Gross National Happiness – Bhutan


Last year, I had the immense honor and good fortune to attend Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness conference, in Paro, Bhutan.   The conference organizers asked Professor Robert Wolcott of Kellogg Innovation Network to speak, and they allowed him to bring 10 colleagues.   I responded quickly, and obtained one of these fortunate slots.


A picture with my guide in front of our hotel in Paro, just after visiting the infamous Tiger’s Nest.

The idea came from the 4th King of Bhutan.   When he took the throne, in 1972 at 16 years old, he was told that his country was one of the poorest in the world.   Embracing his Buddhist upbringing, he responded that it was one of the happiest.   Upon that declaration, Gross National Happiness was born.    Since then, countries can objectively measure their happiness and compare to others.

Having visited Bhutan, I can attest, it is rather poor (in material terms) and somewhat happy (in personal contentment).   [According to the World Happiness Ratings, which includes personal income, Bhutan is ranked 84th and the US is ranked 13th.]   However, with the influx of foreign money & aid; and more concerning, the influx of information, comparison, and expectation through the internet, they are becoming richer and “sadder” at the same time.    Currently, the contentment is dissipating as children leave their villages for more worldly pursuits.    These villages are left without workers and people are finding themselves more unfulfilled.

The new king (the 5th) has continued GNH’s broad work to really discover how a country can measure (objectively) happiness.   The picture above was sent to me, to ponder my own happiness at the end of 2016.   These nine categories are significant as they have been developed over 50 years, outside of America’s stamp on the pursuit of happiness.

They have established nine domains of happiness.

  1.  psychological well-being
  2.  health
  3.  education
  4.  time use
  5.  cultural diversity and resilience
  6.  good governance
  7.  community vitality
  8.  ecological diversity and resilience
  9.  living standards

I think think these lead to the nine questions posed by GNH for the New Year…

  1. How is our interior life?
  2. What do we wish to learn?
  3. How are our relationships?
  4. Are we an active citizen?
  5. Does your material situation meet your needs?
  6. How is your health?
  7. How do we spend our time?
  8. How is our creativity?
  9. How do we care for our world?

Blessings in the New Year! – Pierre



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