I have adopted my parents’ strong belief that success in life should be measured in ‘happiness units’. Very often, when facing small or large decisions, my parents would discuss which of the paths would yield the most happiness units for our family. They did not mean happiness in an Epicurean sense, where you act as-if there is no tomorrow. Sometimes it is better to sacrifice short-term happiness to increase long-term happiness, or to sacrifice personal happiness to make others happy.
As a teen I decided that I wanted to pursue a career that would bring happiness to others. I was considering the entertainment industry, where a book or movie can make people happy if only for a short while, regardless of their problems or struggles in life. I had other reasons for wanting to be in the ‘experience industry’ which I will discuss in a separate post. While I have not yet found a way to make a career out of increasing world happiness, I do measure my own life in happiness units frequently.
When I was at Harvard Business School, I often got into debates with classmates over measuring success in happiness units, especially when it came to companies or countries. Weren’t profit (for companies) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (for countries) the best ways to measure success? Personally I believe it can be desirable for companies to be philanthropic even if it decreases profitability ever so slightly and that the United Nations’ happiness index is a much better measure of a country’s success than GDP. The UN index also takes into account longevity, child mortality, environmental conditions and self-reported state of mind, in addition to economic measures when determining happiness.
Using happiness units as the yard stick, quitting my job and sacrificing (part of) our family savings were easy decisions for me (if not necessarily for my husband). Personally, I can’t think of any other experience or investment that will bring more happiness to our family than traveling, homeschooling and spending a year as a family unit. I hope I’m right!