Tuesday, February 21, 2012

You would think that as executive director of the Happiness Initiative, I would be deliriously happy. In fact, I am often asked that question in interviews or when speaking. I usually laugh, and answer yes and no – then explain the difference between effect (how you feel) and wellbeing (a comprehensive fairness, health and resilience for all), but the truth of the matter is, I am not happy. Perhaps, if I were, I would not be doing this work.

It’s been almost two years of unpaid 40+ hours a week on this project and my belief in it has not faltered. I truly do believe the Happiness Initiative is a fundamental tool that can open the door to a world where we all live in conditions that allow us to be happier - but at times it feels a lot further away and less probable than likely. And still, I am no trust fund baby- quite the opposite – and this work, particularly when we need financial support so badly, takes its toll. If I were well connected or someone on my team were, we would be funded the way values. org, actionsforhappiness.com or other similar projects were. But instead we are doing the work, “funded” by our own belief in the work.

This raises the question of whether the kind of work we are doing is sustainable if not funded by super wealthy individuals or foundations. I used to hang Margaret Meads quote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." on the office wall. Now we don’t have a wall, because we don’t have an office. Sounds kind of pitiful.

But, at the same time, we are having some great success with the project. People in cities and towns across our country are using our toolkits to start their own happiness initiatives. Thousands have taken the survey and we’ve caught the attention of some major media.

I kind of knew, when I started down the path of this project, that we would get to a place where things would get really tough. Well, we are here now. It's not so great, but at the same time, one can’t expect that changing the world is going to be easy. This is part of the path- living in irresolvable dilemma. Working for happiness, and not being happy is just one of the many I am living with now.

This is the first leaf in a series of my thoughts about the progress of this project. I will keep writing, and would love to hear your ideas and thoughts about irresolvable dilemmas, doing the good work and feeling bad, and any shards of wisdom from you. Laura Musikanski, ED of HI


  1. The human condition-living in unknowing. How can we do that with equanimity? We think we are in control but really we are not. That is not negative. Unknowing allows for all possibilities. Don't know mind. Thank you for your heartfelt honesty, Laura.

  2. This is an excellent post Laura. Its uncompromising honesty is inspiring, and not without hope. I believe what we do is incredibly meaningful, despite the improbability of its success. You are a strong person with great resolve. Do not doubt that.