Thursday, June 24, 2010

Well Being: The Five Essential Elements

Well Being: The Five Essential Elements
by Tom Rath and James K. Harter
Published by Gallup Press

Gallup had to go all over the world to discover that there are five things everyone needs to have well being in their life. Well being is defined as what makes a thriving life. Gallup took some of its essential questions that they have asked over the last fifty years, refined them and interviewed people in a variety of cultures, countries and walks of life.

What they found was that there are five main elements to thriving in life and these five are interdependent upon on another. The five main elements are your career, your social life, your body or physical health, your financial health and your participation in your community.

Career is what you do every day from your job to your volunteer activities. If you look forward to your job, then you are thriving in this element. If you dread Monday but look forward to quitting time, then you are not doing so well in your career element. And in time, this can effect the other four elements such as your health and your social interaction. Who wants to be around someone who is always complaining about their job?

Social well being is pretty self-explanatory. What I did like is the explanation of not just who you are friends with but your friends' friends. The stronger your friends' relationships are, the healthier your relationship with your friend will be. It was also interesting to hear that your career well being is stronger when you have good relationships and close friendships with your coworkers. In fact, Rath suggests that you spend at least 6 hours at work in social interaction - in everything from email to phone calls to lunch.

Financial well being is not about being rich. However, we feel much better about our finances when we make more than our peers and neighbors. We need to feel like we have enough to meet our needs. But we feel best when we are able to spend money on things that create memories or help others. In other words, you are better off buying something for someone else than you are going on a shopping spree. You will feel better if you spend money on a vacation rather than a piece of jewelry. Memories, not stuff, is what creates healthy financial well being.

Physical well being is one of those areas where it is easiest to make small daily changes yet we really resist. Just 20 minutes of exercise - including strength training - can improve our mood and outlook. Making smart grocery shopping decisions can also effect our choices when we are at home and are hungry.

Community well being includes everything from volunteering to being active in a faith community to simply being aware of things happening in your neighborhood. This was the one area that I was surprised about. I suppose if this book had been written from a Christian point of view, this might be entitled Spiritual well being. However, it is suggested that this part of our well being is more than believing in some sort of higher power. It is about being active in our communities.

My Impressions

Although I enjoyed reading about these five elements, I wanted more personal stories and examples, especially from other countries. And I was really frustrated that there was yet another online test that could be taken to get your results on the areas in your life that were lacking (this is typical of Gallup books -- they make their money from the books and online tests). I am pretty much able to determine what area I need to strengthen. Also, the authors suggested taking small, daily steps in improving these areas but their suggestions were a bit vague. How, for example, are you supposed to improve your career well being when you are just fortunate to have a job? What do you do when your poor health makes it impossible for you to work? I wanted some further fleshing out at this point. Perhaps I would get that information if I took their survey. However, it taking the survey was too detail oriented for my tastes. 

I do agree that, in order to have a good life, we must keep all five elements in balance with each other. All these elements are truly interdependent.

What this book speaks to me about my faith

Now we need a book on the five elements to help us have faithful well being!

What would I include in such a book?
1) Physical
2) Stewardship
3) Church community
4) Spirituality
5) Study

Physical well being would be a part of this. I would change career to calling (God calls each one of us to some sort of service). Financial well being would be about stewardship and giving. Social would be combined with community. In other words, I think that being a part of a network of believers helps us both be social and be connected with the world around us. In a church community, we are learning how to love one another and to spread the gospel through witness and mission.

I would add a spirituality component. This would include prayer, receiving holy communion, fasting and regularly worshiping God.

The last component would be study. This would include studying the Bible, religious literature and reading secular literature in the light of one's Christian faith.

How well balanced are you in your life? How is your well being in your life of faith?


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