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Pursuit of Happiness Initiative Explained

The survey is a way to have a community wide conversation about how we as a community are doing without any preconceived perspectives or positions. The conversation happens through the survey and all community members contribute equally to the conversation by taking the survey. The community has been identified as the Greater Winneshiek County Area and this will include all people who live, work, trade, or go to school in Winneshiek County. 


As people take the survey and cumulative results are obtained, currently existing standard economic tools will be applied to the results. The information gleaned from these tools will allow government entities, companies, and institutional organizations to understand how they can change policies which will help bring the “happiness quotient” up for all people in the area wide community, their company, or their organization.


The survey measures individual and community scores in these nine areas: psychological well-being, physical health, time or work-life balance, social connection and community vitality, education, access to arts, culture and recreation, environmental quality and access to nature, good governance, material well-being. Notice that the last area, material well-being, is usually the only way that this country (using the Gross National Product) measures how well we as a people and a country are doing.


The categories in the Happiness Survey match very closely what the founding fathers meant by our right to “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. The philosopher Mortimer Adler wrote about this in his book “We Hold These Truths”, “Having asserted the existence of natural, human, and, therefore, inalienable rights, the Declaration goes on to say that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The phrase “among these” makes us immediately aware of the fact that the rights named do not exhaust those that are inherent in human nature. Our right to pursue happiness differs from all the rest by being concerned with an end or objective for the attainment of which the other rights serve as means. In other words, all the other rights are rights to things that every human being needs in order to succeed in the effort to lead a decent human life.” This is the ancient ethical conception of happiness as a whole life well-lived because it is enriched by the cumulative possession of all the goods that a morally virtuous human being ought to desire. Among which are life, liberty, wealth, health, freedom, knowledge, food, drink, sleep, and shelter. 


What the Happiness Survey measures is how well each individual is able to become a full participating member of society. And, what society, through government acknowledging those rights, needs to offer each person in order for that to happen. Again, some of those things necessary to the pursuit of happiness are access to education, important cultural arts, participation in government, health, a living wage, time to develop oneself, and a safe environment.


Notice this is not the modern psychological conception of happiness. Adler: “The modern psychological conception of happiness is a feeling of contentment produced by the satisfaction we experience when we are able to fulfill whatever desires we happen to have at any moment in time. The modern psychological conception of happiness can be enjoyed by the morally vicious individual, as well as the morally virtuous individual. According to the psychological conception of happiness as contentment, individuals achieve happiness when they get what they want, regardless of whether what they want is something they also need and whether what they want is innocuous or harmful. We do not have a right to things we may individually want, but only to the thing that we, along with everyone else, need in order to make good lives for ourselves in our pursuit of happiness.” 


So, it is hoped that thousands of people in the Greater Winneshiek County Area will join in this conversation by taking the Happiness Survey. And, it is hoped that with the results of the survey, concrete steps can be taken to further enhance the people of the area’s happiness.


There will be a concerted effort on the part of the facilitators of this survey to meet with area groups, churches, schools, organizations, and companies to talk with them about getting their members to take this survey. You can beat them to the punch by going to the Decorah Public Library’s website, click on the “Happiness Survey” logo, and take the survey today. Enter the referrer code 6246 and your mailing zip code; this is completely anonymous. You will get an immediate personal score in the nine areas, and an overall composite score. The Greater Winneshiek County Area will have one more voice in the conversation that can be used to bring about the ability for each of us to be a full participating member of society.