Well Being: A Book Review

Welcome back! Today I’m going to review the book Well Being: The Five Essential Elements. The book was written by Jim Harter and Tom Rath. The book was written in 2010 and at that time well being was simply being researched.

They had done a ton of research on this top and I believe that it is an important topic for companies to look at today. So, what is well being? It’s the combination of the love of what we do every day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in contributing to our communities. Most importantly it is how all five of these elements interact. There is an assessment called the Well Being Finder and if you buy the book, you get a code to take that test. During their research, the authors found out that 66% of those assessed were doing well in one of the elements. While only 7% of people are thriving in all five of the elements.

The first section of the book is about the five elements. The first element is Career Well Being. Only 20 people can give a strong yes to the question, do I like what I’m doing every day. Of course, the odds of having low well being here rapidly diminishes the likelihood of you having high well being in other areas. It’s difficult to succeed if you don’t like what you do every day. A study found by the Economic Journal states that unemployment might be the only major life event that people don’t fully recover from for 5 years. They found that you recover more quickly from the death of a spouse. Being disengaged at work appears to be a leading indicator of subsequent clinical diagnosis of depression. If you don’t like your job, it can lead to depression. Most important for maintaining good health is liking your job. If your manager is primarily focused on your strengths, the chance of being disengaged is just 1%. This is so important for us as employers to know. If you don’t use your strengths at work you get burned out after only 20 hours of work a week.

People who use their strengths (these are the Clifton 34 strengths) are 6 times more likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than 3 times as likely to have an excellent quality of life. So if you use your strengths you are going to be more engaged at work and you’re going to have a better quality of life. There are three recommendations at the end of the chapter.

  1. Use your strengths every day.
  2. Spend more time with someone who encourages your growth.
  3. Opt into more social time with people and teams you enjoy being with at work.

The second section is on Social Well Being. The odds of being happy increase by 15% if a direct connection in your social network is happy. So, if someone you spend a lot of time with is happy, you have a higher chance of being happy as well. Each hour of social time decreases the likelihood of us having a bad day. According to Rath and Harter, if you want to have a good day, have more social time. In a study of more than 15,000 people, they found that if one is over fifty and socially active, their memory decreased at a rate of less than half those who were less socially active. A good thing to do if you are getting to the age of 50. Only 30% of employees have a best friend at work. If you have ever heard of Q12, this is one of the questions they ask. An employee is 7 times more likely to be engaged in their job if they have a best friend at work. They are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, and they have a lower chance of being injured at work. There is only a 1 in 12 chance of someone being engaged in their work if they don’t have a best friend at work. Yet again there are three recommendations at the end of this section.

  1. Spend 6 hours socializing with friends/family/colleges via phone, email, or other communication devices/methods every day.
  2. Strengthen mutual connections in your network.
  3. Mix social and physical time. (Ex. Go for a walk with your spouse or friend so that you can talk but also exercises you both.)

The third section of the book is Financial Well Being. Money can increase your happiness in the short term. A team of Harvard researchers found that spending on one’s self doesn’t boost our well being. Spending on others does increase our well being. It also increases our happiness. Spending money on things only increases happiness in the short term; however, spending money on experiences like vacations, dinners out create and increase our well being. They found that managing our finances well allows us to do what we want to do when we want to do it. The three recommendations at the end of this section are:

  1. Buy experiences.
  2. Spend on others instead of on material possessions.
  3. Establish a default system. (Like having automatic payments)

Next section, Physical Well Being. One comment made in this chapter is to buy fruits and vegetables that have darker tones: reds, blues, greens. The authors found that of over 400,000 Americans surveyed, only 27% got 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week or more. 70 trials were done to prove that actually exercise is more effective at eliminating fatigue than prescription drugs. Exercise was also found to give you a boost in confidence, from a well being standpoint as well as looking and feeling good. There’s also a smaller section on sleep. There was a study done that divided people into two sections and gave them difficult problems to solve. They were told that there was a simpler solution to the problems than how they were told to solve them. One section of people got to sleep in between the sections of testing and the other did not. The section of people who were allowed to sleep was 2.5 times more likely to figure out the problem than the other group. Another finding is that people who get 7 hours of sleep or less a night are three times more likely to get a cold than those who get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. The three recommendations at the end of the chapter are:

  1. Get 20 minutes of activity a day.
  2. Sleep 7-8 hours a night. (Americans average 6.5 hours a night)
  3. Load up on natural foods that are red, blue, and green.

The fifth section is on Community Well Being. This element can be the deciding factor between a good life or a great one. Once you feel a sense of security, the next factor is where do you live. Is it a good location for your personality, family, interests, and other pursuits? One of the findings of the study on well being was there was no gift as good/valuable as our time. In a study of over 23,000 people, 9 out of 10 people reported getting a boost from doing kind things for people. The final chapter has three final recommendations.

  1. Identify how you can contribute to your community.
  2. Tell people about your passions so that they can connect you with others.
  3. Opt into a community group or event.

The book ends with a section on “Our Thoughts” and a section of excellent resources that go over a lot of the studies that were done for the book.

I am a certified Clifton Strengths coach, I am also trained in doing Q12 Employee Engagement. If you or your company would like to learn more about these two areas contact me at coachjeffgarrett@gmail.com or through my website. Remember, Be Great!



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