New Leaf Blog
BBC Radio 4’s Today programme had a debate yesterday morning (12th April 2011) about whether the UK government can and should concern itself with the happiness of its citizens.
Interestingly, the kingdom of Bhutan has long had Gross Domestic Happiness as its key measure of success, but over here it is a new idea, and seemingly quite a contentious one. Here we have long assumed that happiness is not measurable and that GDP is the nearest proxy measurement for happiness.
But money and well-being are not actually the same thing.
When you are poor – if you really don’t have enough to eat, house or purchase basic health for yourself and your family, you need more money to get you that basic level to meet your fundamental needs. Because life depends on getting more money, a scarcity of money controls your life.
Beyond that, for individuals, money is often about valuing yourself – which is perhaps why many of us never feel we have enough, or on the reverse side of the coin, why we think we shouldn’t have any more. If we dealt with how we valued ourselves, dealing with money would lose a lot of its emotional power.
Of course, having money is also about having choices, fun, generosity, power. You name it, it probably means that to someone. And yes, for some it will link to happiness – if it gives you those opportunities and choices that can help you do what matters to you.
But even people with money don’t always feel they have those choices. Some may always feel insecure about money, because something else is going on to make them feel insecure.
So, a government focus on happiness is, in my opinion, a good thing. There is data to help us understand what would make more people happy, so let’s use it. At a time when government money is short, targeting it to get the most benefit is a refreshing change from stories about cuts to services that many of us see as vital.
The same goes for us as individuals. Money wants to be used to make us happy, healthy and loved. In times of scarcity we have to make choices. We can take a stand for our own happiness by looking at what really matters to us, or what is the money for? Take a look inside you and find out what really matters to you, and invest in it – invest in yourself. I believe that will bring you payback both financially and personally.
Then perhaps money and happiness will be a better proxy. Just think what life would be like if we were all able to choose to earn according to the value we truly create in the world, and give of ourselves generously from a position of having enough.