The small Himalayan nation of Bhutan stepped into the international limelight when the 4th King decreed that the country would pursue Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of GDP as its measure of success. Now, several decades later Bhutan is growing rapidly yet maintaining its strong culture and societal values. So what can we learn from Bhutan about the nature of careers and the pursuit of meaningful work?
This was the topic of discussion at Bhutan Dialogues, an initiative of the United Nations in Bhutan and the Loden Foundation, a social entrepreneurship organisation. Dr Karma Phuntsho, founder of Loden and Bhutan Dialogues describes it as "our attempt to build a space for civil conversations, to bring personalities to discuss current and pressing issues, and do so with humility and sincerity. It is a space for promoting right speech and mindful listening in order to develop deeper insight. We believe in tackling new issues and challenges and pushing the boundaries of our critical thinking in each session."
It was a privilege to be invited to appear on Bhutan Dialogues which coincided with training for Civil Society Organisations (not-for-profits) I was co-facilitating with Carolyn Hamer-Smith and Maree Whybourne as part of their work with the Australian Himalayan Foundation.
The conversation covered many topics with three main themes emerging. First, the existential crisis facing the western world as the drive for materialism has left many disillusioned, lamenting the lack of meaning in their work. We explore how Bhutan holds this inherent sense of meaning and is moving towards a more materialistic society.
Second, our conversation explores different sources of meaning at work including a number of practical strategies for reflexivity, mindfulness and adaptability. This leads to a third theme around life purpose, the role of work and the nature of spirituality in our careers.
An underlying current to the whole conversation is that work provides us with unique opportunities to grow, develop and mature as a human being. The challenge is that we simply don't see this on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps our Bhutanese friends can help us on this journey.