Well-Being: A New Standard for Happiness?

By Dr. Deepak Chopra, MD

(Courtesy of Dr. Deepak Chopra and Intentblog.com)

The new watchword in corporate America these days seems to be "well=being," a term associated with alternative medicine, not the hard realities of business. Google and Apple, among other corporations, have won admiration for providing work environments full of amenities like on-site gyms, day-care centers, and other life-enhancing add ons. Japanese corporations pioneered this trend decades ago. But now a new dimension has been added: the well-being of the public at large, which includes the well-being of the environment. Business is beginning to take seriously that their future depends on going green.

Although we gain our personal values as children through family and school, adults in the corporate world are pressured to obey corporate values, so this shift is potentially enormous. As long as only the bottom line counted, egregious misdeeds by Enron and its ilk mirrored a general disregard for consumers, workers' security, and the deteriorating environment. No individual could safely stand up to protest; therefore, those who saw themselves as good people were entangled in a bad system. Such endemic callousness hasn't gone away by any means, and "multinational corporation" continues to be a four-letter word in many progressive circles. That has to change in this generation, and the smarter CEOs like Richard Branson, the British billionaire who heads the Virgin conglomerate, already understand.

Yet there's a larger issue here. Well-being essentially is a measure of happiness, and the imminent perils that we are warned about day after day are rooted in outworn ways to pursue happiness. Global warming won't be solved as long as American happiness means unbridled consumerism that recklessly disregards what is good for the planet. Rampant overpopulation in the developing world won't be solved as long as a family in India isn't happy without multiple children, especially sons, and the ever-pressing need to bring in wages through child labor. AIDS won't be solved as long as elites in Africa and elsewhere continue to uphold widespread prostitution, a traditional male outlet that traps tens of thousands of young women and girls.

Ultimately, it's not human evil or even human weakness that's at fault and needs to be reformed. Communism began as a reform movement with utopian ideals, but it wound up creating hellish wrongs. The war in Iraq is a hellish wrong created by capitalism, the opposite of Communism. Lasting change comes about when people feel that their well-being will increase. Even the nightmare conditions of the Industrial Revolution, or the endless slums in mega-cities like Cairo and Mexico City today, came about because people tried to pursue happiness, moving from lesser to greater as they saw fit. A poppy farmer in Afghanistan is happy with a good crop, irrespective of his ties to feuding warlords, the Taliban, or heroin addicts overseas. Of course, one can't discount the untold numbers of poor people who are forced by conditions beyond their control to accept inhuman living conditions, but even there the pursuit of happiness is a daily preoccupation. (Startlingly, utterly impoverished Nigeria recently ranked number one when people around the world were asked if they are happy. The U.S. ranked fourteenth on the list; Russia was at the bottom.)

There's a huge amount to be said about the coming shift in our notion of well-being. Every aspect of life will be affected. But the single most important thing--as underlined in Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth--is that changing our current notions doesn't have to hurt. Nor does it require punitive legislation. We can become as green and clean as the world's leading societies. We can devise new methods of solving poverty and hunger that don't deprive ourselves (unless your idea of deprivation is not getting a third SUV and having to pay your house cleaner a decent wage). It's asking a lot for corporations to temper their greed and consumers their selfishness, but the right attitude is one of increasing happiness on a vaster scale than ever before, not leveling down to global scarcity.

Time Magazine heralded Deepak Chopra as one of the 100 heroes and icons of the century, and credited him as "the poet-prophet of alternative medicine." Entertainment Weekly described Deepak Chopra as "Hollywood’s man of the moment, one of publishings best-selling and most prolific self-help authors." He is the author of more than 40 books and more than 100 audio, video and CD-Rom titles. He has been published on every continent, and in dozens of languages and his worldwide book sales exceed twenty million copies. Over a dozen of his books have landed on the New York Times Best-seller list. Toastmaster International recognized him as one of the top five outstanding speakers in the world. Through his over two decades of work since leaving his medical practice, Deepak continues to revolutionize common wisdom about the crucial connection between body, mind, spirit, and healing. His mission of "bridging the technological miracles of the west with the wisdom of the east" remains his thrust and provides the basis for his recognition as one of India�s historically greatest ambassadors to the west. Chopra has been a keynote speaker at several academic institutions including Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business School, Harvard Divinity School, Kellogg School of Management, Stanford Business School and Wharton.

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