Friday, June 11, 2010

Alberta is Changing But for the Better or the Worse is the Question

"Why is this Man so Happy?" is an interesting "must read" from Avenue magazine's Edmonton edition on Mark Anielski, the award winning best selling author of "The Economics of Happiness."

Mark is a good friend and recently pitched in at the last minute at the Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta public dialogues in Edmonton and Calgary when David Peat became ill and could not travel from Italy.  He also added to the dialogue at the symposium on the same theme with Gwynne Dyer and Scott Murray.  Cambridge Strategies Inc. was please to sponsor this event with the ATA, Literacy Alberta, the University of Calgary and the four ATA locals in Edmonton and Calgary.

One of Mark's key messages has been that Genuine Progress Indicators are so much more relevant than old fashioned misleading Gross Domestic Product rates for measuring the stuff that really matters to individuals, communities and societies - and that is its well-being!

Mark noted at his presentation at the Learning Our Way event that happiness is 50% is genetic, 10% is education and capacity and 40% as a function of the quality of personal relationships.  Interesting mix of influences on one's happiness and something to work with for sure.  Seems to me we, as a society, better starting working on our personal and community capacity for people to relate better with each other and more often too if we are going to enhance our well being as individuals and groups and communities.

Mark's work in Edmonton in 2009 charted 49 genuine progress indicators.  His findings included that "Overall, the results of the well-being assessment show that Edmonton's overall state of well-being is in a health and improving condition, though there are some economic, social and environmental conditions that need attention, [such as] rising income inequality, rising levels of family disputes, loss of urban agricultural land..." to name a few.  We are well positioned for progress in this city but we can't rest on laurels.

Albertans are finding themselves on unfamiliar moving ground in the political, economic, social and environmental aspects of life in our province.  It is time to re-evaluate what we think is important - and how we measure success.  Our research at Cambridge Strategies shows a yearning and longing for change but an uncertainty of how to get there and what "there" looks like except it must be very different than the "here and now" because the latter is not working.  There is general feeling of dismay over the lack of leadership  politically, economically and socially.  There is more apparent leadership in environmental aspects but it is either too aggressive or too anemic.  There is a feeling that we lack viable alternatives to choose from to enable and empower the transformational change that many people aspire to pursue.  Mark is way ahead of the pack on that new path towards that transformational aspiration, both personally and professionally. 

As we go into the red zone of the October municipal elections in Alberta, it is perhaps timely for us a citizens to reflect on what make the "good life."   It is timely to rethink what it is we ought to strive for in pursuit of the good life and what we need to do as individuals and in society to achieve it.  Then we can ask our politicians - incumbent and aspiring, what they see that needs to be done in public policy to enhance our overall well-being.

Mark' s book "The Economics of Happiness" is a good primer to help being to answer those questions.  It will help you find some better questions to ponder while you move along the pathway to well-being and happiness.   I recommend it highly to anyone feeling anxiety about the future, uncertain about the present and no desire to return to the harsh unjust realities of the past.