Is Costa Rica, according to Nic Marks and The Happy Planet Index. Why? How do they live? What makes them happy? Let’s find answers to these questions and stop thinking the future will be a nightmare. Fear in the organism is linked to the flight mechanism, which in turn causes us to freeze and run away. Let’s stop fearing and focusing on the problems and start seeking out and focusing on the solutions.
The very architecture of our national accounting system is firmly based on production and producing stuff. We hold a financial/economic definition of what progress is. We think that if we get the numbers to go up we’ll be better off, somehow life is going to get better. In other words, too much greed. We’re fixated on what we can produce, and therefore, measuring everything except what makes life worthwhile: social justice, sustainability and people’s well-being.
So what is it that people want? Research has found that people around the world want happiness for themselves, their family, their children, their communities. We all need love and want to be loved, we want to be healthy and live a full life. Nic Marks poses the question, why are we not thinking of the progress of nations in these terms instead of the stuff we have. I think it’s a good question.
How do we measure happiness and well-being? If we believe people should be happy and the planet should be happy, how do we get there? The outcome depends on how successful nations are at creating happy and healthy lives for its citizens. Nic takes two main factors into account, Ecological Resources, (how using the planet to get there/more is bad) and Happy Life Years, to calculate the well-being of nations (quality and quantity).
What he found is that Costa Rica (and Latin America) is a place where living good lives isn’t costing the Earth. Want proof? The average life expectancy in Costa Rica is 78.5 years old, longer than in the US. According to the 2010 Gallup World Poll, Costa Rica is the Happiest Nation on the Planet and they’re doing it on a quarter of the resources typically used in the Western world.
What’s going on there? What’s the secret? Maybe we try changing the way we live our lives in order to increase well-being and efficiency. Let’s create positive feedback loops at the personal, governmental and business level.
Change starts with each individual. I found the list below very helpful and something I really believe in. I want to share with you in case you’re too interested in executing the mission Nic outlines.
5 positive actions to improve well-being in your life (Happiness Foresight Program):
- Connect (social relationships, invest the time with loved ones)
- Be active (step outside, go for a walk, dance to radio)
- Take notice (how aware of you around people and things around you, be present, mindfulness)
- Keep learning (throughout life course, curiosity, informal)
- Give (generosity, altruism, compassion)
The future might be Latin America. Let’s work to get there too. Unfortunately, we’re getting less efficient in turning our last scarce resource (the planet) into the outcome we would like. Challenges and trouble may be ahead, but it’s important to fear no one, and see the vision and world we all want. It’s necessary we pave a great transition with good things. Let’s work together to create a world where happiness does not cost the Earth. Who is in?