We desperately need a revolution, and one of our best weapons in that revolution will be happiness. (I know, I know. Sounds incongruous. Hear me out.)
For at least as long as I’ve been alive (and that’s more than a couple of decades) people and companies have crowed about “VALUES”. Trust, integrity, accountability, honesty, respect, dignity, blah blah, the list of words goes on and on, but the list of ACTIONS suggests that there are very different values actually being upheld:
Profit Margins and Power.
Those are horrible values. Yes, I said it. Horrible. Now, I’m not opposed to companies making a profit. I’m not a hard-line “share all wealth equally” person philosophically (although I’m tired of the myth that there isn’t enough for us ALL to have basic needs met. I’ll save that rant, though). And I am completely on board with people having agency to make decisions and have control in meaningful ways. I am categorically opposed to grinding other people into the dirt to squeeze out a few more micro cents per widget or sacrificing people’s well-being (and lives) in the quest for DOMINANCE, either in the marketplace OR in life. It’s sociopathic, for one, not sustainable, and it’s actually costing a tremendous amount in lost productivity and innovation.
Here’s where happiness comes into play. I do not believe happiness is the goal in life. Rather, I believe that happiness is the litmus test by which we measure how well the actions we’re taking and the life we’re living aligns with the ideals we hold in our deepest, most fundamental core as sacred. When profit margins and power are the things we (as individuals or as organizations) hold most sacred, people will be discarded in the process. I had a super-heated argument about the atrocity of that paradigm in an undergrad Econ class that almost cost me my grade. So maybe a handful of people will be “happy” if they truly hold power and riches as their highest ideals, but MOST people will not, because that very process Dehumanizes the vast majority of the human race. Greed and the lust for control demand that we be ruthless in destroying everything in our path in that quest – and that leads us to where we are today (and, frankly, where we’ve been for millennia if we’re being honest).
Have some courage, and actually lean into, LIVE into those words!
Cue the revolution! So many of us haven’t spent the time to really do the hard work of figuring out what our actual values are, or of aligning our lives with those concepts. Organizations pay for market research on which values their target market will like, rather than having real conversations about who they want to BE as a company. Or, equally toxic (maybe a little more, with the hypocritical cherry on top there) they believe they want to BE those things, but then consistently trample all over the very values they’ve painted on the boardroom walls in their quest for EPS and market share. Have some courage, and actually lean into, LIVE into those words! (Sidebar: statistics tell us if your people are happy, your company will perform significantly better, so take this all the way down to the basement and ensure that your PEOPLE have a reason to believe in your VALUES).
So if YOU are unhappy, do some diagnostics. How’s your life stacking up against your values? Do you even know what those are? Are you sure?
If your COMPANY is unhappy, same drill. Are you walking your talk, or are you creating more friction by chasing the wrong things?
And then, when you notice you’re feeling happy, ENJOY that moment, just don’t get complacent. There will always be another pressure test heading your way. Having strong values that you deeply understand will make that experience a lot easier to handle – or at least provide a strong guide through the storm.
Viva la Values Revolution!