The question of happiness really gets people talking. Earlier this week, FastCoExist.com Senior Editor Ariel Schwartz posted a thought-provoking (and heavily tweeted) blog about the World Happiness Report, recently released by Columbia University’s Earth Institute, with a fascinating introduction by Jeffrey Sachs. The report itself is voluminous and worth reading if you’re interested in what Sachs refers to as “the emerging scientific study of happiness.
In his introduction, Sachs points to a link between sustainability and happiness and poses some important questions:
“Should the world pursue GNP to the point of environmental ruin, even when incremental gains in GNP are not increasing much (or at all) the happiness of affluent societies? Should we crave higher personal incomes at the cost of community and social trust? What is the path to happiness?”
The debate about material wealth versus personal happiness is not new, and we all know that in many ways, less is more. But I like that Sachs portrayed sustainability as a critical part of creating a better future for us all. It made me feel, well, happy about my work at the nexus of business and sustainability.
It also got me thinking about a conversation my colleagues and I had about career choices via our internal Yammer chat channel just last week.
Our human resources director posted this question: “If you could choose any other profession, what would it be and why?” Responses ranged from civil rights lawyer to ethnobotanist to journalist to mountaineering guide. What struck me about this disparate collection of dream jobs is that they all involved exploring, discovering, inventing, or simply living life to the fullest. Not one revolved around accumulating more material wealth or creating more stuff. (For the record, my if-I-had-to-choose-another-dream-job: travel writer.)
This strikes at the heart of the idea Sachs discussed in his report: The path to happiness has little to do with acquiring more (to the detriment of our natural resources) and may have a lot to do with building a more sustainable future.
What does your path to happiness look like? Do you think that a sustainable life is a truly happier life?