Just over 3 years ago, my co-founder, Jock, and I first conceived the project to make Guernsey the best place to live on earth by 2020.
We were having coffee outside, by the sea, on a beautiful day, observing people walking to and from their workplaces, ignoring the wonder of what was around them. Both of us felt that we lived in an incredible place, but something needed to be done to help our community to see what was right under their noses.
We are often asked what “the best place to live on earth” means – and how do you measure it?
Our response is always, “What does it mean to you? And how do you measure it?”
And we then challenge people to start working on making their ideas a reality.
We are often challenged by people who are satisfied with things as they are. “Why are you trying to make it the best place to live on earth by 2020?”
We see this challenge as a very good sign.
What we are doing is often misunderstood. People assume that this community transformation means taking part in some global competition. That is an element, but in truth, it is only a small part.
Our job is not to get the rest of the world to see Guernsey as the best place to live on earth, but to get most of our population to perceive that they live in a great place – and to get involved in improving it.
Governments and communities around the world do not make an investment in transforming people’s perceptions, instead of transforming reality.
Take something like crime. Crime levels are actually far lower than most of us perceive them to be. Which is best? Making a massive investment to reduce crime rates, or investing small amounts into projects that match people’s perceptions with the reality of life? How does behaviour change if our perception is that our community is a safe place, rather than unsafe? What is the collective impact on a community if lots of people change their behaviour and attitudes?
Look at this in terms of individual happiness. So much frustration in society comes from the constant desire for more in a world where ‘more’ is becoming harder and harder to get. No wonder people are angry with governments and systems.
We receive a constant barrage of marketing messages that houses, cars, clothes and holidays will ‘make us happier.’ But these are not necessarily the most effective means of achieving happiness, especially given the burden of tax rises and other costs for society to swallow.
Governments need to think about how they can help their citizens to become happier by teaching them about happiness. According to research, 40% of our happiness comes from our subjective lens on the world, whilst only 10% comes from our circumstances (with the remainder down to our genetics). So why does all the investment focus on trying to improve our circumstances, rather than improving our perception of our circumstances?
What can shift that balance? Love of a place or personal wellbeing can be manufactured using positive propaganda, but very few see the value of investing directly in this.
It may be challenging to hear, but you only have to look at the rise of of Nazi Germany or Communism in Russia to understand the power of propaganda. At the moment, the biggest propaganda machines are actually outside government – not aligned with it, nor with societal interest.
The media makes money out of creating a negative perception of the world. Having readers on constant alert creates attention, and attention generates advertising revenue. A lot of time, money and effort goes into shifting our perceptions in directions that may not be too good for us.
Think of the election cycle. People typically get elected by saying how bad things are, rather than for celebrating the great things that already take place in a community. That process creates a really negative perception of government and distorts the community’s overall perception.
What we are doing in Guernsey is trying to redress this balance. We are creating a model for the world to see that community transformation is actually far easier and far more cost-effective than people think.
The reality is – what we are doing can be done anywhere. Any community that can come together to change its collective perception can transform. And when individuals’ perceptions of a place shifts, there is a much greater likelihood that community members will contribute.
We all have the capability to see our home environment or community as the best place to live on earth. We all have the ability to contribute to improving where we live. What we need are mechanisms that help us to shift our own perceptions.
To changing perception.
If you want to hear more about this, listen to my latest podcast with Greg Tehven and me. We are both working to make our respective communities the best place to live on earth. Click on here.