Customer Reviews: Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements
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This is Tom Rath's latest book, co-authored with Jim Harter whose previous book, 12: The Elements of Great Managing, Harter co-authored with Rodd Wagner. Rath explains that in addition to their own research for this book, he and Harter consulted an abundance of research conducted by the Gallup Organization with which they are associated. Moreover, "Gallup assembled an assessment composed of the best questions asked over the last 50 years. To create this assessment, the Well-Being Finder, we tested hundreds of questions across countries, languages, and vastly different life situations."

For me, some of the most important revelations include those that help to explain how people (in a 150 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe) experience their days and evaluate their lives overall. More specifically, as Rath and Harter explain, five distinct statistical factors emerged. "These core dimensions are universal elements of well-being, or how we think about and experience our lives - the interconnected elements that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering." Although 66% of those surveyed are doing well in one of the five areas, only 7% are thriving in all five. "These five factors are the currency of a life that is worthwhile. They describe demands of life that we can all [begin italics] do something about [end italics] and that are important to people in every life situation we studied." Here they are, with my own take on each:

Career Well-Being: To be eager to begin work each day, feel appreciated as a person as well as an employee, respect supervisor, enjoys associates, speak with pride and appreciation about company to others

Social Well-Being: To have several strong relationships, be able toactivate a support system when encountering problems, feel loved

Financial Well-Being: To manage finances prudently, be aware of costs and in control of expenditures, frugal but not cheap

Physical Well-Being: To get sufficient rest as well as rigorous regular exercise, have plenty of energy in reserve, eat sensibly)

Note: In Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, John Ratey explains why there is a direct and decisive correlation between a healthy lively body and a healthy lively brain. Those who have a special interest in this important subject are strongly urged to check out Ratey's book.

Community Well-Being: To be actively and productively engaged in the neighborhood and in the community as well as in various groups within the area such as a church, P.T.A., Crime Watch, Meals on Wheels, homeowners' association, etc.

Rath and Harter have much of value to say about each of these five dimensions of human experience such as their core values, sources of nutrition, strategies for development, threats to well-being, and interdependence with each other. Of even greater value, in my opinion, they suggest what lessons can be learned from responses to Gallup's global surveys during the last 50 years and offer their observations and recommendations in terms of how each reader can improve the quality of life and sense of well-being in each dimension.

They observe, "For many people, spirituality is the thread that connects and drives them in [begin italics] all [end italics] of these areas. Their faith is the single most important element in their lives, and it is the foundation of their daily efforts across each of the five areas. For others, a deep mission, such as protecting the environment, drives them each day. While the things that motivate us differ greatly from one person to the next, the outcomes do not."

Readers will especially appreciate Rath and Harter's provision of a brief summary of the "essentials" at the conclusion of the separate chapter they devote to each of the five elements. They also provide seven appendices in the "Additional Tools and Resources" section and thus enable each reader to complete a number of self-diagnostic exercises within the context they have so carefully formulated throughout the preceding narrative. Appendix A, for example, consists of "The Well-Being Finder: Measuring and Managing Your Well-Being" and Appendix G offers a brief but remarkably comprehensive discussion of "Well-Being Around the World."

Credit Tom Rath and Jim Harter with a brilliant achievement of enduring importance and exceptional significance. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time someone has analyzed hundreds of Gallup's global surveys involving millions of respondents and correlated, indeed integrated what they reveal within a framework that embraces five major dimensions of human experience.

I wholeheartedly agree with them that "one of the best ways to create more good days is by setting positive defaults. Any time you can help your short-term self work with your longer-term aims, it presents an opportunity. You can intentionally choose to spend more time with the people you enjoy most and engage your strengths as much as possible." Once our daily choices are in proper alignment with long-term benefits, our families, our friendships, our workplaces, and our communities will become healthier and thus even more worthwhile. If well-being is the objective, then well-becoming is the opportunity.
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on August 20, 2010
I read the Rath and Hartner wellbeing book and I loved it. I teach Positive Psychology at the University level and found it really attractive to have something so authoritative and concise and so user friendly. The relevance of the info and how only useful info was included was also attractive. I read in on the bus and only took less then 1.5 hrs. The ease of reading was a big plus. The 112 pages of core text is impressive because it is so very jam packed with vital/key info, but not in a cluttered way or a way that made the info inaccessible. I know the research and so know what was being said had plenty of empirical support. Yet, the science foundation was strategically downplayed in favor of increased user-friendlyness and accessibility. Lack of references was a plus in regards student buy-in/uptake/readability. So, to summarize, the main thing I liked most was the concise efficiency and effectiveness/persuasiveness of info delivery.

