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Come On, Get Happy

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
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No, I am not just a fan of the theme song to The Partridge Family. Today is the First International Day of Happiness. Indeed, the United Nations has decreed March 20 as the day for celebrating and reflecting on happiness.  

This is not a joke; it is serious business.

The U.N. wants to go beyond gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of progress. Instead, United Nations believes we need better measures of society's real well-being—including happiness. And in its World Happiness Report, the U.N. concludes that beyond health, economic, and societal variables at the macro level, happiness primarily depends on the lifestyle we adopt, and that "we can [improve our quality of life] by adopting a lifestyle and technologies that enhance happiness (or well-being)."  

What does this mean for businesses? How can executives help create happier organizations?  

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According to Susan David, founder and co-director of the Harvard/McLean Institute of Coaching and co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Happiness, we can start by defining “happiness.”  

In her post, “How Happy Is Your Organization?,” on the HBR Blog Network, David explains that psychologists identify happiness by three distinct and equally important pathways: pleasure, engagement, and meaning.  

David advises business leaders to use this knowledge to ask some important questions about their organizations, including

  • Do my employees enjoy their relationships and their environment at work?
  • Do they laugh?
  • Are my people in the right roles—ones that fit their skill sets and offer appropriate challenge?
  • Do they get to use their genius?
  • Do they understand the purpose of the organization?
  • Do they feel they're a part of something that matters? 

So come on, let’s get happy.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at rellis@td.org. 

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