The Business of Happiness

My friend Rachel Schey, a personal trainer in San Francisco, sent out an eblast today that discussed why our society sends a message that people must go it alone rather than reaching out to others for help at various points in life. A good question, and one which likely keeps us in the lonely dark corners near our computers, texting and Facebooking and yearning for true connection.

Perhaps that is why businesses like Lululemon, Starbucks and Caribou Coffee are marketing happiness. The most successful brands today sell happiness, joy and connection in their messaging and branding.

“The idea of brands enabling happiness and providing greater meaning in the world is powerful,” says Jennifer Aaker, a marketing professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business who is teaching a class on happiness. (This quote is from the March 2011 Fast Company article about Aaker.)

What are you doing that makes the world better and better yet, helps individuals feel like their lives are more meaningful? If you sell a product, a service or an experience where the messaging promises improvement in daily life, answers to individual problems or just plain solace, you are likely to succeed.

For isn’t it the purpose of our very existence to improve the world and make it better? I believe so. Every day I teach my children to have compassion, to work toward the greater good, to make an impact on the world around them. And it’s what I strive for in my work and in my life.

When I read Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, I found its premise – the search for happiness by an upper-class Manhattanite who had it pretty darn good to begin with – self-indulgent and whiny. It shouldn’t be our main purpose in life to be happy all the time but rather, to improve the experience of those around us and treat everyone with kindness.

If you give the benefit of the doubt, if you assume the best, if you are kind and nurturing to even the snarliest drive-thru worker, you contribute, however small, to the greater good.

I know I sound preachy here and perhaps it’s because it’s late in the day and I am late for a meeting. But truly, in everything I do and in every interaction I have with another human being, I have learned to take the focus away from ME and put it where it belongs: on the world outside.

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