9 Common Wellbeing Myths

Wellbeing Myths DebunkedWellbeing Myth 1. You can’t define wellbeing

The first of our wellbeing myths is about definition. Defining wellbeing is much the same as trying to define and characterise life.  There is no unequivocal definition. However if we don’t define wellbeing how will we know what to do to improve it?

At Improveon we have defined and characterised wellbeing by looking across the definitions and characteristics provided by many of the measures outlined later in this article and referring to countless other studies and research. By using our unique CANBE model individuals, teams and organisations can review wellbeing, put in place plans to improve and measure success.

Wellbeing Myth 2. Everyone’s wellbeing is unique

This is a wellbeing myth we wouldn’t wholeheartedly disagree with. However whilst everyone will approach wellbeing in their own unique way, as described throughout this article, there are characteristics that apply to all. For example, everyone benefits from having meaning in their life. Without meaning there is less motivation and purpose.

To create meaning individuals, teams and organisations should get a clear understanding of their values, personality, character, strengths and skills. This provides a sense of identity and will help them focus on things that are most important and meaningful. Clearly each of these things will be unique to the individual, team or organisation but having a sense of meaning is relevant to all.

As another example, generally speaking, giving people greater autonomy and involvement in decision making will also contribute to their wellbeing. How each individual chooses to engage with this will obviously be unique to them.

People also like to achieve things. This helps build confidence and makes people feel good. Resilience and sustainability are other core components of wellbeing. If we can’t overcome obstacles, adapt and sustain ourselves then wellbeing is diminished.

Wellbeing Myth 3. Wellbeing is just about physical health

Of course physical health is extremely important to wellbeing. However we can be the fittest person in the world but with poor mental health our wellbeing may suffer. 

Wellbeing Myth 4. Wellbeing is just about physical and mental health

Good mental and physical health are fundamental to our wellbeing. However one of the greatest contributors to our wellbeing is the strength of our social network.  How well we nurture relationships is so important to our wellbeing.

Wellbeing Myth 5. Wellbeing is all about me

As we’ve seen strong relationships are key to our personal wellbeing. ¹Research has shown that kindness, compassion and giving to others builds wellbeing both for the recipient and the person giving. So wellbeing is about ‘me’ and ‘we’.

Of course wellbeing is even more than this. Taking it a step further if we fail to care for the other species on our planet, or our planet itself, there will be grave consequences in the future.

Wellbeing Myth 6. Money doesn’t buy happiness

Of course money isn’t everything but it does matter. Scientists often describe wellbeing and happiness in terms of:

  • Life satisfaction: a personal assessment that one’s life is good and worth living
  • Positive affect: a term used to describe the feeling of a positive emotion such as joy
  • Subjective wellbeing: A combination of the two previous measures in which people evaluate their lives in respect to life satisfaction and emotional state

²Research on a sample of the American population by Daniel Kahneman & Angus Deaton in 2010 found that an increase in income does impact on people’s life satisfaction, even to levels well above $120,000 but that above $75,000 there were no improvements to positive effect.  Low income is associated with both lower levels of life satisfaction and positive affect. So money does matter to our personal wellbeing.

When we look at the organisational level it is also clear that money matters. Without sufficient profit or cashflow our businesses will flounder. However an imbalanced focus on profit alone will lead us down the wrong path. Perhaps Walt Disney summed it up best when he said “I don’t make movies to make money, I make money to make movies.’ Organisations that make money with a purpose will be the winners in the future.

Wellbeing Myth 7. You can’t measure wellbeing

Measuring wellbeing is definitely much harder than measuring GDP or your own personal bank balance. However just because it’s harder doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Many measures at the global and international level are now focusing on measuring wellbeing in one form or another. Examples include:

So we can and should try to measure wellbeing. Improveon can help you with this. In an organisation you might also have indicators around recruitment, retention, sickness & absence, engagement, productivity, customer satisfaction and brand reputation for example. These can all provide useful direction as to what needs to be done to improve the wellbeing of your people, customers and within your organisation as a whole. 

Wellbeing Myth 8. If we focus on wellbeing we’ll be taking our eye off the ball. There are things that are more important than wellbeing

Wellbeing is the ball, the goal, the pitch, the players, the spectators and everything else connected. Taking this at the global level what is more important than the wellbeing of our planet and the human race?

If we look at this from an organisational level why does your organisation exist? If it isn’t to create some form of wellbeing then what does it do? Our organisations, whether private or public, have been created by us to help make our lives better. How is your organisation creating wellbeing and making the world a better place for the employees, customers, suppliers and the communities it serves?

Looking at this from an individual perspective what is more important than wellbeing for you, your family and community?

Wellbeing Myth 9. Improving wellbeing requires significant financial investment

Whether approaching this as an individual, team or organisation a good starting place is to ask what poor wellbeing is costing you, or by switching it around, what better wellbeing would lead to. As an example, if you are an individual with stress, could that be costing you the promotion you’ve dreamed of? Are your relationships at home or work strained? Better wellbeing could lead to that promotion or save a flagging relationship. What would that be worth? 

As an organisation you can use the indicators already outlined above as a way of determining what better wellbeing might be worth. This article on developing a wellbeing strategy may also help.

Once you have an idea of the problems or opportunities you’re trying to solve you’ll be better placed to understand how much you might like to invest. Investments do not need to be significant and as wellbeing consultants, coaches and trainers we can often point you in the direction of free or low cost resources that may help. 

However improving wellbeing is not achieved over night. Significant returns and benefits can be achieved with the right level of commitment and a thorough approach. Excellent solutions will lead to long term transformative changes. 

Wellbeing Myths In Summary

Wellbeing is unique to everyone but can be defined and characterised for all. The importance it is given will all depend on how we define and characterise it. To define it narrowly, in terms of physical and mental health, will not help us realise the biggest impact.

Broader measures of wellbeing  including physical, mental, spiritual, financial, social and environmental elements help us realise the biggest gains. When thought of in this way it is the most progressive focus for development at individual, group, organisational, community, country and even international level and will ensure we progress in a balanced and sustainable manner.  

When you think about wellbeing, whether you are an individual, team or organisation, take a more holistic approach and remember that we’re all part of a system with each part reliant on the other.

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¹Greater Good In Action Science based practices for a meanigful life – Making Giving Feel Good – Evidence that it works

²High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being – Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton