Pre-thinking:

What makes us happy? How can we promote policies that focuses on the well-being of people? Are people in the wealthiest nations happier than people in less affluent countries? The research that Nic Marks presents may suprize you and challenge some of your basic assumptions.

Who is he:

Nic is he founder of the Centre for Well-Being, an independent think tank at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), in London, He is particularly keen to promote a balance between sustainable development and quality of life. To investigate this, he devised the Happy Planet Index, a global index of human well-being and environmental impact. The results made headlines: People in the world’s wealthiest countries, who consume the most of the planet’s resources, don’t come out on top in terms of well-being. Which raises the question: What purpose does unfettered economic growth serve?

Why should you listen:

Nic Marks thinks quality of life is measurable, and that true contentment comes not from the accumulation of material wealth but from our connections with others, engagement with the world, and a sense of autonomy. This isn’t just theory: a pioneer in the field of well-being research, Marks creates statistical methods to measure happiness, analyzing and interpreting the evidence so that it can be applied to such policy fields as education, sustainable development, healthcare, and economics.

The founder of the Centre for Well-Being, an independent think tank at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), in London, Marks is particularly keen to promote a balance between sustainable development and quality of life. To investigate this, he devised the Happy Planet Index, a global index of human well-being and environmental impact. The results made headlines: People in the world’s wealthiest countries, who consume the most of the planet’s resources, don’t come out on top in terms of well-being. Which raises the question: What purpose does unfettered economic growth serve?

To measure (and possibly improve) your own, or your organization’s, happiness and well-being, visit two useful sites: 5 ways to Well-being and Happiness Works.

Read the TED Book: The Happiness Manifesto >>

Discussion questions:

  1. According to Nic Marks, what are the long lasting consequences of happiness (for individuals and countries)?
  2. Do some research on your own happiness and well-being by visiting the web site mentioned above. Are there any ways that you can increase your happiness? Try a happiness intervention and re-measure your level of happiness. Did the happiness intervention generalize to other behaviors or other aspects of your life. Write up your results and share them with someone.
  3. If, as Robert Kennedy said, that, “The gross national productmeasures everything except thatwhich makes life worthwhile.” Discuss what exactly does make life worth living.
  4. About 6 minutes into his talk Nic Marks presented data on the well-being of nations; called it the bad and the good news. Summarize his data and discuss why Costa Rica tops the list of “happy places”.
  5. What challenges does he see for today’s generation of school children in 2050? Do some research on how schools are preparing today’s children and youth to live in the hurricane’s eye of change during the next 35 years.
  6. If you can afford it, try the $1oo (actually $200) experiment. Where the results similar to those he suggested? Write up your results and send a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper challenging others to do what you have done.

The happy planet index with Nic Marks

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