Are the happiest people changing the world?

Photo credit: photobank.kiev.ua, Shutterstock

Photo credit: photobank.kiev.ua, Shutterstock

Here’s a question for you: are you happy changing the world? Does that spur you on to do bigger and better things? In an article on Harvard Business Review, Rosabeth Moss Kanter talks about how people who have the toughest jobs tackling worldwide issues and causes are often the happiest, because they can see how their work has meaning.

The happiest people I know are dedicated to dealing with the most difficult problems. Turning around inner city schools. Finding solutions to homelessness or unsafe drinking water. Supporting children with terminal illnesses. They face the seemingly worst of the world with a conviction that they can do something about it and serve others.

For many social entrepreneurs, happiness comes from the feeling they are making a difference.

In research for my book Evolve!, I identified three primary sources of motivation in high-innovation companies: mastery, membership, and meaning. Another M, money, turned out to be a distant fourth. Money acted as a scorecard, but it did not get people up-and-at ‘em for the daily work, nor did it help people go home every day with a feeling of fulfillment.

I see that same spirit in business teams creating new initiatives that they believe in. Gillette’s Himalayan project team took on the challenge of changing the way men shave in India, where the common practice of barbers using rusty blades broken in two caused bloody infections. A team member who initially didn’t want to leave Boston for India found it his most inspiring assignment. Similarly, Procter & Gamble’s Pampers team in Nigeria find happiness facing the problem of infant mortality and devising solutions, such as mobile clinics that sent a physician and two nurses to areas lacking access to health care.

People can be inspired to meet stretch goals and tackle impossible challenges if they care about the outcome.

While obstacles will arise, working together on human issues can be emotional and bring people closer together. Additionally, Kanter said, such large issues can diminish day-to-day annoyances and issues.

What do you think? Does your work give you a purpose and make you happy even when faced with adversity?

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