Executive manager – founder of Fabrique Spinoza
Alexandre Jost graduated from Centrale Paris, and then in Industrial Engineering from UC Berkeley. He subsequently moved to San Francisco and joined the strategy consulting firm Mars & Co, with which he worked in Brazil, Mexico and the United Kingdom before returning to France.
Seeking more meaningful work he joined SOS Group, an association formed by 7,000 workers in the health and social welfare sectors. During five years he looked after the group’s development and became joint manager, first of support functions and strategy and then of the gerontology division. At the end of 2010, happy to be an entrepreneur, he left SOS Group and created “La Fabrique Spinoza” (the Spinoza Factory), a plural political think-tank aimed at putting the citizen's well-being back at the heart of democratic debate.
Have you heard about the 'Easterlin Paradox'? In 35 years, French GDP adjusted for inflation has increased by 113% and concomitantly the reported satisfaction rate for French people has not budged, at 6.2 out of 10. There are at least two reasons for this. People compare themselves with their neighbours: if your neighbours have progressed and you have kept up with them, your satisfaction rate remains unchanged. And people adapt: if such and such a change has become part of my everyday life, I end up no longer perceiving it. This is known as hedonic adaptation.
We are very bad predictors of our future happiness. The same probably goes for risk. You can't tell as long as it hasn't happened, but the likelihood is you will get used to any new situation that arises. For instance, changes in the material quality of life have little impact on our subjective happiness because the brain gets used to things. People can retrieve the same level of personal satisfaction, even in the event of disability. By contrast, there are other types of events for which there is no “hedonic adaptation”, no resilience. For instance, if you lose your job or get a chronic disease, your routine is disrupted and you lose your sense of personal value, and this means you cannot return to your previous level of satisfaction.
La Fabrique Spinoza, a think tank, has made a study on the relation between crisis and happiness. It shows that there is a link between perceived happiness and the short-term economic climate, not the long-term level of wealth or economic growth.
There are training programmes to learn how to protect oneself from risk psychologically. Christophe André, who worked with Boris Cyrulnik on resilience, explains that the best teacher of optimism is reality. He invites people to take a step back and look at what actually happened, making them realise that their misgivings very often turned out to be exaggerated. This helps them recover a measure of serenity.
Research shows that, in an equivalent situation (in terms of earnings, education, etc.), the French are less happy than people from other countries.There is a strongly cultural and subjective dimension to French pessimism.
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