Plus, each sentence was masterfully crafted for maximum communication value in a way that packed a desirable intellectual punch. Bravo to the authors for making an art out of communicating science. Its a really truly a work of art. Rarely is science make to be so very appealing to the popular culture. And not just appealing but useful info too. I liked how it was both an authoritative read but also a friendly read.

In terms of weaknesses, being a psychologist, i felt the major limitation was they left out what I consider to be the 6th Element. It really did come as a surprise that Rath and Hartner overlooked Psychological Wellbeing. I see they compensated for the excessive autistic nature of many Psychological models of Wellbeing. It was a real strength to include coverage of career, social, physical wellbeing. I don't often see financial wellbeing being included and liked the expanded concern with the person's ecology. The chapter on community wellbeing was wonderful, again featuring the contextualized person. But, the thinking, feeling, yearning, experiencing, sensing, and motivated person was missing. A 6th Element to address this would make the next edition of the wellbeing book more appealing to psychologists. Still, its incredibly strong and I will extract some info and place it in my lectures when i teach Positive Psychology in the Fall of 2010, at the University of Windsor (Ontario Canada).s
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on May 23, 2010
This book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, is more than just an amazing read it's also an ongoing process. I'll explain. Tom Rath and Jim Harter, both associated with Gallup, were involved in the design of an assessment - the Wellbeing Finder - that tested hundreds of questions across 150 countries and multiple languages, with populations in vastly different life situations. What emerged from the research were five universal elements of well-being that differentiate individuals who are suffering or thriving in their lives. These elements include career wellbeing, social wellbeing, financial wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and community wellbeing.

The book covers all of these areas, as well as much of the research, and provides a rather straightforward guide to help individuals get more out of life and boost their own wellbeing. More than that, within the book you will be able to find a key that allows you to do an online assessment of all these five areas and compare yourself to a large database of individuals demographically. In addition it is possible to record well-being on a daily basis, on all of these five factors, and get some sense of how sometimes subtle changes in your routine or experience can have a significant affect on your wellbeing.

What I love about this book, and the online assessment tool, is that reading it and actively participating in the process really provides you with some concrete areas to improve. The authors make it clear that many of us are unwilling to make long-term changes in our habits even if we know that maintaining our presence lifestyles will lead to significant long-term consequences. Their understanding that regular evidenced-based feedback and concrete goals and action plans can make a huge difference in whether we just survive or thrive.

This is going to be a very popular book!
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on February 5, 2013
I work for a company that promotes wellness. I was actually really confused when I first heard of these "five essential elements of wellbeing" and thought someone must have made an error in the presentation I was listening to because there was absolutely no mention of any psychological or emotional wellness contributing to wellbeing. I found out it's not one of the five components. So I bought the book, thinking surely it would explain the absence in some reasonable way to me. Not so. It's just... missing. As if the 57.7 million Americans with mental disorders could just get a better job or improve their social lives and perhaps their illness would disappear?

I'm not saying the components mentioned aren't important- all of those things contribute to the authors definition of wellbeing: "the things that are important to how we think about and experience our lives." But I found that the authors' "advice" even on these other topics was pretty flimsy. In the career wellbeing section we are advised to "avoid sustained periods of unemployment (over a year) when you are actively seeking a job but unable to find one." Since most unemployed people are not unemployd by choice, and the author is actually acknowledging that they are unable to find a job...I fail to see how that is at all helpful (and it's actually a bit insulting... to the unemployed person and my intelligence).

Basically, the views here are quite simplistic. We found out that people with "high wellbeing" are passionate about their everyone should have a job they are passionate about. What a lovely idea! How exactly, does that work? Since it's probably more realistic in many cases to say that a person would be unable to leave a job they are unhappy with due to financial obligations and a poor job market, focus might be better placed on improving an employees' outlook (psychological/emotional) or improving the workplace environment. I think most of the book, and the financial chapter in particular, is speaking to a smaller percentage of Americans who do have more economic choices and freedom... in the midst of our present economy, and when the reality is that a third of the country has a household income of less than $25k, advising people to spend money on vacations for "the experience" comes across as a bit out of touch.

