The Pursuit of Happiness – #HappyDay

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Today being the International Day of Happiness compelled me to spend some time researching and thinking about ‘happiness’.

The Greek language has a beautiful word for happiness – ‘eudaimonia’ – the exact translation of which is ‘human flourishing’. Eudaimonia is central to Aristotle’s philosophy that ‘happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’ I often struggle when I think about the purpose of my life, and reading this quote put my mind at ease. Is it really that simple?

Happiness means different things to different people. The World Happiness Report says income levels are not the only indicators of well-being in rich and poor countries. Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are more important; and at the individual level, good mental and physical health, someone to rely on, job security and a stable family are central to happiness.  But then again, to people living in poverty, fighting for food and water – 3 billion people (!) – is ‘happiness’ even relevant?

Happiness was put on the global agenda because of Bhutan, a tiny ‘land of dragons’ with a population of about 750,000 people. Happiness has been an organizing principle for governance in Bhutan since the early 18th Century when it declared that “if the Government cannot create happiness (dekid) for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist.” In 1972, Bhutan launched the Gross National Happiness Index recognizing happiness as a more important measure of prosperity than the Gross Domestic Product.

Following their inherent way of functioning and to extend it beyond borders, Bhutan called for a high-level meeting at the UN headquarters to discuss the importance of happiness as a universal goal. In the meeting held on April 2nd 2012, it discussed the need to have a new global sustainability-based economic paradigm for human happiness and well-being of all life forms to replace the current dysfunctional system that is based on the unsustainable premise of limitless growth on a finite planet. The full report of the meeting can be read here; it’s fascinating to see how happiness can be incorporated into governance.

Some call the meeting a fantastic public relations stunt by Bhutan, but the concept of happiness is so engrained in the policies that govern the country, it’s definitely more than that. Hats off to them for getting the world to recognize this fundamental need for a better planet, even if it was just for publicity! This year happiness is even on Dubai’s agenda.

And then I was pleasantly surprised to find movements such as actsofhappiness, projecthappiness, actionforhappiness that work towards making people happy and encouraging people and companies to spread happiness and drive socio-economic change.

Today, fortunately or unfortunately Pharrell Williams owns the word Happy. And I really don’t know what to say about that except that you can’t hold anything against anyone who is promoting happiness J.

#Day 7, post 6.

Overwhelmed by TEDxDubai

IMG00054-20091010-1626TED is the best thing that has happened to the planet. When TED went online about 2 years ago, it became the best thing that the internet has given the world. TED reminds us that we all have the power to change the world, and gives us the inspiration to do something with that thought.

So when TEDx was coming to Dubai, I was thrilled. However, as hype for it started building ferociously, I was afraid that it would turn into a large commercial gambit where corporations would banter about their success and people would hob-nob for the sake of it.

To be brutally honest: I went expecting the worst, but hoping for the best.

I stayed for all the 20 speakers (10am-6pm), yawned perhaps only once, and left feeling motivated and truly inspired. TEDxDubai truly over delivered.

There was a standing ovation at the end, which is when I lost the little black book I was taking notes in the entire day. I was going to share all my learnings from the day and some of the fabulous quotes from speakers that really stuck. But, unfortunately I don’t have them anymore. Luckily, the TEDx bloggers have posted their notes from the event, do check them out to get a speaker by speaker summary of key points.

All the speakers were fantastic. Really fantastic. They included a 13 year old film-maker; the creator of Freej and THE 99; the catalyst of the Arabic stand-up comedy revolution; the founder of Independent Thinking (inventor of  the concept of “thunk“); the founder of the 8-Day-Academy, and the CD at IDEO.

The production quality was almost on par with the real TED (global). Well, it’s Dubai, not a surprise I suppose. Well-organized, good food, enough supply of coffee, and not a penny spent by us attendees. It couldn’t have been better.

Those who didn’t come, you really missed out.

The only thing lacking was, in a room where 500 odd people  got together for the whole day to listen to some great ideas worth spreading, there was no way to interact with other members of the audience, unless of course you went up to them randomly and introduced yourself. Which perhaps I should’ve done (but it’s so not what you do in Dubai!) :).  In previous events such as BarCampUAE, you left knowing new and interesting people. Perhaps because they were much smaller groups with interactive sessions. Anyhoo.

All in all, thank you TEDxDubai. Look forward to it again next year!