Thursday, October 7, 2010

The 'foundation' of happiness

I had the opportunity to lead a session with the founders of the Anaconda Community Foundation and some of the organization’s board members. The Foundation raises money for charitable causes in Anaconda and the nearby area.
            As I reflect back on the session, which occurred Sept. 24, I’m reminded why I enjoy working with foundations. By their very nature, foundations operate at a higher level of happiness than many organizations—and even than some individuals.
            When giving a presentation, among other basic foundation subjects, I talk about the different levels of happiness. This concept is well known and truly useful in a dialogue about pursuing excellence.
            We discuss the four levels of happiness. All four of them are good, and all but one are or can be readily achieved. The levels H1 through H4 are best described the following way:
H1: Instant gratification. Eat a cheeseburger. Drink a pint of Guinness. Watch a re-run of “Seinfeld.” These will bring you the H1 level of happiness, or short-term happiness.
            H2: Achievement. Beat someone at racquetball. Win the NCAA basketball pool at the office. Lose 10 pounds. It’s a feeling of accomplishment that makes you happy. While H2 can involve the perverse pleasure of seeing your opponent fail, its focus is the thrill that comes with victory, on achievement, not causing another the agony of defeat.
            Both H1 and H2 are positive, but both are inward focused.
            H3: Contributive. This is the level of happiness that companies should strive to attain—and where the Anaconda Community Foundation finds itself. Individuals should shoot for it as well, but for our purposes, we’ll focus on organizations. With H3, an organization concerns itself primarily with how its activities benefit others. In business terms, this translates to being focused on the value of services and products realized by customers and the other main stakeholders of a business or organization of any kind.
            H3 or contributive (other-focused) happiness can and should produce, as a by- product, maximized value for any organization.  An organization that does its best to benefit others can achieve its own long term maximum value as a direct result. With H1 and H2, inward focused happiness is the end goal and the end result.
H4: Transcendental focus. This involves being H3 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and giving your total self in service to others. We’re talking about Mother Teresa-caliber stuff here. Living this way tends to be, but should not be, about as difficult as walking to the summit of Mount Everest on your hands with no oxygen. It’s good to shoot for, but nearly impossible to accomplish. Still, it is a great calling, a great gift.
The Anaconda Community Foundation is operating at a solid H3 level of existence and happiness, because by its own mission statement, its own reason for existence, it is other-focused. We spent our time together honing the organization’s mission statement and vision statement.
The Foundation is one kind of organization whose purpose is obviously stakeholder or other-focused. The real lesson here, though, is that every kind of organization can and will in fact maximize its own long term value ( for its owners, for example, in a for-profit organization) if it exists and acts in this stakeholder, other-focused H3 manner – and it will in fact be happy.
The Foundation’s founders, Bob and Joan Morris, expressed their gratitude for the planning session and suggested the organization might bring me back again. I will continue to monitor their good works in the Anaconda area and root for their success.
Joan put the following note on my Facebook page: “Jack Haffey (without associates) assisted our board in clarifying our mission and vision. He did a great job with us, helping us say clearly what we were all about and where we thought we were headed. It will help our board stay focused and better achieve our goals. Thanks, Jack. Your help is beyond valuable!”
Reading that, I felt like I achieved an H3 level moment myself.

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