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How to identify, measure, nourish, and then leverage whatever makes life worthwhile
on May 4, 2010
This is Tom Rath's latest book, co-authored with Jim Harter whose previous book, 12: The Elements of Great Managing, Harter co-authored with Rodd Wagner. Rath explains that in addition to their own research for this book, he and Harter consulted an abundance of research conducted by the Gallup Organization with which they are associated. Moreover, "Gallup assembled an assessment composed of the best questions asked over the last 50 years. To create this assessment, the Well-Being Finder, we tested hundreds of questions across countries, languages, and vastly different life situations."
For me, some of the most important revelations include those that help to explain how people (in a 150 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe) experience their days and evaluate their lives overall. More specifically, as Rath and Harter explain, five distinct statistical factors emerged. "These core dimensions are universal elements of well-being, or how we think about and experience our lives - the interconnected elements that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering." Although 66% of those surveyed are doing well in one of the five areas, only 7% are thriving in all five. "These five factors are the currency of a life that is worthwhile. They describe demands of life that we can all [begin italics] do something about [end italics] and that are important to people in every life situation we studied." Here they are, with my own take on each:
Career Well-Being: To be eager to begin work each day, feel appreciated as a person as well as an employee, respect supervisor, enjoys associates, speak with pride and appreciation about company to others
Social Well-Being: To have several strong relationships, be able toactivate a support system when encountering problems, feel loved
Financial Well-Being: To manage finances prudently, be aware of costs and in control of expenditures, frugal but not cheap
Physical Well-Being: To get sufficient rest as well as rigorous regular exercise, have plenty of energy in reserve, eat sensibly)
Note: In Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, John Ratey explains why there is a direct and decisive correlation between a healthy lively body and a healthy lively brain. Those who have a special interest in this important subject are strongly urged to check out Ratey's book.
Community Well-Being: To be actively and productively engaged in the neighborhood and in the community as well as in various groups within the area such as a church, P.T.A., Crime Watch, Meals on Wheels, homeowners' association, etc.
Rath and Harter have much of value to say about each of these five dimensions of human experience such as their core values, sources of nutrition, strategies for development, threats to well-being, and interdependence with each other. Of even greater value, in my opinion, they suggest what lessons can be learned from responses to Gallup's global surveys during the last 50 years and offer their observations and recommendations in terms of how each reader can improve the quality of life and sense of well-being in each dimension.
They observe, "For many people, spirituality is the thread that connects and drives them in [begin italics] all [end italics] of these areas. Their faith is the single most important element in their lives, and it is the foundation of their daily efforts across each of the five areas. For others, a deep mission, such as protecting the environment, drives them each day. While the things that motivate us differ greatly from one person to the next, the outcomes do not."
Readers will especially appreciate Rath and Harter's provision of a brief summary of the "essentials" at the conclusion of the separate chapter they devote to each of the five elements. They also provide seven appendices in the "Additional Tools and Resources" section and thus enable each reader to complete a number of self-diagnostic exercises within the context they have so carefully formulated throughout the preceding narrative. Appendix A, for example, consists of "The Well-Being Finder: Measuring and Managing Your Well-Being" and Appendix G offers a brief but remarkably comprehensive discussion of "Well-Being Around the World."
Credit Tom Rath and Jim Harter with a brilliant achievement of enduring importance and exceptional significance. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time someone has analyzed hundreds of Gallup's global surveys involving millions of respondents and correlated, indeed integrated what they reveal within a framework that embraces five major dimensions of human experience.
I wholeheartedly agree with them that "one of the best ways to create more good days is by setting positive defaults. Any time you can help your short-term self work with your longer-term aims, it presents an opportunity. You can intentionally choose to spend more time with the people you enjoy most and engage your strengths as much as possible." Once our daily choices are in proper alignment with long-term benefits, our families, our friendships, our workplaces, and our communities will become healthier and thus even more worthwhile. If well-being is the objective, then well-becoming is the opportunity.