Joni Carley is the guiding light behind Media Happiness Week. For 25 years, she has been a consultant and coach to leaders and teams in small and large businesses as well as non-governmental organizations, including the United Nations.
TTM: How are personal and collective Happiness related?
Joni: It obviously takes happy people to make a happy community. The common denominator between individual and collective happiness is values. Across the world, the most consistent top happiness indicator is connectedness. Values are the building blocks of connectivity. The data is in: when personal and collective values align, stakeholders tend to be well and happy. They are also more productive, cooperative, resilient, economically sound, innovative… the well-researched list of benefits goes on and on.
Cultural and personal transformation have everything to do with one another. Sages through the ages have taught that happiness is a “one for all, all for one” kind of thing, that it’s an interdependent condition. The founders of Democracy valued “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Pursuing happiness is an expression of liberty. Accounting for happiness has turned out to be a statistically significant lens on personal and collective life.
The cultural shift that organizations like Transition Town Media are leading is toward recognizing that digging deeper and reaching higher into values expression is a true path to happiness.
TTM: What are the historic/cultural precedents for Happiness Week?
Joni: The nation Bhutan led the way. After many years of relying on Gross National Happiness, GNH, (rather than Gross National Product, GNP) indices, Bhutan has proven that happiness and wellbeing are excellent indicators of many social successes, including economics. Japan, Finland and other countries have had related successes. More and more, corporations, municipalities, non-profits and universities have been confirming that values indicators like happiness and wellbeing are a useful basis for charting social and economic progress.
As part of its ongoing work, in 2013 the UN declared March 21 to be International Day of Happiness. In just 2 years there have been great festivities all over the world and much work continues to unfold in the field. Media is celebrating a little late this year but we’re unique in having a full week of activities.
It’s important to note that the happiness work is being framed as a new paradigm. A new paradigm doesn’t mean fixing what’s wrong. It is a re-situating of our ontology, our ground of being, from a profit-at-any-cost consciousness to conscious values fulfillment and evolution. The new paradigm sees happiness as ever-evolving, which is a shift away from understanding it as an end goal. We seem to be swinging toward more accurate valuation of what’s most important to people.
TTM: Why did you feel personally compelled to launch an annual Happiness event in Media?
The United Nations General Assembly voted in April of 2012 to start convening toward a New Economic Paradigm based on Happiness and Wellbeing. The vote was unanimous among a group that can’t be expected to agree that the sky is blue! I had been working part time for over 5 years on values-driven leadership and cultural development in and around the United Nations when the 2012 New Paradigm vote happened. For me, it felt like a watershed vote because what had been careful and discreet conversations about transformation were now being integrated with UN mission.
When I left the organization I was working with in 2013, I shifted my focus more toward international happiness and new paradigm work and at the same time I was becoming more active locally with Transition Town Media (TTM). While I was listening to colleagues in other places planning very cool 2013 Happiness Day celebrations, it struck me that Media was a perfect place to have one and that it was a great match for TTM’s mission.
It was amazing to see what a uniting theme it is. While people are reluctant to sign up for causes, they love connecting around happiness and that led to success way beyond our imagination last year. TTM sponsored our first annual Happiness Week in partnership with a couple dozen organizations and many hundreds of people connected with one another. The success of events is personally gratifying but the biggest reward is connecting with old and new friends who are committed to being strong and happy. People like that are great to hang out with so I’m especially grateful for how the work impacts my personal experience of community.
Personal note: My happiness activities are grounded in my doctoral work in cultural transformation. I presented a short philosophical piece at the Gross National Happiness USA Conference in Vermont last July. Here’s the link to it: Seed of Happiness Pecha Kucha (20 slides, 20 seconds per slide, 6.5 min). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSycE9pxSIg