Getting screened for cancer.
Putting on a seatbelt.
Turning off the lights.
Social marketers have increased the rates of all of the above behaviors throughout the last half century and have, in turn, affected the health and well-being of men and women all over the world. We have academic theory to back our behavior change philosophies, and we have practice that has proven our tactics. Social marketing has come a long way in the fields of health and safety, and it now appears to be broadening with more and more initiatives positively affecting the environment and fiscal responsibility. Imagine, though, a social marketing program aimed at making people happier, more harmonious, and better world citizens. Could it be possible? Sounds a little dreamy at first, but one man has devoted much of his life to helping people around the world grasp these principles.
About a month ago, I attended a press conference at Citywest Hotel in Dublin, Ireland at which the Dalai Lama spoke about hard work, self-confidence, and inner peace. I hadn’t been invited to the press conference, but by some miracle of pure chance, I was welcomed with open arms. The Dalai Lama was in Dublin for the Possibilities Civic Summit which was organized to empower people in the face of social, environmental, and economic challenges. His words were deeply evocative, and while I can’t say for sure, I would wager that every single person in the room was sincerely affected by his profound statements on the promotion of basic human values, human happiness, and the fostering of harmony. His statements encouraged wellness and addressed attitudes to bring about peace on individual and global scales:
Happiness. “The ultimate source of happiness and successful life is within ourselves,” the Dalai Lama said. He went on to discuss how inner value brings inner strength and how happiness can only be achieved within oneself, with peace of mind, an open mind, and a holistic view of the world.
Harmony. The Dalai Lama spoke about harmony with one another as being necessary for individual and global peace. He said, “Friendship between believer and non-believer is possible.” He noted that we must learn from each other to achieve worldwide brotherhood and sisterhood.
Mental Health. Discussing reasons for poor mental health, the Dalai Lama said, “Mental illness comes from people looking outside.” He talked about how if people focus on their inner selves, rather than on superficial matters, people can open themselves to great mental wellbeing. “Love, affection, compassion—these are the things that reduce anxiety and allow friendship. Openness, honesty, truth—elements of trust and important for mental health.”
Prosperity. “Billionaires, they are, I notice, very unhappy people. Very powerful, but deep inside, too much anxiety, too much stress,” the Dalai Lama said. He went on to discuss how the recent global recession is the result of shortsightedness and greed. He spoke passionately about how prosperity comes from hard work and determination, and how it cannot be measured in money.
Responsibility. The Dalai Lama announced his plans to step down as Tibet’s head of state and make way for his elected replacement, in order to advance democracy. He spoke about how in a democracy, individuals need to be accountable for their behaviors and actions: “Everyone has self-duty and responsibility.” He also talked about how human affection and solid values are harmonious with personal responsibility.
Ethics. One does not need to be religious to have ethics, the Dalai Lama discussed. Secular ethics are based off common sense and logic, and these ethics demand respect and compassion for other human beings. The Dalai Lama stressed the importance of secular ethics to all in attendance, and spoke about the positive impacts of compassion for individuals and those around them.
As the Dalai Lama spoke about the ideology outlined above, he paused often to smile and laugh, both of which activities were truly infectious. Wearing his red and saffron robes, he reached another yet another audience with his lessons—another audience to spread his teachings. In listening to the Dalai Lama, I really appreciated hearing things that I already believed in, reaffirming the values that have been engrained in me since childhood. His words have since pushed me to take more time for myself during the day and not “sweat the small stuff.” Going back to the question posed at the beginning of this post, imagine a social marketing program aimed at making people happier, more harmonious, and better world citizens. Could it be possible? Do you think it would ever be funded? Could nonprofits team up and take this on? Or maybe a corporation as a part of their social responsibility initiatives? One man is making a big difference in the lives of people he meets. Imagine what we could do together.