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Alex Diaz
Alex Diaz

Focus on your country's Gross National Happiness

What are we in this for, anyway? This thing we call life and living. Is it really to earn enough money to buy lots of stuff, thinking that will bring happiness? The car. The house. You know, the stuff. Well, happiness science tells us without doubt that once we get past a certain minimal material threshold (security, food, clothing, shelter, mobility, education, health, etc.), happiness does not come from simply adding more.

Rather, it comes from the nonmaterial. Closeness to family and friends. A job and hobbies you love. A community that nurtures... well, community. Feeling vibrant. Enjoying nature. Living simply. And above all else, the one thing consistently found across time and cultures to deliver pure joy: serving others.

So doesn't it make sense not just to organize one's own life around those practices and principles, but to organize our government around them as well? Of course it makes sense. So why don't we? Why do we blindly insist instead on the hot pursuit of more stuff and wealth? Because we have been blind. Blind to the beauty and benefits of focusing on any alternative.

To be sure, countless people already live lives of solidarity, simplicity and sharing, lives dedicated to the service of people and planet. That's why the studies have reached the same conclusion: because they interviewed these folks. We know them too. They're all around us. The fine, humble, great samaritans we spend time with and run across all the time.

In case you haven't heard by now, there's one country that decided long ago to focus on true happiness as the organizing principle behind its corporate and government policies. Bhutan may be small and remote, but its story is starting to resonate far and wide. It is now the subject of conferences and videos, like this one shared yesterday by +Faith Attaguile and +Alexander Deliyannis. Changing from Gross National Product to Gross National Happiness is a long-term process. The experiment in Bhutan has not been without obstacles. But there are tremendous lessons there for all of us in every other country.

The first is that it is possible. We can make the switch. For the sake of the planet, many of us argue that we have no choice. We either move swiftly to a GNH model -- there are several being debated in multiple forums -- or we perish.

And if you think about it, there's no persuasive reason not to do it. It's awesome! To focus on happiness? Why wouldn't we want to do that? There's an obsessive fear in most places about leaving behind the aspiration to wealth, as if we're going to be worse off, when in fact we're as bad off as we are, and at risk of losing the planet that sustains us, precisely because we're focused on GNP and personal wealth accumulation. It's completely insane.

Do the research and you'll find, as I have, that the pursuit of real happiness produces more than sufficient comfort and convenience. There's no need to sacrifice the technology and medicines that come from great capital investments, which is another common fear. The profit motive will still be there to pursue those ventures. Nor will or can this happen forcibly by repressive government imposition. This is based on free choice and mutual persuasion. We simply have to become convinced that this is THE way to go. As a people. As a global society.

Check it out. Look into it. Don't stop at this video, as great as it is. Google initiatives like The Story of Stuff Project, the Center for the New American Dream, the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy, the Post Carbon Institute, Worldwatch Institute, Post Growth Institute, Tellus Institute, New Economy Institute and Foundation, Earth Economics, and the UN initiative on the GNH and other such indices.

The volume of work being done on this is amazing, clearly the most important pursuit of all (part, indeed, of the bigger spiritual pursuit, since this is at the heart of the service paradigm we're called on to adopt by all the great spiritual and religious traditions).

Dive in and discover what we're really in this for.

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