What is wellbeing, and how to you find it?
The concept of wellbeing remains difficult to understand. Most individuals, when asked, intuitively have some idea of what wellbeing is, but when pressed, few people tend to give satisfactory answers. So, what is wellbeing, and how do you find it?
Authors Tom Rath and Jim Harter in their 2010 book, “Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements,” take the reader through five different stages of wellbeing. They are:
• Career wellbeing
• Social wellbeing
• Financial wellbeing
• Physical wellbeing
• Community wellbeing
According to the authors, these five categories are the areas where, when working properly, individuals thrive. One of the things that these five areas have in common are that “[People] describe areas of their life that [they] can do something about and that are important to people . . .” the authors write. Additionally, the authors write, “While 66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7% are thriving in all five.”
They key to achieving wellbeing, according to the authors, is to focus on long-term goals and outcomes. “As long as we allow short-term desires to win, it will be difficult to effect long-term behavioral change However, we learned from people with the highest levels of wellbeing that there is a simple solution to this problem: If we can find short-term incentives that are consistent with our long-term objectives, it is much easier to make the right decisions in the moment.”
Another key idea offered by the authors is that if a person is actively engaged in his or her work, and remain mindfully present in everything he or she does, then that person often reports to have a totally different perception of their lives. In the section of the book that covers career wellbeing, the authors describe in detail other research results that lend credence to their ideas about wellbeing may be achieved.
Finally, as the authors point out, “the single biggest threat to our own wellbeing tends to be ourselves.” In other words, the authors suggest that if we focus on things that we can, in fact, control then our overall wellbeing tends to increase. One may notice that the five areas of wellbeing – career, social, financial, physical, and community – all involve categories that are more or less within our control. So, if we refocus our goals on the types of wellbeing that are within our control, then that is the first step is moving toward a happier life.
Rath, T., and Harter, J,. (2010). Well Being: The Five Essential Elements. Gallup Press, New York, NY.