Sunday, March 25, 2012

Momsrising re-post by the Happiness Initiative

Just posted for the first time to Momsrising.
Here it is:

I just want her to be happy

Posted March 25th, 2012 by Laura Musikanski

I remember the moment I became a mother. It was like lightening and thunder inside my body, and then, suddenly and unexpectedly, a delightful soft and smooth swoosh. And there she was.

Like every mother, I wanted my child to be happy. That was 24 years ago, and instinctively, I knew that happiness was more than just a feeling, but I was not entirely clear what else it was.

The Ecological Footprint for USA from the Global Footprint Network

I did know it had something to do with our tie to the planet. It seemed so unfair to me that the ecological footprint of the average American was seven times greater than most of the rest of the world. That was why I decided to have only one child. Today -24 years later- we Americans are still using more natural resources than any other nation in the world and Mother Nature is running out of her supply.

Gross Domestic Product for USA from The World Bank

When my daughter was born, in 1988, the average American income was about $33,400 (adjusted for inflation). By the time she was 20, nothing had changed- except for the richest 1%; their income had risen by 33%. However, the gross domestic product (sum of all goods and services produced in a year) has increased almost three fold, from 5 billion in 1988 to 14.6 billion in 2010. When she graduated from college, unemployment rates were up from 7% to 9.6% and today, my daughter, a dean’s medalist, can’t find a job so she volunteers to create the job experience she needs. She volunteers long hours, and more often than not, she is sleep deprived. When I see her, I just want to hold her and sing her to sleep like when she was a baby. She has no health care, no dream of a secure future. She is not alone.

I still want my daughter to be happy. The difference between then and now is that I have a clear idea of what I mean, and today, I am doing all I can to help change the future so she, and all our children, can be really happy.

I am the executive director of a project called the Happiness Initiative. We are working on the transformation of a world run by money and greed to one based on true happiness. Now that my daughter is full grown, this is my life’s work. It’s also, in a way, the fulfillment of who I am as a mother

So what does it mean to be happy? I want my daughter to live in a world where she is not faced with the choice of taking a vow of poverty to follow her dream or compromising her soul to make ends meet. I want her to know that the food she is eating will not expose her to increased rates of cancer. I want her to be able to go to a doctor or dentist whenever she needs it, and not have to worry that she can’t afford it. I want her to live in a world where she can truly fulfill her potential. That is why I had her, and what I raised her to do.

But that is not the way the world is right not. The Happiness Initiative is part of a movement to change all that. We are bringing a new measure for our governments, businesses, campuses and our own lives to guide us towards real happiness – well-being, quality of life and sustainability. It starts with a simple self-assessment of your own well-being; a survey you cantake here. Our project is based on the Gross National Happiness Movement started by Bhutan. On April 2nd, we will be joining other people and organizations from around the world at the United Nations headquarters in New York for a conference held by the UN and Bhutan to create a new world system for our planet’s wellbeing. This is exciting, but not as exciting as the idea of a future where happiness – real happiness- is possible for your child, and mine.

This is the first of a series of posts I intend to write for Momsrising about my journey as a mother and grandmother in the role of executive director of the happiness initiative. In the next post, I intend to explain more about how the Happiness Initiative can make a difference. In the meantime, I ask you- what do you really mean when you say you just want your child to be happy?

Read more:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Monkey- Moon

I’m still coming down from my New York monkey-moon – swinging from one big long street to another, grazing through Central Park where a jazz band plays sounding like heaven plays in a stone amphitheater, a blues group gives up songs that made the soul feel kissed and a trumpet player lilts across childhood dreams with a pure and sweet rendition of Louis Armstrong’s When You Wish Upon a Star. And all this after tasting Frank Lloyd Wright’s nautilus and room after room of ancient Greek sculptures and earthen ware. It’s all a money-moon – a lovely dream like stage that exists in a space fueled by the improbable- and maybe- impossible.

There is something about New York that feels so very right- we talk of urban development verses “development” of greenfields, and in New York, it feels like maybe all our dreams could come true. Yet there is something about New York that feels so very wrong. You wonder why the roof-tops are not filled with vegetables and flowers, and where the trees are. You take the plane ride home and see miles after miles of our altered landscape.

