The Five Essential Elements of Wellbeing

Ben Nash

Based on a recent paper on Wellbeing: the Five Essential Elements, the team at Gallup – one of the world’s largest statistics and polling companies commissioned research to analyse how people assess their own happiness, with some pretty amazing results. The study looked at the universal aspects that mean the difference between a thriving life and one spent suffering, but importantly for us, the things in our lives that we can actually do something about to improve.

Gallup found that when people evaluate the quality of their lives, they often give a disproportionate rating to wealth and health, and argue this is due to the fact these are the easiest to monitor over time. So they spent some time assessing how to measure the other factors that make up our individual wellbeing. I have to say I was shocked to read the outcome.

The factors

The study found five statistical factors that emerged as the universal elements of wellbeing that make the difference between a life spent suffering and one thriving. These factors were as follows:

  • Career wellbeing
  • Social wellbeing
  • Financial wellbeing
  • Physical wellbeing
  • Community wellbeing

The study suggests that we’re not getting the most out of our lives unless we’re living effectively in all five areas.

Surprisingly, the study reported that 33% of all people surveyed worldwide were struggling in all five areas! The other interesting point made was that only 7% of people were doing well in all five elements. Sounds like we all have some work to do!

The problem

The interesting take out for me in reading the article was that a reason humanity as a collective is struggling with this stuff is because of our desire for short term gratification. Initially I was surprised to read this, but the more I thought about this, the more sense it made.

As a Financial Adviser that works mainly with young professionals and business owners, I know that helping my clients balance their short term gratification with their more important and longer term goals is an issue addressed on a daily basis. We often have to balance the desire for instant reward against their desire to get ahead put themselves in a position so they aren’t forced to work forever. But I have to say it’s not always easy!

Let’s face it, we’d much rather spend money than save it – way more fun right…? It’s also much easier to put off going to the gym until tomorrow, doing that extra study to progress your career, or not pick up the phone to call a family member or friend to ask them how they are when we’re caught up with other commitments.

With so many ways to get an instant reward and gratification, it can be difficult to make the right long-term decisions. We often want to take the path that will give the biggest and most immediate reward, even though we actually know this isn’t the best decision in an overall sense.

The solution

From my experience to date helping people balance the short vs. long term conflicts in the financial sphere, I’ve found it’s much easier for anyone to make the right decisions in the short term by focusing really clearly on the specific long term outcomes that will be achieved as a result. When you’re not clear on why you’re giving up that short term gratification, doing what’s best for you longer term is always much harder.

In today’s society with so much focus on immediate gratification, we can be easily tempted to stray off course. But keep your biggest goals in mind and you’ll reap the rewards.

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