The Gallup organization has over fifty years of research exploring what contributes most to life satisfaction. They have explored the common elements of well-being that transcend age, country and culture.
Gallup gathered information from more than 150 countries, representing 98% of the world's population, to explore this overarching view of well-being around the world. Scientists asked hundreds of questions about peoples' careers, health, wealth, relationships, and community. They then compared those results with other measures of life satisfaction.
People were asked what "the best possible future" would look like as well as other questions about what contributes to a "good life." This research resulted in the discovery of five distinct factors of well-being. The five universal elements of wellbeing describe aspects of our lives that we can do something about and that are often a focus for coaching goals.
Although these five elements of wellbeing do not include every nuance of what's important for an excellent life, they do represent five categories that are essential for most of your coaching clients. According to Gallup, here are the five elements of wellbeing:
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What percentage of the population is doing well in all five areas of wellbeing? Sixty-six percent of people are doing well in at least one area of wellbeing, but only 7% are thriving in all five. When your coaching client is struggling in any of these domains, as most of us are, it is a drain on their overall life satisfaction, often on a daily basis. When we assist our clients with coaching to strengthen their wellbeing in any of these areas, they will experience immediate noticeable advantages. However, to enjoy the highest life satisfaction our clients need to manage all five areas of wellbeing.
People take different paths to increase their wellbeing and coaching provides the required individualized learning and support to help people with their unique needs. For example, for some people, spirituality is a foundation that profoundly contributes to satisfaction in all five areas. For others, a deep mission, such as political activism or protecting the environment, motivates them every day. There are many pathways to wellbeing success.
There are numerous ways a coaching client may boost their career, social, financial, physical, and community wellbeing because everyone's motivation and situation is unique. Through coaching we help our clients make improvements in their key areas by taking their self-selected action steps such as exercising more, planning higher quality social time, spending more time listening to music, engaging in more networking—or whatever is most needed for the client's particular goals.
Interestingly, the biggest threat to our own wellbeing tends to be ourselves because we often allow our short-term decisions to override what's best for our long-term wellbeing. Peoples' natural short-term orientation often wins out compared to a wiser long-term perspective. For example, people often eat more dessert than is healthy for them, despite objections from our long-term health oriented self that wants a health body and a healthy, long life. When 23,000 people were asked about their routine purchases, only 10% said that they bought candy regularly. But when the same group of people were asked if there was a bowl of candy right in front of them if they would eat some, more than 70% said they would.
Research shows that short-term incentives can be utilized to help with long-term coaching goals.
Help your client find short-term incentives that are consistent with their long-term objectives and it will be much easier for them to make wellbeing enhancing decisions in the moment.
For example, your client may choose to exercise tomorrow morning because she learned that just 20 minutes of activity can boost her mood for the next 12 hours. In this example, the client may be more motivated to exercise now if she is thinking it will help her feel better the entire rest of today (relatively immediate, short-term effect)—but in addition to exercising now she will be contributing to a longer and healthier life later.
The short-term benefit is often the true deciding motivator—not the long term gain. We can harness this tendency of people to focus on immediate benefits to also improve consistent long term progress.
The bottom-line? Help your client identify long term goals. Then, brainstorm with your clients what they can do now that will give them immediate benefits and will simultaneously also support those long-term goals.
Adapted from: Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter