Numbers don't mean everything. An alternative and socially focused way to measure development is emerging in the field of economics: wellbeing. This wave of interest in new measures to evaluate economic development was sparked in part by the Kingdom of Bhutan, which contributed the idea of gross national happiness. Although having a high GDP is nice, wellbeing takes into account other factors that have an immediate effect on peoples' lives, such as levels of personal satisfaction.
Wellbeing is defined by the New Economics Foundation as, "how people experience their lives and flourish," but could also be described as levels of happiness. New findings in The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2013 Global Report (GEM), based on surveys of over 197,000 people across the globe, indicate that entrepreneurs are happier than their non-entrepreneurial counterparts. Interestingly enough, the GEM data shows that on average both early-stage entrepreneurs and those heading established businesses report higher levels of satisfaction than the rest of the population. Although the beginning years of a startup can be taxing on an entrepreneur, this data suggests that the hard work more than pays off.
This comes as no surprise to Forbes contributor Elaine Pofeldt, who goes as far as writing that "entrepreneurs are the happiest people on the planet." She cites the increased autonomy of being your own boss as a likely reason for increased satisfaction. Not only can entrepreneurs decide when and where to work, they can also choose for themselves which projects seem most worthwhile. This is a big difference from the corporate world, where someone else sets the schedule, and a worker can be assigned tasks that seem irrelevant.
However, one entrepreneur had a different reaction to the GEM Report. Jane Park wrote that "entrepreneurialism is more like a mental illness than a state of nirvana." Park describes the state of being an entrepreneur as a constant mental focus on any and all problems and solutions related to the new business. Her motivation is to make a difference, not to be happy.
Park raises an excellent point. There are challenges associated with starting a new business, such as the financial stress of giving up a steady job to invest time and effort into a venture that may or may not be successful. Also, there are certain personal traits that make a person more likely to be successful as an entrepreneur. Gallup studied over 1,000 entrepreneurs to arrive at a list of the "10 talents of successful entrepreneurs," such as confidence, creative thinking, and risk-taking. Certainly entrepreneurship would make some people happier than others, and may be the wrong choice for someone who doesn't have a personality that is well prepared for the demands of starting a businesses.
What do you think about entrepreneurship and happiness?