pursuit of happiness and businessUsually I avoid writing a post that refers to a holiday here in the US. Lots of readers of this blog come from all over the world so keeping themes focused on business is about inclusivity. But for this holiday, I’m making an exception.

It’s Independence Day in the US. It began with an amazing document, the Declaration of Independence, which has inspired parts of the French Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizens of 1789 as well as parts of  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. If you’re into history, the ways this document has shaped America and how we think about equality is also pretty fascinating but that’s a post for someone else.

Pursuing happiness is an inalienable right.

It may be a right but why are we pursuing it?  What does that really mean? If you follow some of the recent research about entrepreneurship, it appears that 80% of startups are being founded by people over 35. After the Great Recession, there are lots of people who are in position to follow their dreams. And maybe that is what pursuing happiness is about. Take a look at your business…what is it that draws you back again and again?

Maybe I should back up a little. How do you define happiness anyway? Like a lot of emotions, it really is on a spectrum and ranges from pleasure, enjoyment, contentment, joy to ecstasy. But what fuels our happiness often is something brings meaning or an aesthetic. For example, many people find a massage makes them happy. The meaning here is one of self-care and human touch. Others feel happy when they hit a sales goal. The thrill of seeing one’s skills in action and getting the win feels good! I have a friend who celebrated a successful moment in her business by buying herself a cocktail ring. This combined her pleasure in her good performance as well as wearing a beautiful piece of jewelry.

If we parse apart the pursuit  of happiness, it seems that engaging in the process is a basic human right.

It certainly is a hunger that we all experience. Think back to your Intro to Psychology class and Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  In his Safety Needs, Maslow noted that people need health and well-being. While we can argue whether it is truly a hierarchy or not, the point is that we need to feel positively. Within the human experience, we seek a positive way of being. Notice all of the gurus, religious/spiritual authorities and other people who are encouraging us to think  positively. (Okay, I’m in there too since healthy thinking is one of my passions.)

More and more, work has to be more than just a place you show up and complete tasks that earn us money. Having the opportunity to gain our happiness is something all people not only hunger for but are endowed with automatically. Leading your business is how you’ve created an avenue to fulfill your own desire for happiness.

Leading a business feels good.

Yeah…sure, there are days when you would really like to be doing something else. There is a problem with meeting a deadline, a customer is unhappy or there are economic pressures that are difficult to manage. On the other hand, we have the joy of making the decisions, creating the vision of where the business goes next and even encouraging what new products or services are created and sold. But underlying all of this is that sense of creating meaning and purpose. If your business is big enough, you are in a position to invite your employees to experience meaning and purpose. The combination of our aspirations and skills is a potent mix!  

How are you exercising your right to pursue happiness?

What does it mean to you?