Wellbeing: the five essential elements by Tom Rath & Jim Harter. Gallup Press, New York, 2010. Reviewed by William Sheridan.
Let me start by saying that my own wellbeing is VERY high. How do I know this? Many years ago I read both “The Guide to Rational Living in an Irrational World” by Ellis and Harper, and “You’re the Expert ” by Gerald I. Nierenberg, each of which describes and explains how to achieve wellbeing – I have been practicing their good advice ever since.
This book is based on extensive research and analysis of Gallup polling data, from which five clusters of factors emerged – wellbeing is based on a balance of all five. Those wellbeing factors are Career, Relationships, Finances, Health, and Community Involvement. I certainly agree that all these factors are important. There is also available an online wellbeing assessment that is accessible through a unique code from each copy of the book. I took the assessment and received my summary results.
Did the authors get it right? Yes, as a matter of fact, they did! My “Wellbeing Index,” based on the answers to multiple questions that were provided and that I answered honestly and to the best of my ability was 93%! I was therefore rated as “Thriving,” an achievement that only 7% of the tested population accomplished – and this scoring system is claimed to be based on 98% of the population of the entire planet!
All of this was done after I read ONLY the 8-page introduction – I didn’t want to take the chance that reading the remainder of the book would prep me to skew my answers to try and conform to some stereotype that the authors had identified. But with my wellbeing results determined, I was ready to read the remainder of the book. Although the discussion of the wellbeing elements is good, based on my own experience, something was missing, namely the role of learning – since I previously learned the basis and practice of wellbeing, I don’t fit the “typical person profile,” as my results showed. I have also learned NOT to worry about many of the things many other people seem prone to worry about. Lastly, the assessment of some of my factors did NOT take into account that I view these things strategically, and regard any departures from “best practices” as temporary while I invest in my human capital to improve my prospects in the long run. On that basis I would rate my wellbeing index at 99%!
For any readers whose ratings from the online assessment are not in the “thriving” category, this book will point the way to developing habits that can improve their wellbeing. The challenge will be to commit to a plan of implementation, with continual refinements for fine-tuning, and occasional re-assessments on the Wellbeing Tracker to chart their progress. My own recommendation: at any particular point, do the best you can, and don’t “worry” about your own shortcomings – worry can lead to depression, and it doesn’t help – incremental change does help!
William Sheridan is an Advisor on Knowledge Management, and the author of HOW TO THINK LIKE A KNOWLEDGE WORKER and HOW TO GET RESULTS IN KNOWLEDGE WORK. His personal project consists of practicing the elements of wellbeing so as to assure his present and future prospects.