identify the people you'll be responsible for checking in with and how often they should expect to hear from you. Then, make sure they all know how to get in touch with each other if they don't hear from you when expected.
For your extended network—people you love and want to maintain contact with, but won't check in with regularly—you may want to consider a phone tree. That way, if there's ever news that needs to be shared with them (or with you) messages can flow through your network even when you don't have the time or battery power to connect directly.
Once you've sketched out your network and tree—and shared relevant contact information—it's time to think about the mechanics of keeping in touch. How will you keep your battery charged? If you're hiking in the backwoods, you won't be able to carry a lot of weight, but a BioLite camp stove or solar charger could help. If you're traveling internationally, you'll need reliable access to electricity and an appropriate power converter.
Don't forget to take the time difference into account! Find a way to schedule calls so you don't forget to make them. Many satellite phones don't have the creative features you've gotten used to with smartphones. Depending on your circumstance, you may be best served with an old fashioned pocket calendar and telephone book!
Though it may seem like a lot of hassle, the benefits of setting up a well-formed network and staying in touch while you're away from home will be worth it.

An article by Meaghan Rodeck is a professional freelance writer who loves music, coffee and fantastic shoes. With a degree in Theatre, Meaghan knows she has a tendency to be a tad dramatic from time to tim