“If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a LOT of time dealing with a life you DON’T want.”
Several years ago I had the opportunity to experience a presentation by Tom Rath, one of the co-authors of “Well-Being: The Five Essential Elements”. Tom provided us with an in-depth review of the universal and interconnected well-being elements that shape our lives which are career, social, financial, physical and community well-being. Roth and Harter share that “well-being is about the combination of our love for what we do each day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in what we have contributed to our communities.” As this blog often focuses on change, I believe that it is important to gauge where in your life you have been successful and where in your life you might need a tweak. Discussing these five elements may lead to an ah-ha for you to focus your tweaking!
In their research, Rath and Harter found that only 7% of people could answer yes to doing what they like each day. They contend that the majority of people are disengaged from their work and are simply waiting for the “bell to ring” much like our experiences in school. When using scientific measurement of cortisol increases to determine the costs of disengagement, they found that disengaged individuals experienced higher levels of stress throughout the day until closer to the end of the day. Sustained high cortisol levels destroy healthy muscle and bone, slow down healing and normal cell regeneration, co-opt biochemicals needed to make other vital hormones, impair digestion, metabolism and mental function, interfere with healthy endocrine function; and weaken your immune system. One way to increase engagement in our work and potentially lower cortisol levels is to leverage our strengths. If you are not sure of your strengths or would like to take the assessment it is available at the Gallup website. An additional benefit to using strengths at work is that it can prevent role burnout.
The second area of well-being is social. Our relationships have a large influence on our well-being. Shawn Achor in “Happiness Advantage” shares that people who have high quality connections actually have lower levels of cortisol and are better able to thrive. The operative words here are high quality connections which support relationship commitment and satisfaction as well as fuel understanding, validation, and caring. We know from research studies that both negative and positive emotions can be transferred to others so it is essential that we ensure our relationships provide us with positive connections. Rath and Harter recommend that social well-being can be enhanced through strengthening the connections in your network, spending time with those connections and thinking about how you might mix social time with activity.
The next area of well-being is financial. The authors research in this area did not relate to the amount of money an individual has but rather how they used what financial resources they had available. In fact, in one study when individuals were given a small amount of money and asked to spend the entire amount by the end of the day, the individuals who spent it on someone else not themselves, were found to be happier. Yes, we do need enough money to cover Maslow’s first area in his hierarchy of needs which are food, water, air, shelter and other items needed to survive. However, once they are covered, we have the option for determining how to spend money in ways that lead to greater happiness. One suggestion for increasing financial well-being is to spend money on experiences and memories as those are the things that increase financial well-being. Of course having a solid financial plan which alleviates stress about money goes a long ways towards building financial well-being.
The fourth area of well-being is physical well-being. We have discussed this area frequently in other blogs most particularly as I referenced the work of Jim Loehr in “The Power of Full Engagement”. We know that we need fuel for our bodies, exercise, and rest and recovery in order to function at our highest levels. There is abundant research which demonstrates that a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, while decreasing unhealthy fats and processed foods leads not only to longevity but we also feel better. Dan Buettner shares in “The Blue Zones” that longevity is 75% determined by lifestyle and everyday choices. Increasing our physical well-being requires a hard look at these choices so that we can live a full life.
The final area for well-being is community well-being. The authors believe that this is a differentiator between a good life and a great one. Community well-being starts with safe water and foods and extends to the security of walking in our neighborhoods and shopping areas. Once these need are met, we can then explore how we might become more involved in our communities. The authors share that the highest end of the community well-being continuum is in giving back to society. This is a very personal decision based upon values and will be different for everyone.
This blog provided the reader with a wealth of material and resources that can enhance well-being. If you want to take an assessment of your well-being, it is available through the link in the first reference below.
To Your Success!