The Metrics of Happiness and Wellness

“Whereas at one time the decisive factor of production was the land, and later capital…today the decisive factor is increasingly man himself that is, his knowledge.”Pope John Paul II (1991). Centesimus Annus.

Alvin Toffler (2006) Credit: Wikipedia Encyclopedia

Alvin Toffler and his wife Heidi, together with Peter Drucker are perhaps three of the most prolific and well-known writers of modern times.  They made an enormous contribution of opening the doors to let us see the future.  Alvin and his wife have dedicated all their life investigating the trends that will shape the world of the future.  Peter Drucker did the same thing, but more related to the practice of business administration.  All three were brilliant in what they thought and wrote.

Starting with ground-breaking books Future Shock and The Third Wave, Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s global bestsellers have helped multi-millions around the world anticipate tomorrow. Focusing on families and finance, media and military, businesses and bureaucracies, the Tofflers prepare us for the sweeping changes rushing toward us all.

In his book, The Third Wave, Toffler describes three types of societies, based on the concept of “waves”—each wave pushes the older societies and cultures aside.

  1. First Wave is the society after agrarian revolution and replaced the first hunter-gatherer cultures.  Land and agriculture goods are the prevalent resources of this wave.
  2. Second Wave is the society during the Industrial Revolution (late 17th century through the mid-20th century). The main components of the Second Wave society are nuclear family, factory-type education system and the corporation. Toffler writes: “The Second Wave Society is industrial and based on mass production, mass distribution, mass consumption, mass education, mass media, mass recreation, mass entertainment, and weapons of mass destruction. You combine those things with standardization, centralization, concentration, and synchronization, and you wind up with a style of organization we call bureaucracy.”  The manufacturing of physical products and their distribution to markets are the main concern of this wave.  Wealth is based on the accumulation of physical products while the value of land is dwindling in value.
  3. Third Wave is the post-industrial society. According to Toffler, since the late 1950s most nations have moved away from a Second Wave Society into what he would call a Third Wave Society, one based on doable knowledge as a primary resource. His description of this (super-industrial society) dovetails into other writers’ concepts (like the Information Age, Space Age, Electronic Era, Global Village, technetronic age, scientific-technological revolution), which to various degrees predicted demassification, diversity, knowledge-based production, and the acceleration of change (one of Toffler’s key maxims is “change is non-linear and can go backwards, forwards and sideways”).

Even though the post-industrial societies are now in the Information Age, they continue to use metrics of the Industrial Age.  Metrics such as:

  • GDP (Gross Domestic Product)
  • GDP per capita
  • Gini Index
  • Consumer price inflation
  • New business registered
  • Mobile cellular subscriptions
  • Vehicles in use
  • Total road length
  • Hospital beds

All of the above are physical things you can touch, feel, and see.  But the fact of the matter is, that in the Information Age the things that count are not tangible—they are intangible.  Information, knowledge, and software are intangible assets you can’t see, even though they have enormous value and drive our economies.  Our text books identify these assets as Intellectual Capital.

Intellectual Capital are intangibles such as information, knowledge, and skills which have been formalized, captured, and leveraged by an organization to produce an asset of equal or greater importance than land, labor and capital.  Our largest corporations today are not General Motors, Exxon-Mobile, U.S. Steel or General Electric.  The behemoths of the 21st century are Google, Facebook, Tweeter, and Microsoft.

Measuring only material affluence is like driving down the road looking at the rear mirror.  We should be taking a closer look at the new metrics of our age which measures happiness.  This is the revolutionary approach of Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, King of Bhutan.  King Wangchuck has introduced 72 metrics to measure what makes life worthwhile.  Even as we speak, forty countries have followed Bhutan’s metrics to appraise happiness and wellness.  Together with the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) which measures the value of all services and products produced in one year), The Kingdom of Bhutan and other countries are measuring the GNH (Gross National Happiness) which measures the factors that make life worthwhile.  Some of the factors assessed by the GNH are:

  • Children’s health
  • Quality of education
  • Beauty of poetry
  • Strength of marriages
  • Intelligence of public debates
  • Integrity of public officials
  • Our wit
  • Our wisdom
  • Our learning
  • Devotion towards our country
  • Joy of children at play
  • Economic development with values
  • Wanting have you have

The goal is to create a Happy Planet Index which will check, on a monthly basis, the level of happiness for all countries of the world.  Remember that we can only manage what we measure.  If you don’t measure happiness, you don’t know whether the index is increasing or decreasing.

Below is an inspiring presentation keynoted by Chip Conley dubbed, “Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile”.  I’m sure you will agree with me that happiness is not only based on money and the accumulation of physical objects.  Diamonds, gold, and silver doesn’t necessarily make you a happy person.  Albert Einstein once said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”  Good Day.

2 thoughts on “The Metrics of Happiness and Wellness”

  1. Back in 1990 one of my brothers and his wife came to visit me on their vacation. At dinner one evening he was telling me how big a Christmas bonus he received that year. It was bigger than my annual salary. He also said that he’d gotten a large raise on top of his bonus. It, too, exceeded my annual salary. He didn’t tell me these things to make me envious, they were simply replies to questions I’d asked. That he’d gotten what I’d have to work two years for didn’t make me envious as we sat at our sidewalk table watching the passing scene. What I was thinking was, “That’s fine, but I’M the one who’s living on a million and a half dollar, custom-built sailboat on the French Riviera.”

    I don’t know where I first read it, but I’ve always loved the quote: “Money is a poor measure of a man’s wealth.

    I’ll leave you with this quote from Nelson Algren’s “Walk on the Wild Side:” “But blow wise to this, buddy, blow wise to this: Never play cards with a man named Doc. Never eat at a place named Mom’s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own. Never let nobody talk you into shaking another man’s jolt (sic). And never cop to another man’s plea. I’ve tried ’em all and I know. They don’t work.
    “Life is hard by the yard, son. But you don’t have to do it by the yard. By the inch it’s a cinch. And money can’t buy everything. For example: poverty.”

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