Insights from the Pavement: Measuring Success in Happiness

The mountainous nation of Bhutan measures its year-end dividends in Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than the globally expected Gross National Product (GNP).

As one might expect, Bhutan isn’t terribly popular on the international commodities market. But they stand behind this measure with great pride and fervent resolve. They’ve even commissioned a board of government officials to oversee the filtering of necessary resources to the very idea of the long term happiness of their citizens.

The average salary in Bhutan is less than $100 per month on a good job. And so many of us around the world may look at this equation and think, ‘they’re probably just concentrating on happiness because their economy is so bad and they need to save face.’ Some may look at it and say that they’ve concentrated so much on personal satisfaction that they’ve left their country in economic turmoil.

But is this the argument we should be having about this tiny nation? Should we rather be thinking of how our country would be better off with this notion – noting how jealous most of us really are when we think deep down about what we, ourselves, would give up for our government to dedicate that much focus to our morale?

There’s no shortage of miserable people with huge bank accounts. And this of course, isn’t to say that there are no happy wealthy people. But success can only be measured in money when it’s sustained by happiness. Otherwise, we’d be little more than grumpy slaves to Uncle Sam.

And while we’d think that none of us would put up with such horrible circumstances just for a fat paycheck, we all know plenty of people out there who simply work because they believe there’s nothing else worth chasing in this world.

Conversely, those of us who have managed to do what we love and still make ends meet, find that we think much less about money, and more about what it buys us. After all, when we’re on our death beds and looking back over our lives, what must we remember more profoundly – every dollar we tucked away, or every memory they helped us buy?

Money can’t buy happiness. But happiness can buy us a wonderful life. Finding the balance should therefore be a crucial item in our decision-making process. And we should never, ever, feel ashamed for making the decision to put our happiness before our financial well-being. Because if all you have is money, there’s no point being rich.



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