This is the subject of a new book by Tom Rath and James Harter containing the results of a comprehensive global study of more than 150 countries examining more than 98% of the world’s population. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, they obtained answers to hundreds of questions about health, wealth, relationships, jobs, and communities. They then compared these results to how people experience their days and evaluate their lives overall.
In the initial research, they asked people what “the best possible future” for them would look like. They found that when evaluating their lives, people often give disproportionate weight to income and health. Across the groups surveyed, “good health” and “wealth” were two of the most common responses. Perhaps this is because these things are easy to measure and track over time — we can monitor our height, weight, blood pressure, and household income. Yet we do not have a standard way to measure the quality of our careers or the health of our relationships.
So to construct a comprehensive measure of individual wellbeing, Gallup designed an assessment composed of the best questions they have asked over the last 50 years. To create this assessment, the Wellbeing Finder, they tested hundreds of questions across countries, languages, and vastly different life situations.
Five distinct statistical factors emerged. These are the universal elements of wellbeing that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering. They describe aspects of our lives that we can do something about and that are important to people in every situation they studied.
“These elements are the currency of a life that matters. They do not include every nuance of what’s important in life, but they do represent five broad categories that are essential to most people.”
*The first element is about how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do every day: your Career Wellbeing.
*The second element is about having strong relationships and love in your life: your Social Wellbeing.
*The third element is about effectively managing your economic life: your Financial Wellbeing.
*The fourth element is about having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis: your Physical Wellbeing.
*The fifth element is about the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live: your Community Wellbeing.
While 66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7% are thriving in all five. If we’re struggling in any one of these domains, as most of us are, it damages our wellbeing and wears on our daily life. When we strengthen our wellbeing in any of these areas, we will have better days, months, and decades. But we’re not getting the most out of our lives unless we’re living effectively in all five.
Although these elements are universal across faiths, cultures, and nationalities, people take different paths to increasing their individual wellbeing. For many people, spirituality drives them in all these areas. Their faith is the most important facet of their lives, and it is the foundation of their daily efforts. For others, a deep mission, such as protecting the environment, inspires them each day. While the things that motivate us differ greatly from one person to the next, the outcomes do not.
This is a very important piece of research for anyone interested in well being or happiness. Read it.