04: Karen Guggenheim: From pain to purpose and the remarkable science of happiness

Karen Guggenheim is a strong advocate of the science of happiness. Her life’s work has focused on bringing and sharing the tools and the science behind happiness. Her commitment to happiness was born from overcoming challenges and experiencing grief after her husband passed away. 

In episode 4 of Happiness 2.02, Guggenheim shares the stories of loss and learning that shaped her life. Growing up in Nicaragua, Guggenheim witnessed the ravages of political instability and poverty. 

“It was quite scary to live in a regime with military and guns everywhere and to not feel physically safe,” says Guggenheim.  “Although we were very fortunate, it was very present. There was also a lot of poverty. So that always impacted me as a child to see the pain of others.” 

Throughout those early years, Guggenheim’s parents instilled the importance of courage, strength and kindness.

“It was a very real experience and I saw the importance of showing up to your life,” says Guggenheim. “I was fortunate that I have a really strong mother. She always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be as a woman and that I was as talented, as smart, et cetera, as a man could be. So she really embedded that in me that I could do and to be courageous. And so courage is very important. Courage to stand up for your life, to show up to your life.”

Guggenheim did not discover her true life’s purpose until another tragedy changed the direction of her life. In 2013, at the age of 42, Guggenheim suddenly became a widow when her husband died from a horrible bout of the flu.

“Pain is a great catalyst for change, right? So a lot of us need to have pain in order to, to really act and to, to really choose, to be truly alive and to investigate what these peak experiences are for me. So for me, it was the passing of my husband, the very sudden pass.” 

Rather than resting in her pain, she became intentional in pursuing happiness. She earned an MBA from Georgetown University and left a successful career with a successful international communication agency to co-found WOHASU and create the World Happiness Forum. 

As the CEO of WOHASU, Guggenheim led efforts that brought 6 global summits that were attended by people from more than 40 countries and 45 US states. She also co-founded the H-20 Government Meeting, which focused on getting government leaders to understand the value of wellbeing economics.

In November 2020, Guggenheim decided to dedicate her work on bringing the science of happiness to create transformative systemic and organizational change. She’s currently working on her first book embarking on a doctorate in business administration and PhD in Management aimed at increasing employee wellbeing and organizational health to maximize traditional business results. 

During this 40 minute podcast, Guggenheim shares stories from her life and insight on 

  • What it means to show up for your life
  • How purposeful breathing saved her life
  • What it means to be purposeful with your own life

Be sure to follow Karen Guggenheim on LinkedIn and learn more about the World Happiness Summit and the WOHASU platform here

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