It was at midnight, walking from Times Square where a huge illuminated billboard spun off beautiful images of nature across the United States that mesmerized the eyes, mind and heart that the question was posed to me: what if happiness – well-being- results in un-sustainability. I had not thought of that, had assumed that in a world where there is well-being, - where all hearts are healthy, all actions are conscientious of tomorrow’s generations - in that world, we are all meeting the “needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

And so, feet to pavement at one in the morning, walking 8th avenue to Greenwich village, my mind filled with fatigue and wonder, I contemplated whether this effort toward happiness (well-being) could be antithetical to sustainability. Would we end up in a world where the only nature was billboards with pretty pictures of Utah sunsets and Alaskan Caribou? Or where our grandchildren’s children would struggle to find energy or a safe place because we spent all the oil and melted all the glaciers? Could we have happiness for all right here right now and hurt the future?

I don’t think so. While part of our brains are programmed for the short term, a part of us also wants to take care of future generations, wants to know we left a planet better than we found it. And so, while The Happiness Initiative, and the Gross National Happiness movement is not yet overtly addressing sustainability in terms of future generations, I think, inherently, it does. It does in several ways- one in promoting individuals thoughtful assessment of their role in our world, and a deeper meaning to life, another through pairing the survey results with objective indicators that help tell a balanced picture – one that encompasses caring for the future.

And on this new moon night, this first evening of spring, I will enjoy this monkey-moon slight infatuation with New York, swinging from the memories, from the delusions that city brings. And I believe the landing is soft, and this seminal question about the project is a good one, and one for which, once we put it to words- and metrics – we have a good answer.

Posted by Laura Musikanski, ED of HI

Back from New York City!

I got back from New York City last night. There is a pond in Central Park there, full of turtles! It's like a lake of dancing giggles.

We did our first train the trainer session for Open Center in NYC, and gave a talk. The house was not packed, but it was truly the quality not quantity of people. The Executive Director of Open Center attended our talk on Friday night – his birthday! And then he came back on St. Patrick’s day for the class. Here is what he said: "My sense that this is the wave of the future was only strengthened by my experience with the Happiness Initiative.”

Guess who else came to our talk? Jon Hall, formerly of the OECD and currently working at the United Nations on…measuring progress!!! Well, wow.

It was such an honor to spend time with these people, and to be able to talk about the project and facilitate them in the steps of a Happiness Initiative in NYC. It was also really cool to see the turtles.

I have so much I want to blog about, and so much is going on, but ran out of daylight, and will soon run out of night too, so best wait for tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a sneak preview of the newsletter we will issue tomorrow:

HI logo 4
Spring Equinox and a new moon rising
The Happiness Initiative is going to the UN!


It's pretty exciting! We have been invited to the Big Apple by the government of Bhutan and the United Nations to a High Level Meeting on Happiness and Wellbeing: Defining A New Economic Paradigm. The purpose of the meeting is to launch an economic system based on wellbeing and sustainability. We will join leaders from around the globe, and represent the work you and I are doing to spread happiness initiatives.

It is thanks to all of you who have worked with us, and who will work with us, that this project has been honored with an invitation to this meeting. I will post to the happiness initiative blog about the meeting, so stay tuned!

Last, please give to the Happiness Initiative. We so believe in this project, but must have your support to keep it going. Please give what you comfortably can. Click here to donate.

In Gratitude,
Laura Musikanski
Executive Director
The Happiness Initiative
Coming in August: train the trainer sessions and a conference!!
Last week we conducted our first Train the Trainer session in New York City's Open Center. The session was inspiring, with New Yorkers gathering to plan how to bring the word of transformation from a purely money-based system to one aimed at well-being and sustainability for all. As the Executive Director of Open Center kept saying "If you can make it here, you can make it any where."

With New York as our trial run, we are gearing up for a two day Train the Trainer session August 23 & 24th. We are limiting attendance to 20 people, and rates are dirt cheap. If you are interested, send us an email and we will send you more information.

The Train the Trainer will be followed by a two day conference in Seattle on August 25 & 26th. We will have a full schedule soon, so stay tuned!
The National Happiness Report Card is up!
Over 10,000 people have taken the Happiness Initiative survey since November of 2011, with between 25-200 people taking it each day. In total over 23,000 people have taken the survey since we first put it online early 2011.

The National Happiness Report Card is ready for your view. It includes results from a national random sample compared to the opt-in (meaning people volunteered to go online and take the survey) survey results and shows the objective metrics beside the survey results to give a balanced picture. We will have deeper analysis soon.

In the meantime, we are partnering with Compassionate Action Network in Seattle to use the Happiness Initiative survey to measure compassion in a the city. Join us March 31, 2012 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Center for Spiritual Living for A Call for Compassion: Collective Impact 2012”.


Monday, March 12, 2012

The frst National Happiness Report Card

Today was one of those grey Seattle days when it feels like the sun never has and never will come out. The rain fell in different shades –from pouring wet to those spring showers that seem to be falling upwards so they get you completely wet. It was one of those days when you have to make your own sunshine if you want to feel good. It was one of those days when you just want to stay inside all day.

