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Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Well-Being" (Tom Rath and Jim Harter)

TITLE: Well-Being: The Five Essential Elements
AUTHOR: Tom Rath and Jim Harter
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Gallup Press, 2010, (232 pages).

How do we measure well being? What are the factors to determine the quality of life? Do these vary over different continents and countries? What makes life worthwhile? These are the questions that drive the Gallup survey, the global interviews, the data analyses, and the quest that culminates into five essential elements of well-being. The purpose of this research is to enable readers to 'enjoy each day, get more out of life in general,' and to 'boost the wellbeing' of our friends, our family, our colleagues, and our community members.

The five 'essential elements' are Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community. Most of the results reveal about 66% thriving in one of the elements. The authors assert that in order to maintain a wholistic wellbeing, all five needs to be thriving. The biggest hurdle is not external but internal: ourselves.

Career Wellbeing is about what we do every day, our work and our workplaces. Social is about the impact of our close relationships on our lives. Financial talks about how our overall happiness with regards to money. Physical is about general health matters, our diets, our wakeful activities, our sleep. Community is about relationships. For each wellbeing factor, the authors include three sets of recommendations to help one thrive. They conclude the book with a call for 'positive defaults.'
Any time you help your short-term self work with your long-term self, you have an opportunity. You can intentionally choose to spend more time with the people you enjoy most and engage your strengths as much as possible. You can structure your finances to minimize the worry caused by debt. You can make exercise a standard part of your routine. You can make healthier decisions in the supermarket so you don't have to trust yourself when you have a craving a few days later. And you can make commitments to community, religious, or volunteer groups, knowing that you will follow through once you've signed up in advance. Through these daily choices, you create stronger friendships, families, workplaces, and communities. (112)

It is interesting to note that the authors arrange the factors in order of importance, for the average person.  It is also representative of the quantity of time spent. Due to this, there is a finding that workers perform best when their supervisors invest in the wellbeing of their employees.
  1. Career: "People with high Career Wellbeing wake up every morning with something to look forward to doing that day. They also have the opportunity to do things that fit their strengths and interests." (153)
  2. Social: "People with high Social Wellbeing have several close relationships that help them achieve, enjoy life, and be healthy. They are surrounded by people who encourage their development and growth, accept them for who they are, and treat them with respect." (154)
  3. Financial: "People with high Financial Wellbeing manage their personal finances well and spend their money wisely. They buy experiences instead of just material possessions, and they give to others instead of always spending on themselves." (154)
  4. Physical: "People with high Physical Wellbeing manage their health well. They exercise regularly, and as a result, they feel better. They make good dietary choices, which keeps their energy high throughout the day and sharpens their thinking. They get enough sleep to process what they have learned the day before and to get a good start on the next day. " (155)
  5. Community: "People with high Community Wellbeing feel safe and secure where they live. They take pride in their community and feel that it's headed in the right direction. This often results in their wanting to give back and make a lasting contribution to society. " (155).
(Data from Gallup Research, 2010)
There are so many ways to interpret the data.  These rankings are averaged based on three factors, namely 'thriving,' 'struggling,' and 'suffering' factors. The data is obtained from 150 countries where 1000 respondents are gathered from each country. That means a 150,000 statistical pool. This is not large, considering the population of the world. Thus, this is at best a snapshot of a segment of the population. For a country to score high in the wellbeing table, it needs a high THRIVING and a low SUFFERING. In some countries, the data is not as accurate due to 'authoritarian governments.'

If you are interested in social research, this book is a wonderful resource. If you are interested in improving your general well-being, this book offers generous tips on how to improve. Even if you are not convinced by the research methodology or the results, you can still benefit from learning about the way to improve the general wellbeing for yourself, your family or the community you live in.


Recommendations for WellBeing Development
[The tips below are extracted from the book. All credits go to the authors and publisher.]

For Boosting CAREER Well Being (29)
  1. Every day, use your strengths.
  2. Identify someone with a shared mission who encourages your growth. Spend more time with this person.
  3. Opt into more social time with the people and teams you enjoy being around at work.
For Boosting SOCIAL Wellbeing (44)
  1. Spend six hours a day socializing with friends, family, and colleagues (this time includes work, home, phone, email, and other communications)
  2. Strengthen the mutual connections in your network
  3. Mix social time with physical activity. For example, take a long walk with a friend so you can motivate each other to be healthy.
For Boosting FINANCIAL Wellbeing (66)
  1. Buy experiences - such as vacations and outings with friends or loved ones
  2. Spend on others instead of solely on material possession
  3. Establish default systems (automated payments and savings) that lessen daily worry about money.

For Boosting PHYSICAL Wellbeing (89)
  1. Get at least 20 minutes of physical activity each day - ideally in the morning to improve your mood throughout the day.
  2. Sleep enough to feel well-rested (generally seven to eight hours) but not too long (more than nine hours)
  3. Set positive defaults when you shop for groceries. Load up on natural foods that are red, green, and blue.
For Boosting COMMUNITY Wellbeing (104)
  1. Identify how you can contribute to your community based on your personal mission.
  2. Tell people about your passions and interests so they can connect you with relevant groups and causes.
  3. Opt in to a community group or event. Even if you start small, start now.

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