As the founder of The Happiness Institute, Meik Wiking has made it his life’s work to discover the science behind happiness, and how that research can contribute to improving our quality of life. Here, he chats to us about the world of work ahead of his upcoming talk at Belong.
Describe your job in 10 words or less…
What I and my colleagues try to do is answer three questions: We try to figure out how we can measure happiness, we try to figure out why some people are happier than others, and how we can improve quality of life. That was more than 10 words!
What was your first job? What was one thing you learned from that and took forward with you in your career?
My first real job was working for the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I think I learned several things — I learned that bureaucracy can be draining in terms of energy. Secondly, I learned the importance of treating people nicely.
One of our tracks for this event is Inspiration. Where do you look for inspiration in your work, and how do you seek to inspire others with what you do?
In happiness research, it’s easy to become inspired and to inspire. We are all here because of the same thing — and that is we’re trying to make the world a better place, so we’re very purpose-driven. We also get inspired by what we see, what people are doing around the world in terms of improving quality of life. Trying to make the world a better place is our main source of inspiration.
At Belong, we’ll also be looking at the theme of Insight. What’s the most surprising skill or aspect you’ve learned about yourself or the way you work?
I think I’m very driven by where I sense my interest is and where I find energy. We might do things that are not necessarily a good business decision, but just because we think they would be a lot of fun. The Happiness Institute was started because of that.
I left a stable, well-paying job to create something as crazy — at the time — as the Happiness Research Institute. That was because I really wanted to work with this area — I was lying awake at night thinking about the different projects we could do and how much fun it could be to explore happiness from a scientific perspective. The Institute was founded on where we do we want to go and what would we like to do, and later on we could figure out how to pay our bills by doing that. It’s worked so far!
We’re also going to explore the subject of Inclusion. How do you build a sense of belonging within your team?
I think that when we hire people, we not only hire really, really smart people, but we also hire people with good hearts and we consider how the individual will influence the ecosystem of the team. We want to work with good people with bright minds and good hearts.
What can people expect to learn from you at Belong?
I try to understand what drives happiness from a scientific perspective. I try to understand what impacts not just our satisfaction with life but also our satisfaction with our jobs. We run experiments and use some companies as happiness labs. I’m going to present some of those findings at the conference.