Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles We are in crisis, left behind, always harder, seldom kind. Then we feel what might be missed is the power of an optimist. The question we always ask, worldwide, when we are talking about happiness, is whether the glass is half full or half empty. Well, I promise you that we'll give the answer to that question today. But then we have to go back to our personal youth You have become an ambassador of creativity, you are an ambassador of courage, of innovation, of organisation. We all are ambassadors of some strength. Where did we learn that? When I was a kid of 4-5 years old, my father was a salesman. He took me to small grocery shops in Limburg, a small province in Belgium. They turned upside down an old vegetable box. I would be standing on it and recite poems. And then I got an ice cream. I got lots of ice cream in my youth. In fact, when I'm talking today, on this thing, what did they do? They turned an old vegetable box upside down, I'm standing on it, reciting a poem, and I hopefully get an ice cream afterwards. That's the way it works. We all became the people we are thanks to positive strength, thanks to someone who told you you are good at something. We learn to support through positive engagement, through encouraging each other. We don't learn anything through cynicism or through indifference. When I was travelling the world, in Nepal and in India I met the word 'namaste'. 'Namaste' means 'hello'. But when an American says 'hello', it doesn't mean anything. Namaste means three things: I bow for the god in you. I've seen you. There is something positive in you and I bow for that, deeply. Teachers tell this to students. Students to teachers, all over, everyday, 100 times. I've seen you. There is a positive strength in you. I bow deeply for that. Wouldn't we live in another world if people would say that and mean it? Life is not a party. I'm not driving the country in a car full of balloons. We are all entitled to sadness. If I open the door of your heart, there is a lot of sadness and trouble and sorrow in it. We all have that. It's not about that. I hate the song 'Don't worry, be happy'. I changed the motto to 'Do worry, be happy'. There is something going wrong in the world, but it doesn't mean we can't be happy. Everyone is looking for happiness, all over, it's a universal quest. I asked 100 professors in 50 countries to summarize in 1000 words what we know about happiness, not what we believe, but what we know about happiness. We found that we have been focusing on the wrong things. We have been studying psychology, sociology, economics. That's what's it about: not only philosophy. It's not about sunflowers and balloons, it's about science. We have been studying the wrong things. We know quite a lot about schizophrenia, paranoia, but most of the people are not schizophrenics or paranoiacs. The opposite of bad is 'not bad', but that's not the same as good. The opposite of unhappy is 'not unhappy', but that's not the same as happy. So if we could study what makes people happy and broaden that knowledge, we could become happier citizens. We know that the relationship between optimism and happiness is quite important. The relationship between smoking and lung cancer is the same as the relationship between optimism and happiness. When you smoke, you get lung cancer. When you are an optimist, you become happy. And when you're happier, you're healthier and successful, in sports, in science, in friendship. Why don't you want to become an optimist? We know from science that 50 percent of optimism is about genetics. It's about what we got from our parents, our grandparents and so on. 10 percent is due to the circumstances, that is the house we have, the job we have. 40 percent is left for what is between our ears. That's the mindset, the way we look at things. The 50 percent of genetics, we cannot change. The 10 percent of circumstances, are what we focus on all day long. And the 40 percent is what we have in our own hands. Don't you think that happy people experience more happy things than unhappy people? We all experience more or less the same things in our lives but the optimists give a double weight to the positive things, and the pessimists give a double weight to the negative things. That's the choice we have. Optimism is a combination of belief and behaviour. You start believing that things will turn out and you behave like that. One of the professors taught me the lesson that there are red buttons and green buttons in society. The red buttons are the pessimists. The green buttons are the optimists. You notice immediately when you talk to someone, in 3 minutes. I immediately know whether you are a green or a red button. Shall I teach you? You can know it in 3 minutes. The red buttons are always talking about themselves, the past and problems. The green buttons are talking about we, us, the future and solutions. It's not about me, it's about us. It's not about the past, it's about the future. It's not about problems, it's about solutions. And when you succeed in