What If Health Replaced Wealth As a Measure of Success?
by Sudhakar Ram
"It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” ~ M K Gandhi
Money has been the world’s primary measure of success over the last 200 years. Nations want bigger GDPs. Corporations want higher market capitalization. And we individuals all want fatter bank accounts. The assumption is that if we have the money, everything else can be acquired. Money can buy us better health, more leisure time – and even increased happiness.
Our experience, however, has shown that wealth does not necessarily bring us health, time or happiness. Research shows higher levels of unhappiness – stress, divorce, etc. — in wealthy nations like the US. Health care — or rather, disease care — remains a major concern, costing the country around $2 trillion to treat the 300 million citizens.
Let’s indulge in a bit of fantasy. What if health replaced wealth as the primary measure of success? Would we be better off as individuals, as companies, as countries and as a world?
If health were the ultimate measure of success, we would eat the right food – fresh and nutritious. We would take our time over our meals, enjoying conversation with friends and family. We would follow a more balanced lifestyle, allocating time for exercise, for reading and learning, and for rewarding relationships. We would follow our creative passions and pursue our true calling, rather than chasing stressful careers that leave us exhausted and burnt out. Isn’t it likely that we would be happier than we are today?
For companies, health would translate to longevity. Companies that survive the longest, making a meaningful contribution to the world, would be considered the healthiest. This would lead to more organic approaches to growth, rather than the intense focus on quick fixes and rapid expansion. Companies would discover and live up to their long-term potential rather than the short-term bottom line each quarter. Rather than settling for minimum standards and acceptable performance, companies that intend to be around for centuries would invest the time and energy to excel.
As countries, success would mean that every constituent part – the citizens, the cities and villages, the institutions and the systems – are healthy and vibrant. Governments at every level would be focused on eliminating poverty, squalor, pollution, crime, corruption and disease. Citizens would demand leadership to ensure that every part of their country gets the necessary infrastructure and basic amenities like education, health care, water, electricity, and law & order. Countries would vie for the cleanest, healthiest and liveliest environments to potential citizens and corporations.
A healthy world would be a clean and sustainable world where bio-diversity is maintained and all beings co-exist in their natural environment. In such a world, non-renewable natural resources would be consumed in moderation while renewable resources would be used and replenished diligently. Countries would agree to share common resources. Global institutions would bring peace and good health to humanity as a whole.
The purpose of this piece of fantasy is to show that a slight shift in our goals can bring about dramatic changes in the way people live, work, consume and enjoy their lives on this planet. Why don’t we, as humanity, choose a better way? Why don’t we choose health and happiness over wealth as our primary measure of success? Do stay engaged and contribute to this dialog.
Sudhakar Ram is Chairman and Co-Founder of IT solutions provider, Mastek. He believes that creating a sustainable world would require a shift in the “constructs” that drive our attitudes and actions. The New Constructs is an initiative to examine our beliefs and assumptions – about life and living – that we need to reinvent in order to create a more inclusive and sustainable world. It is an opportunity for each one of us to connect, collaborate and co-create the world that we will rebuild for posterity. Do post your own examples on the Wall.
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