You may recall that I mentioned the 2010 book by Rath and Harter, “Well-being: The Five Essential Elements,” in an earlier article in this series on the foundation of well-being. According to the statistical studies reported in the book, career well-being (defined as what it is that one does every day) contributes to overall well-being more than twice any other type of well-being(e.g. social, financial, physical, and community.)
My personal experience is in line with this finding. When I’m pleased with the career aspect of my life, I see it reflected in a strong sense of overall well-being. It is not surprising that an area of life that we spend the majority of our time on, and give our attention to, becomes the biggest contributor to our well-being.
But let’s not stop at defining career as what one does. Do you know the 5 Ws and the H of Journalism, those questions that elicit the facts that appear in news articles? The 5 W’s are who, what, when, where, and why, and the H is how.
I contend that people have unique motivations for work/career that are answered by one primary question raised by the 5 Ws and the H. For some people, it is the what they do that is key to their well-being. But for other people, the who of their career may be more important to their well-being. If a person is surrounded during the day by people who(m) they care for, their career-wellbeing is as high as that of someone who is doing what they love.
The same argument exists for the value of when someone is pursing their career (nightshifts are not for everyone), or where they are working. The question of why someone works will be most valuable to some, and how they do their work will be of highest value to others.
These distinctions capture the uniqueness of each individual and become important in assessing one’s well-being. If a person who is fulfilled by who(m) they work with, but has no special passion for what they do, then it’s possible that they view themselves as having low career-wellbeing. Yet, if asked if they love who(m) they work with, they’d say ‘yes’ and view themselves with high career-wellbeing.
Since well-being in the aspect of career is twice as influential to overall well-being as other aspects of well-being, it is useful to be able to assess career well-being clearly. An accurate appraisal of overall well-being is likely to determine first which 5W and H question most fulfills an individual in their career, and then assess career well-being in light of that motivation. While individuals can have a mix of these career motivators, honoring the dominant motivation for a career enhances both one’s career well-being and overall well-being.