Maybe I'll move to Costa Rica!

Costa Rica - world's happiest countryThough I have to admit that the move to Boston, MA, area was unsettling enough! I really thought I had given myself enough time to unpack and get back into working mode, but clearly I needed more time. I have, however, been accumulating a wealth of webpages, blogposts and videos that I want to review, digest and write about. Some of these, as I process them, will be a couple of months old but hey, better late than never!

One of the funnest websites I know (and remember, I’m a life-long learner) is If you don’t already know TED, it’s a non-profit organization that is dedicated to sharing ideas in many different domains. It has spread from a small exclusive conference to a global phenomenon, with smaller TEDx conferences held in many different cities around the world. The videos are all worth watching – I haven’t seen a bad one yet. Be careful –  you could lose hours, maybe days, of your online life browsing their website. One video takes you to another – not to mention the speaker bios and discussions.

I am a “fan” of the TED page on Facebook which sends a new video to my NewsFeed daily. I don’t get the time to watch all of the talks, but when this one came through from Nic Marks, talking about a “Happy Planet Index“, I couldn’t resist.

This TED talk makes me want to move to Costa Rica – the world’s happiest country, as well as one that’s doing it sustainably. Truly impressive.

Nic Marks starts out his discourse by talking about what we measure – what’s really in the GDP / GNP. And how fear is used to try to motivate change. The problem, he notes, is that fear is biologically linked to the flight instinct – so by promoting fear (if we don’t change our habits, the world will be destroyed), we are actually inadvertently encouraging people to run away from the problem. He cites Robert Kennedy’s observation that “The Gross National Product measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.”

For some odd reason, this reminds me of “movies with Marty” during my MAPP (Master of Applied Positive Psychology) courses last year. On some class weekends, Dr. Martin Seligman would bring in one of his favourite positive psychology movies. One weekend, it was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Marty explained to us that there are two philosophies in alien movies: hostile aliens (e.g. Alien) and friendly aliens (e.g. ET). Close Encounters was one of the first movies in the friendly alien theme. The environmental movement, to this point, seems to have been based on the hostile alien theory – that fear is a motivator. In this TED talk, Nic Marks ponders – what if we went to a carrot / happiness / friendly alien philosophy instead?

Everyone wants happiness as an ultimate life goal: parents want it for their children, individuals want it for themselves, politicians want it for their constituents, and so on. Yet, we don’t measure it effectively. And where it is measured (several countries are experimenting with similar happiness or well-being indices), it isn’t broadcast – there is no collective goal that is sent out over the media waves for everyone to work towards. Marks points out that on any given day, we know what the stock indexes and money markets are doing, yet we have no idea how national happiness is faring.

In my work, helping to creating and sustain positive organizations, I was especially taken by the fact that Marks points out that employee well-being is linked to employee creativity and innovation (and in future blogs, I will be sharing more data and research into the benefits of “happy” employees). Plus Marks also shares 5 positive actions to increase happiness in your life. I won’t say here what they are – this is my teaser to encourage you to watch the video – but I will say that they have all been substantiated by positive psychology research.

Happiness does not cost the Earth. I’m definitely inspired by this talk. And very interested to hear what you have to say about it. Please comment below on the LVS Consulting website!

Lisa Sansom

Lisa Sansom has her MBA from the Rotman School of Management, and over two decades of experience in teaching and training. Her years of work in the organizational development field have included projects on change management, employee engagement, leadership development, team coaching and employer of choice strategies.

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