In May of 1972, after traveling to the most remote parts of his country with his father, who was the king of Bhutan, the 17-year-old prince named Jigme Singye Wancghuck was put in charge of the country's eastern regions. Only weeks later, on July 21, his father passed away while on a trip to Nairobi, Kenya. The young prince was now king, the youngest monarch in the world, and suddenly responsible for leading the entire nation.
Fortunately for the people of his country, this young king was wise beyond his years. He cared deeply about the people of his nation and their future and, with an uncorrupted beginner's mind, had some very innovative ideas for how to best lead a country. Early in his reign as king, while on a trip through India, a reporter asked King Wancghuck to comment on the size of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Bhutan. His reply would be the spark of a revolution. “Why are we so obsessed with GDP?” he asked. “Why don't we measure gross national happiness?”
This is precisely what he would focus on as the leader of his country. Of course he didn't ignore Bhutan's economy, but his focus was on the overall well-being of the people he led. To this day, Bhutan continues to measure gross national happiness (GNH), and has developed a plethora of metrics for doing so.1 For instance, after the questions we're used to seeing on our census questionnaire about basic demographic information, the GNH survey includes questions like: