In this time of COVID-19 and civil unrest in America, happiness often seems increasingly elusive. Yet that may not have to be so, and, in fact, such turmoil can offer opportunities for both personal and professional fulfillment.
That was the theme of an online conversation Saturday night between the Dalai Lama and Professor Arthur C. Brooks of Harvard Business School (HBS) and Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Speaking from his home in Dharamshala, India, the Dalai Lama, longtime leader of Tibetan Buddhism, spoke with Brooks, HKS professor of the practice of public leadership and HBS professor of management practice, for 90 minutes in a live segment of Brooks’ HBS class called “Leadership and Happiness.” The Dalai Lama answered questions from students about their concerns and their duties in a troubled world.
Connection — even as people are usually now forced to work and study separately — is the key to happiness, he said. “We need a sense of oneness. We are each one of 7 billion human beings.” Occasionally aided by an interpreter, the 85-year-old religious leader stressed that point repeatedly. Especially when faced with global crises such as the pandemic and climate change, he said, people must engage as a global community.
“We can no longer say ‘my nation, my country,’ ” he said. “We should say ‘my planet.’ We have to live on this planet together.”
The potential for happiness is in that connectivity. “Happiness is in the mind,” the Dalai Lama said. As individuals and as leaders, when we reach out to others, lifting them up, we experience that connection, and the resulting fulfillment brings us happiness.