I recently wrote a blog that discussed how we approach wellbeing in the workplace, today I wanted to find out more about what is understood by wellbeing in more general terms. I visited my favourite YouTube channel – Ted Talks and watched a fascinating seminar by Jim Harter at Gallup.
To answer the question “what is wellbeing” Jim asks us to:
“Imagine your life in the future in the best possible way, what would your life look like to be happy?”
Have a think about how you would answer this.
It is likely that your response involved health, wealth and your job.
Next we need to dig a little deeper to find out what’s important to different people. A piece of research was done by Dr George Gallup Senior entitled ‘The Secrets of a Long Life’, he asked people over the age of 95 what the secret of their longevity was, the responses were; they enjoyed their jobs, they had good family lives and that they moved around a lot (took exercise).
In recent years, Gallup has asked the following question to determine wellbeing:
“How successful do you feel on your ‘ladder of life’?”
Those that answered 7 or above were considered to be thriving. This amounted to 24% of the world’s population. There is a very large range, with Denmark being highest at 74% and Cambodia being only 2%.
There are 5 common elements that predict the outcome to this question, these are considered the foundational issues:
1. Career – the first question we ask of others is “what do you do?” If we are in a job that matches our talents and are well managed, the changes are we will thrive in our chosen profession.
2. Social – having solid relationships in our lives is essential. We all feel the benefits if we are able to balance work with spending time in the company of others of our choosing (6 hours is ideal).
3. Financial – money might not buy happiness, but how we use our money to affect our security and reduce our daily stress can indeed improve our feeling of contentment.
4. Physical – by which we mean how we manage our genetic situation to manage our energy during the day. Discretionary issues such as quantity of sleep, food choices and exercise habits all affect our physical wellbeing.
5. Community – liking where we live. Is our community a safe place to live? Do we feel that we are involved and able to affect change in our locality?
Two thirds of the world’s population are thriving in at least one element, however only 9% are thriving in all 5.
How do we improve our wellbeing?
Immediate gratification serves to incentivise us to exercise or eat well – both improve our mood today with the added bonus of reducing our risks of ill health in the long term future. The same goes for jobs. Therefore when a short term gain aligns with long term benefits we are most likely to follow that life choice.
If we focus on a single issue, we set a goal to improve this element of our lives, but once we achieve it, we tend to stop. Those people that are thriving view all 5 elements in a holistic way. They build in action areas that incorporate more than one element.