You may think of the International Day of Happiness as a day on which you must be happy. And you may feel the pressure to get happy. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty difficult to just will yourself to be happy. I agree, so let’s take another approach.
International Day of Happiness was founded by philanthropist and United Nations (UN) special advisor Jayme Illien. Ban Ki-moon backed the idea and established 20th March as International Day of Happiness from 2013; his intention being that happiness be understood as a serious matter; a true measure of human progress.
So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed about what you should be feeling on this Happiness Day, as if you’re supposed to pull happy out of the hat, then perhaps an easier command rather than “Be happy!” is “Understand happiness!” i.e. take time this 20th of March to understand why the UN is saying that more emphasis should be placed on making happiness a greater priority to nations, organizations, communities, families and individuals. And to understand what sustainable happiness is.
Also on 20th March, the UN launches its annual World Happiness Report.
This year, once again, Finland retains its position as the happiest country in the world; as evidenced by the six key variables of income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. The World Happiness Report is one of the world’s most important rankings.
The global campaign for Happiness Day is led by Action for Happiness (AfH) and its theme for 2021 is “Happier, Kinder, Together”, focusing on what we have in common, rather than what divides us. AfH’s patron, The Dalai Lama, encourages the vision of a happier world in which fewer people suffer with mental health problems and more people feel good, function well and help others.
At iOpener, we continue our work in organizations and business schools in which every session that we lead in the spectrum of leadership programs is underpinned by the Science of Happiness at WorkTM. I, for one, feel less eccentric these days when I tell people that I specialize in happiness at work. Now, with an acceptance of happiness as mainstream personal and organisational development, people are more inclined to ask me questions and to show curiosity to better understand the essence of happiness.
But people are still confused about happiness. They feel troubled when they don’t feel happy. And wonder how come everyone’s barking on about happiness as if it’s easily attained.
It all comes down to understanding the different types of happiness.
A nation achieves happiness via things like enjoying freedom of expression, experiencing democracy and ensuring a safe environment to live in. The economics of happiness is about social progress; measured by a population’s sense of subjective well-being, not just their wealth. In fact, once a nation is living above the bread-line (defined by the UN as $2 a day), incremental increases in income don’t work so hard to increase happiness.
Organizations’ leaders are encouraged to create environments in which their employees are able to experience happiness at work. This is a steady type of happiness; a ‘mindset happiness’, that adeptly navigates the inevitable ups and downs of work. To achieve mindset happiness, we encourage individuals to discover what needs to change for the better and then to take action to maximise their performance and to achieve their potential.
Individual happiness in life will come to those who seek a sense of purpose more than just profit. And, even seeking this, it’s normal that there will be bad days along the way. To be human means embracing good times and bad; as long as over time we know that we are living a good life in which we making a difference in some way, shape or form.
So, if you’re someone that sometimes feels confused when others harp on about happiness, remember that we are not talking about emotional happiness; that short-lived spike of positive emotion that makes our heart flutter, or that makes us jump for joy or explode with laughter. Those are great moments and they are important. Adjusting your expectations of happiness to attain a calmer kind of happiness that’s sustainable and meaningful will feel much more doable.
Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s employee number 107 and former ‘Jolly Good Fellow’ (aka Chief Happiness Officer), explains that happiness is your default mode, when you feel at peace with yourself. Sometimes, you may deviate away from your ‘factory setting’. Then your task is to find your way back. In more scientific terms, in fact it’s commonly understood that, whilst 50% of your individual happiness is genetically pre-determined and only 10% attributable to your life’s circumstances, you therefore have an opportunity to grab the remaining 40% which is for the taking. With voluntary choice, you can proactively leverage this 40% to increase your happiness.
But, here’s the thing. Just like no-one else can make you engaged at work, or motivated to go on a run tonight, nobody else can make you happy either. You have personal responsibility for your own happiness; in life and at work.
So forget, “Be happy!” this 20th March. Instead, try “Understand happiness!”. Here’s a head-start for you: Ban Ki-moon’s message in 2015 …
"The pursuit of happiness is serious business. Happiness for the entire human family is one of the main goals of the United Nations.
Peace, prosperity, lives of dignity for all – this is what we seek.
We want all men, women and children to enjoy all their human rights.
We want all countries to know the pleasure of peace.
We want people and planet alike to be blessed with sustainable development, and to be spared the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Let us give thanks for what makes us happy.
And let us dedicate our efforts to filling our world with happiness."
Understanding what makes you happy at work and how that affects your performance offers a whole new way of managing yourself, your career and your opportunities. How happy are you at work? Complete your free iPPQ and get your 9-page report.
And, if you’d like to know more about the Science of Happiness at WorkTM and what it can do for your organization, get in touch with us. We can help develop brilliant leaders and thriving communities of employees who deliver amazing results.