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5 Elements to Living Your Best Life: Interview with Tom Rath

The common misconception is that if you’re wealthy, you’ll have greater levels of happiness and a higher overall well-being.  Research has found, however, this is not the case.

The definition of well-being as defined by Tom Rath is how you experience life everyday and how you rate your overall experiences.  It’s more than just happiness; it’s your level of satisfaction in everything you do!

In his latest New York Times bestseller, Well-being:  The Five Essential Elements, Tomprovides a holistic view of the major areas that contribute to overall well-being, each day in your life.

In the following interview, Tom shares his experience and research from working at Gallup and shows how balance in the following five elements will contribute to positive well-being and life satisfaction.

  • Career Well-being: How can you maintain high career well-being if you’re unengaged by your job?
  • Social Well-being: How much social time should you really be spending in a day?
  • Financial Well-being: Will an increase in your income truly amount to an increase in your financial well-being?
  • Physical Well-being: How can you stay motivated to exercise in the short-term to benefit from the long-term effects?
  • Community Well-being: Will involvement in charity organizations truly increase your overall well-being?

Here’s an excerpt from our conversation.  Download the Tom’s full interview now!

Robert:  There’s been a lot of research (and you even mentioned some of it in the book) that we really are pretty bad at predicting what’s going to make us happy in the long term. And why do you think that is? Why do you think we’re just so bad at being able to figure out what it is that’s going to make us happy? We put a lot of emphasis on making money and our health, yet at the end of the day those two things aren’t necessarily the ones that make a richer life.

Tom: Yeah, you know, what’s interesting to me is when we look at if there’s any relative order of importance out of those five we don’t say that one is necessarily more important than another. But when we look at what has the strongest statistical relationship to overall evaluation of your life, the first one is your career well-being, or kind of your mission, purpose and meaning of what you’re doing when you wake up each day. The second one is your social well-being, your relationships. Financial and physical in that order are actually third and fourth, if you try and force them into in order of importance. And my stance personally, just more of an observation, is just that, you know, our financial health or wealth let’s just say, is relatively easy to measure. So, you know, how much money you’re making an hour, in a year, a lot of people know their net worth overall and that’s kind of easy to compare and see how that is versus your neighbor or your colleague—whatever it might be. We know those statistics about our physical health; we know how much we weigh; we know how much we eat on day to day basis (the number of calories), but we really don’t have very good measures about how our careers are doing in a comprehensive way that we can track and follow. We don’t have any measures in most cases around the health of our social relationships, of what we’re giving to the community. And one of the things that we really learned over the years in working with people and organizations around their strengths and engagements is what gets measured, gets managed. And so we know how to measure our BMI, and so, we manage towards it. We know how to measure our wealth, so we spend a lot of time spinning our wheels to increase that number of hourly earnings or whatever it might be. But that might lead us to take a little bit of focus off the time we spend with our families and what we’re putting into our broader career pursuits and path and so forth.

Robert: And you think because some of these are so easy to measure we shine a light on them and therefore we give more energy to those?

Tom: Yeah, I think that’s a part of it. I mean, certainly there are other things that contribute to focusing more energy, narrowing those areas , but , you know, it’s interesting. One of the real surprising findings from our nightly tracking in the US particularly, we ask people how much time they spend with friends or family members—social time any given day. And the people who are the happiest, if you have no social time in a day you have about as many bad moments than good ones, so it’s kind of stressful day. But each additional hour of social time kind of doubles your chances of having more happy moments than pure stressful moments, all the way up to the five or six hours, where people are doing real good—whether it’s time they spent socializing at work, talking to friends on the telephone, instant messaging, emailing, time at home with family. They get about five or six hours of social time a day; that was a lot more than any of us had ever expected, especially anyone in our research team. And we kind of step back and look at it and sure enough, I mean, every additional hour of social time could be just as important or more important as every additional hour of sleep. And you don’t think about it in that respect.

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