At the recent Millennium Development Goals summit held at the United Nations, the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Thinley, invited the participants to include a 9th MDG: “Happiness.” Bhutan is famous for its “Gross Domestic Happiness” index and everyone I know who has visited Bhutan have returned with stories of its profound natural beauty and the peacefulness of its people.
I wonder, though, can you actually make happiness a goal? It is written right into the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We’re conditioned to believe acquiring happiness is our birthright and a goal to be achieved. So we set out armed with our parentally-approved happiness plan (good grades, perfect attendance and certainly an Ivy if you can get it) and a full tank of ambition.
During a little star-gazing this summer with my stepdaughter, Abby told me she really wanted to see a shooting star. Her anticipation of the happiness she would feel at that sight was palpable, as if the sky itself, just as it is, isn’t already completely beautiful and awesome.
I submit, and I am sure Prime Minister Thinley would agree, we’re already happy. All of us. That happiness doesn’t lie outside of us – somewhere down the road. It’s here for the seeing. And here’s how this slight twist of the point of view knob can turn the dial up on your fundraising (or life for that matter) experiences.
On a phone call with a board member or over a cup of coffee with a colleague, find beauty in the most routine and ordinary of tasks. This opens us to the experience of happiness right here and right now. It rewards us with a sense of joy and gratitude for the opportunity to do our work and for the lives we are already living.
It’s surprising how often people are unaware of the depths of meaning and joy in their own lives and work. This is especially true in fundraising, a profession rife with burnout and frustration. How easy it is to lose the larger significance of the work we’re doing when we focus on it as a goal. We become distracted by pragmatic concerns, time pressure and fatigue. We become blinded by cynicism, numbness and perfection.
Of course, our lives and work are full of meaning and joy any way. We just miss it, when we are looking “out there.” Finding happiness and satisfaction isn’t about doing anything different. It’s about seeing and experiencing the familiar in new ways.
Bhutan has scant material resources but spectacular natural beauty. And happiness. Because that’s how they see it.