Building the Happiness Metric: Balancing Satisfaction and Ambition for Better Business

Business experts around the world have begun to look at “the happiness metric” as a consistent indicator of success. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; mental health and productivity are irrevocably linked. Companies like Delivering Happiness even suggest that a “higher sense of purpose” can lead to a 400% performance improvement. With this in mind, ask yourself where you source your happiness. If you can’t come up with an answer, you’re in trouble – and so is your business.

Companies like Delivering Happiness even suggest that a “higher sense of purpose” can lead to a 400% performance improvement.

Happiness and Human Nature

“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.” – Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

Happiness comes from within; we’ve all heard it before. To most people, it’s nonsense, something we say to console losers and nobodies. This way of thinking seems at odds with our experience, and even wasteful in a way. Life is precious, and we want to get the most out of it. We’re always looking ahead to the next big thing; we want to eat the best food, see the most awesome sights, and play with the coolest toys. Nobody ever became successful or lived life to the fullest by sitting on their laurels and being glad, right?

Human beings are restless by nature, and it’s not always a bad thing; it’s this same compulsive “seeking” that’s responsible for everything from the pyramids to the space program. There’s an unknowable majority of people in the world who owe their accomplishments to this productive pathology. But for all the work they’ve put in, and all the wealth they’ve accumulated, are they any happier for it?

More often than not, the answer is no. Most people are unhappy. They flit from one relationship, career, or hobby to the next, telling themselves they’re getting the most out of life while they try in vain to find the missing piece of the puzzle. It’s a crazy reality in a world where the average person has access to what our ancestors would consider unimaginable luxury. The average household income is higher than ever, but we’re still guzzling anti-depressants like they’re the cure for cancer.

It’s with great satisfaction that I tell you now that I have met happy people in my life. You’ve probably encountered some of your own – maybe you’re one of them. A “happiness sighting” is a wonderful thing. If you’ve ever spotted a smiling old couple holding hands, you know what I mean. It gives us hope, and begs the question, “What is their secret?” For awhile, I thought it had to do with age. With age comes wisdom, and, presumably, happiness. I wasn’t even close.

“You Can’t Buy Happiness”

I remember studying yoga in Tel Aviv at the age of 15. It seemed like a likely place to discover the secret to happiness. I was surrounded by healthy, spiritual people who were committed to a very positive practice.

During one seminar, the yogi in charge gathered everyone around and asked: “Who here has experienced five minutes of pure happiness this week?” With a big smile on my face, I recalled pedaling my blue bike around the neighbourhood the day before, and threw my hand up. But when I looked around the room, I was shocked to see that only a few hands were raised.

The yogi seemed unphased. “How many people have experienced one hour of pure happiness this week?” An hour seemed like a long time. Still, I expected a few. People of all ages, genders, and social status had attended this seminar. Surely someone could muster up an hour of happiness.

Not a single hand went up. Everyone was staring straight ahead with their arms at their sides; you would have thought the group was practicing tadasana.

In that moment, it hit me. Happiness clearly didn’t come with status, wisdom, or riches. I was standing in a room filled with people who had more of these things than I could imagine, and yet I had raised my hand earlier where others had not. It must come from within. And according to this yogi’s informal poll, this intrinsic path was largely unknown. That day I realized I wanted to find it.

Today, I can honestly say that I experience happiness more often than ever before. But it’s not a static state. You don’t just reach a level of enlightenment and shed the trappings of human biology; we’re still restless super-apes with tempers that flare. But knowing that happiness is within you gives you a measure of control (and hope) that is decidedly human. In the same way that anger management strategists will tell you to “observe yourself” getting upset to reason yourself away from that animal rage, knowing that happiness is within you gives you the power to reason it into existence. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

Once you know that happiness is within you, you also became more sensitive to the things that detract from it, so that you can remove or avoid them. I try to run “systems checks” on myself whenever I feel unhappy so that I can identify the problem within myself. I haven’t mastered this, but I’m improving every day.

The Bottom Line

What is my bottom-line message here? Happiness is within you. Try not to roll your eyes as I drop this trite, overused scrap of knowledge – you’d only be standing in your own way. It took me a long time to start taking this seriously. Once you do, your entire business, and your life, can change. Why not benefit from my experience? I tried and erred so you don’t have to.

If you want to read more along these lines, I discuss some of the stepping stones I discovered on my journey to happiness in The Entrepreneurial Evolution. Some of these epiphanies came from the global philosophies I’ve studied, while others were just common sense that took its time to resonate with me; keeping perspective, setting goals, and “emptying your cup” are all crucial for better business, but they can give you a better life, too.

Asian business man happy because increase sales


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