connecting the green buttons in an organisation, in a school, in a street, in your family, the red buttons become irrelevant. A woman came to me last week. She said, "Nice story about green and red buttons, but I'm married to a red button. What do I have to do now?" (Laughter) So we know that optimism and pessimism are spreading like a virus. It's the optimism as well as the pessimism. You know that. When an optimist enters the room, you become an optimist. We see in research that in regions full of optimists, they influence each other Workfloors influence each other. I'm not talking about stupid things. Just a few weeks ago, the United Nations, for the first time in history, published a World Report on Happiness. It's full of statistics that really prove that new priorities are needed. The report talks not only of gross national product, but of gross national happiness. This system works in Bhutan, a country in the Himalayas. The prime minister of Bhutan was invited to New York to come and talk there. We have been making fun of Bhutan, but now it has become an example of good practice. They are not only measuring work, they are measuring harmony: work and the hours of sleep. They are measuring physical health and mental health. In education, they are measuring knowledge and values. It's about harmony and we can learn quite a lot of that. When Herman Van Rompuy wrote a letter to 200 leaders of the world to make "happiness, hope and positive thinking, quality of life in our policies and our social behaviour a priority", I was glad. I was holding his hand while he was writing that letter. He says, "Cynics will immediately dismiss these proposals as naive, but positive thinking is no longer something for drifters and dreamers." It's a science. We can measure it and we can do positive interventions. If we measure on a scale of 1 to 10, Zimbabwe has 2.8 on happiness, China 6.4, Denmark 8.3. There is an influence of social policy on the numbers of people who are happy and we can change that. We can set these new priorities. Do you know -- When you see the publicity of lotteries world wide, it's always about sunshine and palm trees. I don't know whether you know how many palm trees there are in Denmark, but not that many. It's not about sunshine. When we compare the happiest countries to the countries that are not happy at all, we don't see a difference in sunshine or palm trees. It is about trust. When people trust each other, and trust the institutions, they are happier. And when there is more equality in a country, then people are happier, the rich and the poor, the men and the women. Everybody can be happier. Let's go for a happier world for all and not only for less misery, but for a better world. The best-selling sign in the west no longer is 'Welcome' but 'Beware of the dog'. We have become afraid of everything. There is fear of everything. We are afraid of the muslims, of the Chinese, of everything. Locked up in our houses, we are killing ourselves. We have bought our dogs and our alarm systems. But the great problem in our society is not aggression or violence. It's about solitude. There is fear in our houses. We could change that. The media play an important role. There was a time when magazines were called 'Der Spiegel', the mirror. They are not the mirror of society any more. They have become the keyholes of society, focusing on conflict, on measuring conflict, again and again, making people afraid. A lot of research states that people who see the news and read the papers, become more and more afraid. The reality is the same, but they become afraid reading all these stories. They are focusing on a message of distrust and fear. Do you know the opposite of fear? The opposite of fear is hope. And a crisis is an opportunity. The pessimists will never solve the crisis. Statues are never built for pessimists. There are more optimists in the world. There are more. But the pessimists make more noise. At meetings and gatherings, the pessimists always make more noise. The pessimists are still living in the holes and the caves. The optimistis came out of the caves and holes watching the fire, and the future. Publicity knows that very well: watches all over, always at 10 past 10. Would you buy this watch if it would be 20 past 7? You wouldn't buy it. It's the smile that sells. (Laughter) If they tell me that happiness doesn't sell, I don't believe that. Do you know what's the best-selling meal in the world? Happy meals! Don't tell me happiness doesn't sell! (Laughter) But it is not about pleasure. We found out in positive psychology. We thought that happiness was about pleasure. It's not about pleasure, about sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. I hope you have lots of it, but you won't be happy for that. It is about satisfaction. We are moving from a money economy to a satisfaction economy. There are five elements that build up our satisfaction. World wide, these 5 elements build up our satisfaction. First, the quality of our relationships. The most important thing: our family, our friends, our colleagues, our neighbours.