Finding happiness is an almost universal pursuit.
Have you ever stopped to wonder just why it is so important in work and life?
And the million-dollar question: How can you find happiness? Is it really even possible? To answer these burning questions, I turned to Luis Gallardo, Founder of the World Happiness Foundation.
We had a great conversation when I interviewed him during one of my Podcasts; below, I’m sharing some highlights for you.
First, a brief intro to Luis, the former Global Chief Marketing Officer at Deloitte. He is a true social innovator and entrepreneur with a higher purpose of elevating the vibration of the planet by developing ideas, connecting thought leaders, activists, and communities, and increasing awareness on the science of happiness, holistic education and smart innovation. For Luis, happiness isn’t just a self-focused pursuit: it is a human right and a life choice, an enabler of human development and social innovation.
Happitalism, a New Paradigm for Human Progress?
“At the World Happiness Foundation, we focus our activities around change management,” Luis explained. The focus is threefold: education, health, and leadership. “We believe that we can get to a tipping point when we reach about 25 million change makers in the world that can impact each around 400 people. That’s going to create a wave of Goodwill that is going to catapult us to 2050, where every single human being on the planet will be happier than they are today, or will be in the future.”
Luis acknowledges in order to get to that point, we need leaders and health professionals who can think in a holistic, integrated way as far as how we can facilitate human progress. He also shared that one United Nations resolution they were able to lobby and pass around a decade ago “invites every country, every institution, every organization to create processes and programs that are based on new paradigms for human progress based on happiness and wellbeing. We call this happitalism.”
Through his work, Luis says he kept coming back to a fundamental question: “Why do we exist as humanity? Because it is not to sell more consumer business” he asserts.
Impacting the World Through Happiness
Research around this key question often nets the same answer from others, so it led Luis to think, “What if instead of having a World Economic Forum, we have World Happiness first? …And instead of working for economic growth, we work for the evolution of happiness?” Impacting the world through happiness – talk about a shift in framework, right?!
I shared my own observations that when people feel like they are contributing to something other than themselves, they tend to be more fulfilled and or happy. Luis agreed, and there is a lot of research to support that.
Research is great, but a bigger question looms: How do you put it into action? After all, Luis reminds us: “It’s not all about saying, ‘I want to be happy and I am going to be happier.’” In order to actually do something, the first thing people need to understand is a fundamental discovery that’s so simple it’s often overlooked: that they already have it. Yes, happiness exists within you, not anywhere else.
Before we continue, Luis points out an important consideration: it’s not always easy for people to just activate happiness. One big obstacle? Genetics. He points out that from a genetics point-of-view, each one of us is different. Research also comes into play here, telling us that almost 50% of our happiness is based on genetics. This means that some folks are not predisposed to overall happiness – and have to work hard in order to find it.
The Fundamentals of Happiness – They’re Not What You Think…
You’ve seen all the social media posts…you know, the ones that suggest happiness is just a yoga pose or vacation or yacht away. So if you’re expecting to read that here, you’ll be surprised. Luis invites us to look at happiness in a new and deeper way.
It’s important to reiterate the impact of simply knowing that happiness exists within you. Now go a step further: it’s about figuring out what to do with that truth – because just being able to say “happiness comes from within” doesn’t really do much of anything, that is, until you can make it actionable in your life.
Luis reminds us to respect that there are many different viewpoints on happiness. Some people shudder at the thought that ‘happy is good’. For others, it activates a deep-seated anger. Luis brings up a thought-provoking concept: these reactions happen because people are charged from a biological point of view and from a trauma memory point of view. Intergenerational trauma – common in the US – has completely polarized us.
Of what Luis calls the elements of happiness, two cover basic human needs: food to eat and the right conditions to flourish. It just makes sense.
Fulfilling Basic Needs in the Workplace: Creating a Supportive Environment for Success
At work, basic needs translate into things like:
- How much you make
- How satisfied you are
- How appreciated/valued you feel
What about money – does it matter? Of course, to a point. But exactly when enough is enough is open to interpretation. Luis likes to say: “it’s when you have covered your business needs. And then it’s about belonging, appreciation, it’s about energy and it’s about meaning.”
He explains an interesting interconnection – you can have a lot of money, but if you lack meaning, you may think you need more money to fill that void (hence the endless social media posts proclaiming true happiness lies in the next purchase, trip, or even professional title).
I also brought up the fact that our research around longitudinal studies found that one of the primary indicators of physical and mental health and happiness is belonging. The quality of our relationships matter. Luis agreed, adding that “It’s very important we all know that right now we are facing the hardest pandemic – and it’s not COVID, it’s loneliness.”
As you are starting to see (and probably always knew deep down), there is a lot more involved in the happiness equation than a superficial smile and a Photoshopped image posted to Facebook.
5 Elements Needed to Activate Happiness: A Quick Summary
Bringing it all together, remember that two Elements cover common-sense basic needs:
- Having enough money to cover your own basic needs in life, to shift out of survival mode.
- Feeling appreciated, like your contributions matter.
The higher-level elements of happiness encompass purpose and meaning, belonging, and an expansive energy. Purpose and meaning give direction and fulfillment, while belonging provides a sense of connection and acceptance. Expansive energy refers to the positive force that comes from being fully engaged and connected to the present. By embracing these elements, we can enhance our overall well-being and experience greater happiness.
Leaders Can Foster Joy and Well-being in Organizations
What can leaders in organizations can do to promote happiness?
- Help people get connected! Support them to find that one best friend, at least in the workplace, that buddy at work.
- Guide people to learn more about themselves, to practice self-awareness. Help them identify what strengths are, where there might be some fears, what they’re good at and how to leverage that.
- Lastly, focus on expansion – expand beyond that one buddy, to a wholistic team concept that emphasizes support and values the unique contributions of every single member.
There is so much more to share on this always-important topic! The original podcast dives deep into some of the concepts we’ve covered here. I encourage you to go in depth with us as we continue to explore:
- What research tells us about happiness and what to do about it.
- The 5 elements of happiness (and they may not be what you think they are),
- Strategies leaders can take to create happiness in the workplace.
- The impact of social media on happiness.
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