Happiness for Calvinists
The Dutch professor Ruut Veenhoven of the Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization has been researching happiness for decades. His research is exciting and aligns with the positive leadership research. Let's take a look at why happiness matters and how you can have more of it...!
Veenhoven defines happiness as long-term satisfaction with your life as a whole - as opposed to temporary joy or peak moments. You can have pleasant moments, but what adds to happiness is "contentment": your perceived realization of what you truly want.
Inside and Outside
Being happy is the outcome of inner processes and outside circumstances. Internal processes, or "the art of living," can help to handle the challenges that life throws at you and to achieve your goals.
Outer circumstances beyond your control determine how "livable" your situation is.
Veenhoven researched happiness between 135 countries (source: World Database of Happiness).
He found that several factors add to the quality of life across nations. Think of the quality of government services, economic wealth, democracy, gender equality, mental health care, and not too much income inequality. (People in the Netherlands belong to the happiest in the world.)
Within countries, your social-economic position and your network explain differences in happiness.
Why aim for Happy people?
But why does this matter? Happiness sounds suspicious in many Calvinistic countries. It would make you lazy, selfish, consuming too much, and not critical enough.
However, research shows something different. Happy people are more active, engaged, social, and healthy. This aligns with Barbara Fredrickson's Broaden and Build Theory: when you feel good, you have access to more ideas, more energy, more resources, and courage, and you learn more skills as you try more. This multiplies as you attract people with your positive vibes.
What's fascinating is that happy people are more productive at work - and that's why positive leadership is up and coming.
Veenhoven argues for developing happiness in society as well as in organizations for these beneficial effects. Organizations should become better livable (outer circumstances) and should help their members develop "life skills" (inner processes) - not just professional skills. Next, when organizations measure the effects, they might be surprised by the financial return on investment...
The happiness professor suggests that employers offer support with private problems and free external life-coaches to associates. Offering a self-help program adds to the bottom line as well.
Make corporations livable
This aligns with the Positive Organizational Scholarship research that shows that positive leadership empowers people to develop themselves and achieve positive deviance (high performance). Developing a positive culture with positive leadership is adding to the outer circumstances that make corporate life better livable - maybe even positive.
When you add life coaching, self-help programs, and private support to employees, you contribute to the inner processes as well.
Is your organization too Calvinistic to spend time and money on happiness? You can start small by keeping a Happiness Diary - as Veenhoven suggests. When you keep track of what makes you happy, you can organize your life and work to optimize it. The diary makes people aware of whether improvement is possible and how they could improve their happiness. Sometimes big life decisions are needed, but often small changes in how you spend your time and energy can make a huge positive difference.
The happier you are, the more you can contribute. Happiness is not selfish.
- What makes you happy?
- How can you do more of that daily?
Happy organizations achieve more.
© Marcella Bremer, 2019. All rights reserved.