Getting from Me to We

Studies show that ‘we’ is more fulfilling than ‘me.’

The field of psychology has given us much insight, understanding and wisdom about us human beings. From Freud’s ego theory and it’s orientation toward pleasure and away from pain, to fight or flight, to the subconsciousness’ influence or control over most decision making we know more and more everyday about what makes us tick or tock.

Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it. – – Groucho Marx

The more we learn about happiness, the more we see that lasting happiness is not obtained through the acquisition or consumption, but mostly involves our relationships to others. When considering happiness as one of our goals for our career, it makes sense to factor in the ‘we’ factor. This can be counter-intuitive to those raised in a ‘me’ culture that emphasizes the individual over the group or team or society. It’s a curious mindset that thinks if one ‘has it all’ they can be happy forever in a ‘me bubble.’

According to the United Nations, this is the list of the happiest countries on planet earth:

1: Switzerland
2: Iceland
3: Denmark
4: Norway
5: Canada
6: Finland
7: Netherlands
8: Sweden
9: New Zealand
10: Australia

The United States ranked 15th in the world, one below Mexico and three below Costa Rica, where per capita GDP is roughly a fifth of that in the U.S.

Happiness is often thought of as the good life, freedom from suffering, flourishing, well-being, joy, prosperity, and pleasure – mainly pleasure many might say – back to Freud and his pleasure principle.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon

A significant shift in happiness occurred in Western culture around 250 years ago and Americans seemed to be regarded around the world as being ‘the happy people’ in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Interesting that we dropped so far!

Here are Carl Jung’s, the father of analytical psychiatry, 5 factors for happiness:

  1. Good physical and mental health.
  2. Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, the family, and friendships.
  3. The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.
  4. Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.
  5. A philosophic or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.

From an article in Forbes:

Employee engagement and happiness is definitely one of the topics du jour for modern management and the future of work. Plenty of studies have already (and continue to) come out that show how low employee engagement is around the world (only 13% of employees are engaged and 87% are not!). Low employee engagement numbers correlate and oftentimes directly cause decreased productivity, wasted resources, and an overall toxic environment that nobody wants to be a part of…and why should they be?

Engagement requires we and me.

I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of  thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.     – Carl Sanburg