Gross National Product vs. Gross National Happiness

In 1968, then Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy gave a speech that challenged the use of the Gross National Product (GNP) as an accurate measurement of the nation’s health. He recommended the use of another dimension to gauge the growth and progress of the nation: Gross National Happiness (GNH).

Look at what GNP measures: air pollution, emergency response capability, security, law enforcement, urban sprawl, nuclear proliferation, military-industrial complex and environmental degradation.

Then, check out what GNP does not track: healthcare, education, family stability, intelligence of our public debate, integrity of our public officials, the beauty of poetry, wit, courage, wisdom, learning, compassion and our devotion to country.

GNP stalks everything about our lives except those things that make life worth living, while GNH calculates wealth in terms of quality of life and not solely as economic development.

We are one of the richest nations in the world yet we are not the happiest. We have tripled our GNP since 1960 yet our happiness levels have barely moved.

We can take some happiness lessons from a landlocked country in South Asia, Bhutan, where GNH was successfully brought into the mainstream by the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in the early 1970s. He claimed that while material possessions are important, their lack of integration with the development of psychological, cultural and other spiritual factors lead to artificial wellbeing.

Our federal government is well behind other parts of the world like Bhutan when it comes to following in GNH:

• The United Nations since the early 1990s has published the Human Development Index on an annual basis that measures lifespan, educational attainment and adjusted real income.
• Every four years, Europe releases the European Quality of Life Survey that looks at topics like employment, education, housing, family, health, work-life balance and life satisfaction.
• In 2009, our neighbors to the north distributed the Canadian Index of Well-Being that recognizes indicators like wellbeing, community vitality, democratic engagement, education, environment, leisure, living standards and time use.
• In 2011, the United Kingdom started determining the National Wellbeing of its residents by examining markers like relationships, job satisfaction, economic security, education and environmental conditions.

What if we measured our worth in the workplace not by our grade, title and experience but by our purpose, values and service?

Albert Einstein once said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

What are you counting in your workplace?

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