"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there". (Lewis Carrol)
If you ever worked in a big organization you probably understand the importance of having a common dream and goals. 5Y goals, 3Y goals, targets, OKRs, etc. Why are these important? Because once you define a dream and goals you will be able to partner with the right people (investors, employees and stakeholders), define a strategy (what we will do and not do) and the optimal resources you need to execute the strategy.
Strangely enough we are amazing at having dreams and long term goals in business context but we don't do the same in our personal lives. Have you ever asked yourself the question of what are you trying to accomplish in life? What success in life is? How will you know at the end of your life if you had the life you wanted?
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” (aristotle)
Aristotle argues happiness should be our only objective in life. Is that right? Is that what we should aim for? Let's think about this a little.... what does a “successful”life would look like for you when you are on your deathbed?
One might say that a successful life means more than happiness. It means purpose, professional achievement, health, helping others, helping the world, meaningful relationships. But here is my argument to use happiness as the most important goal on your life:
(1) Purpose, altruism, meaningful relationships are proven means to live a happy life. They are conditions to a happy life (more on the science later) and none of them would be worthwhile pursuing and achieving if they would come at the expense of your long term happiness. Would you dedicate your life to altruism if that made you miserable?
(2) The (effective) pursuit of happiness makes life meaningful, purposeful and the world a better place. Science has proven that money, status, power and short term pleasure are not effective ways to find happiness over the course of your life. We do them because we falsely believe that they will bring happiness but science has proven that they won't (due to impact bias and hedonic adaptation). The (effective) pursuit of happiness requires meaningful relationships (which involves kindness, compassion, gratitude, altruism), fulfilling work (with purpose and achievement) and spirituality (meaning).
In the business world we know that a goal without a key performance indicator (KPI) doesn't help much because it doesn't help you define the strategy and resources you need to dedicate to this goal.
So, what should be the "KPI(s)" for a happy and fulfilling life? I would argue that one could measure its life with 2 KPIs.
(1) Happiness index throughout your life (overall life satisfaction) on a scale from 0-10 (Cantril Scale)
(2) How many people shows up at your funeral
The Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale, developed by pioneering social researcher Dr. Hadley Cantril, consists of the following:
Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top.
The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you.
On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? (ladder-present)
On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now? (ladder-future)
Climbing the ladder and optimizing for well being over the course of your lifetime might sound selfish and self centered but as in "Adam Smith" invisible hands, this seemingly selfish behavior will lead you to to the things that are beneficial to the world (relationships, spirituality, fulfilling work, etc).
How many people will show up at your funeral is the number of people you touched, people you helped to have happier and more meaningful lives. This second metric is also a happiness metric but this time not only yours but the happiness you created in the world.
Ah, and before I forget, just in case the moral argument for the happiness metric is not strong enough, science has also proven that happiness increases life expectancy, improves heart health, combat stress , produces a stronger Immune system, reduces pain, improves decision making & creative problem solving, improves individual and team productivity and finally happy individuals have proven to be more successful across multiple life domains, including marriage, friendship, income, and work performance. Ufffff.
So, What’s the plan? Where are you on your 0-10 happiness index? How much happiness are you creating in the world?
If you think this article can be useful to someone you love, please share.