Reporting data is one thing. Interpreting what that data really means is much more complicated. This book does a great disservice to the data by leaving big chunks of who we are out of the picture.
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on November 24, 2014
The elements of well-being are based on a gallup poll. This ignores a big source of well-being: your thoughts and attitudes and overall mental health. For some, religion and spirituality would be a piece of the pie, but this book does not mention that, either. One of my values is growth and learning, again not mentioned.
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on January 3, 2011
I've read previous books and expected more from this book. Most is common sense and refers back to research. I walked away with a couple of good points, but didn't think it was worth the money. It would had been nice to tie wellbeing somehow back to previous strengths and weeknesses. It's so so, a fast easy read.
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on September 8, 2013
I've adopted the well-being philosophy in everything I do and everything I do can be placed within one of the five elements. Research shows that for a person to be truly satisfied with their life they need to thrive in these five elements of well-being: physical, financial, community, career, and social. It's not enough to thrive in only a few. You know the saying, "Money doesn't buy happiness." Well here's the research. If you are not thriving in even one category, it can have a major impact on your overall wellbeing.

The key to implementing strategies to improve your well-being is small steps. Take on one element at a time. But when you move on to the next element, you need to continue what you've been doing to improve the other. Gradually adding small things for each area to make an until you are thriving in all five. It's not impossible, but it take patience, persistence, and positivity.

This book comes with an access code to take WellbeingFinder which will allow you to track your overall and elemental well-being daily and monthly through a series of questions. It really works!

I recommend this book to anyone looking to discover why they don't feel satisfied when it feels like they may have everything they need.
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on September 4, 2015
I was disappointed with this book. The research behind it was interesting but I felt like the major elements that were missing were in regards to the relationship with the self. One can strive to be healthy in all the ways Rath mentioned but if it is just a matter of crossing something off of a list I am not sure if one is living their best life.

And one of the things that I majorly disagree with is how career well being impacts other aspects of life.I think that there are healthier workplaces than others. However I have also experienced that in my more negative work situations it is also about the mindset that you have. Ie..I can't control how much money I make but I can control how I spend the money I earn. I may be upset with a situation at work but how do I make sure I don't take it out on my husband or my parents. And when I have been unemployed or underemployed I am better with exercising daily.

In that regard the mindset about the situation one is in speaks more to a person's overall well-being than the situation itself. This makes me think that Mindset by Carol Dweck the best book I've ever read in this genre.

Don't get me wrong there are some good points in this book but if I could get my money back for this book I wouldn't complain. I found that Rath's Strengths Finder was a better book.
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on March 24, 2015
The real value of this book is in the included license to the Wellbeing Finder platform ( to track your well being for 6 months. You could say what you're investing in (time and/or money) is in the research & design of the technology. The book is a simple read and is in many ways a "manual" to share the WHY behind it all. The 2nd half of the book outlining the research methods used - the references are excellent.

I'm 1 week into the process and they are correct - the process of tracking and measuring encourages you to reflect and inquire into why the numbers you get are the way they are and make the appropriate changes in your life. With its focus on the 5 elements, I personally would recommend referring to other books to do any required deep dives. Here are some examples (some Gallup published, others aren't):

1. physical - Eat Move Sleep is my current bible (published by Gallup). These 3 areas can be dived into further: eat:The Pleasure Trap; sleep: The Twenty-Four-Hour Society; move: currently reading Sweat Your Prayers with my bias towards dance as my "fun" way to move :)
2. social - Vital Friends is a Gallup-published book. Lots of excellent relationship books out there - find one that works for you. Tribal Leadership is excellent when you are ready to shift your focus from creating dyads to triads in your life.
3. financial - balancing common sense with Secrets of the Millionaire Mind and principles of The Zeitgeist Movement Defined and The Best That Money Can't Buy. BOLD is excellent if you are an entrepreneur interested in "exponential thinking"
4. career - Take the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 if you haven't already. It will not only impact your career, it will impact the 4 other areas of well being tremendously. Business Model You is excellent for those of you interested in applying entrepreneurial thinking to your own life.
5. community - Your deep dive here really depends on the type of contribution you wish to be to your community. Is it philanthropy or "straight up" volunteering or something else? The training provided in the Wisdom Area at Landmark Worldwide is an excellent foundation (note: not a book - sometimes it requires actually getting your head out of books, out the house, and be with your community! :)

The 5 elements is a research-driven framework that speaks to all walks of life. If you can see it as such, you'll find the book creates focus and may transform the way you see your life - more importantly, it creates a context to communicate your well being needs and listen for the well being needs of others.
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on December 11, 2010
This book reiterates what most of us already know. (I tend to purchase books in this genre so none of this information was really new to me.) For example, if you don't already know that in general people should be eating less and exercising & sleeping more, then I imagine you have been living in a cave. What I found most interesting were the studies cited, and the Gallup organization is known for its wealth of data so this is no surprise. All in all, it wasn't bad, but I am puzzled as to why anyone would give this book five stars.
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