Today I spent my time preparing the first National happiness report card with subjective and objective data. Here it is:

It took a really long time to get to this point- about 2 years. And as of yet, we only have the basic data, no in-depth analysis, so we rolled this out quietly, Later, when we have deeper analysis, we will generate some media, but for now – it's a quiet milestone, but one that brought a little sunshine into my day, and one that I hope leads to many more.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Personal Happiness

Happiness beings and starts at the personal level. If we were all really happy –meaning wellbeing was something we all enjoyed; quality of life was high enough for all of us; and sustainability – a holistic definition of sustainability – was in effect – we would not be doing the damage we do to our environment, society, economy and personal lives.

Today I finished “phase one” of personal happiness on the website. It took a while, but for each domain there are ideas that people can take to enhance their happiness. If everyone did each thing, we still would not have a sustainable world, equitable quality of life, wellbeing for all. Furthermore, neither myself nor the people I work with are experts in personal happiness. So, in a way, this work is for naught. But then, something has to be done.

The plan is to now take the personal action ideas to our advisory committee and continue to develop them. At the same time, develop educational resources for each domain-preferably in the form of short vids outlining the substantial educational resources we already have and develop partnerships with organizations that have expertise so people have a reliable go-to for each domain.

Over 16,000 people have taken the happiness initiative survey, and this without a concerted effort to get people to take it. We hope many more take it in the next year. And when people take it, feedback we regularly get is “what next?”

So today, I put the first foot forward to answer that question. All that said, the most important thing I keep in mind, is that people inherently know how to be happy We just have to clear away all the confusion.

Laura Musikanski. ED of HI

Friday, March 2, 2012


Today was one of those days when a little work goes a long way. John wants to do happiness initiative packages for cities, but we can’t do that without random sample surveys. So today, I put together the pricing for a package, talked with a survey provider, talked with our expert in random sample surveying, Ryan (who is awesome BTW), and set things in motion so we can offer packages, but more importantly, get happiness initiates going in cities where dependable science based data is part of the project.

You know when you are on the edge of the high dive, and that feeling of whether to go for it or turn back comes one? Well, I think there are a series of those feelings in life, and as much as we can have them, we know we are on the right track. I always chose to jump – even if not to dive.

Yesterday I wrote about releasing success. Part of that is just doing things – but doing things wisely. And that requires, among other things, partnership. Partnership at the deepest level is giving away power, control and sharing. Today was the first step in such partnership. With Ryan, who would control the random sample surveys in a happiness initiative survey for a city, town or rural community, partnership with a service provider that would gather survey responses, but more importantly, partnership with a part of myself that never trusts anyone deeply.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Releasing success

I met Swapan in Hungary. He had lead a demonstration of thousands in the streets of New Delhi protesting corruption. We had both been awarded Donella Meadows fellowships and flown to Balatonszemes, on the shored of the giant lake Balaton. We spent a lot of time talking about social activism, and swapping wisdom and jokes. He can say things in just the right way makes total sense to me.

Tonight we skyped - to get caught up on the work we are both doing. He told me about his latest projects – developing a forest protection project in the heart of the most biodiverse land in India, working with Bhutan officials on ecosystem valuation, and mediating the largest carbon trade to date in his country. I told him about the latest on the happiness initiative, and expressed my concern about low barriers to entry in spite of being first to market.

There is a burst of movement right now in the Gross National Happiness (GNH) field. A conference I long to go to is being coordinated in NYC, where officials from the UN and Bhutan will come together to discuss GNH, and prepare for a summit in Rio. We received an invitation to a conference about designing a new economic operating system - verbiage we use in our grant applications. “We should be on the agenda!” I tell him “not invited to attend!!” My heart tightens. Fear comes up – “what if all this work is for nothing” I tell (not ask) Swapan. “What if another organization, well funded, decides to do the work we are doing, and just takes it and runs us out of the court?”

“Then you will be a success!” Swapan answers. “After all, this is one of the signs of success – and the aim of every non profit is to no longer be needed, right?”

It takes a moment to soak in, but yes, it will be okay. I’ve been grappling with this fear for a while now, and usually the response from ohers is not to worry, no one would do that, no other nonprofit would do that, or that being first to market in this field is enough to keep the leadership position. I doubt that, and would be happy to be wrong.

After talking to Swapan, I think this bigger view is a better perspective. I decide to expand my definition of success for this project.

Laura Musikanski - ED of HI