Thursday, April 19, 2012

But Are we Happy?

Are software quality engineers really the happiest employees, as suggested by Forbes Magazine?
Is happiness related to occupation?  Or what does make us happy anyway. 
The country of Bhutan famously publishes a Gross National Happiness Index for the country and has a minister of happiness.  (Policies in Bhutan must pass a Gross National Happiness review.)  By definition, happiness in Bhutan includes the following goals:
  1. Sustainable development
  2. Preserve cultural values 
  3. Conserve the natural environment
  4. Good governance. 

I think good governance would not include prostitutes and parties in Las Vegas.  Mountain top mining in WVA would also probably fall out, so the US would probably not do well, but we are considering a measure of Gross National Happiness. 

But these are National goals, not individual, personal ones.  What makes individuals happy?  If it’s job related, I guess that would rule out wealthy wives who “never worked a day in her life.”  What about the money that allows some to live without working?  (Personal note:  Since my wife won’t read this, I can define “work” as an activity that someone else pays you to do.)  Numerous studies have concluded that a lack of money dissatisfies (makes you unhappy), but after a basic amount, more money doesn’t further enhance happiness. 

Health?  You would think so, but some sick people are also very happy.  Listened to an NPR interview  with a woman who sat at the bedside as her brother died of AIDS.  His last words were “I’m a happy man.”  Of course, you would then have to define what “health” means, and who is responsible for health.  Most would agree that air pollution (as a source of ill health) is the responsibility of the Federal government.  But the US life expectancy took a dip—first time ever—in 2011 due to obesity.  Now whose fault is that?  Health can certainly be a factor, but the correlation is missing.

Occupation and employment.  Some occupations are indeed happier than others.  Or maybe it’s just that happy people just gravitate to those occupations.  Employment is better than unemployment, and there are companies that are better places to work than others.  While we may be enjoy our job and be happy at work, these are factors on the fringes and probably not the defining factor for personal happiness.

It’s decision time!  Can I have the envelope please?  Happiness is . . . love.  It’s having someone to love and being loved in return.  In her poem, “The 5:32” Phyllis McGinley wrote:
This hour best of all the hours I knew:” (while waiting at a suburban rail station)
“And a man coming toward me, smiling, the evening paper
Under his arm, and his hat pushed back on his head;
And wood smoke lying like haze on the quiet town,
And dinner waiting, and the sun not yet gone down.”


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