To Whom It May Concern:
Lately I have been asking myself a series of questions:
Why am I here?
Who am I?
What can I contribute?
What legacy am I going to leave?
I listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast with the great Coach George Raveling. Coach Rav is 80, has a five-year plan, is a voracious bibliophile, a purposeful giver, and an overall “Human Google.” He led me to the following thought:
Your number one goal for your journey on earth is to grow into your fullest potential. Set the goal of pouring your energy into your personal vision of your best possible self. Learn. Listen. Flourish.
I wondered what it would be like to live deep into your 80s and 90s. Where could I find answers about a life well lived that are backed by research?
Gallup scientists of course.
“Gallup scientists have been exploring the demands of a life well lived since the mid-20thcentury. More recently, in partnership with leading economists, psychologists, and other acclaimed scientists, we began to explore the common elements of wellbeing that transcend countries and cultures.”
According to researchers at Gallup, you should focus on the five essential elements of wellbeing.
“Wellbeing is about the combination of our love for what we do each day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in what we have contributed to our communities. Most importantly, it’s about how these 5 elements interact.”
And how did they come to these five essential elements?
“As part of their research, Gallup conducted a comprehensive global study of more than 150 countries, giving us a lens into the wellbeing of more than 98% of the world’s population. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, we asked hundred of questions about health, wealth, relationships, jobs, and communities. We then compared these results to how people experience their days and evaluate their lives overall.”
Keep in mind the elements of the assessments measured by Gallup and Rath are within our control. We can choose how we spend our days and with whom we spend our time. We have the ability to select healthy food to eat. As the elements are explored, a great first step is to acknowledge what positive habits you want to see in your daily life. Rath defines them as “positive defaults.”
“One of the best ways to create more good days is by setting positive defaults. Any time you help your short-term self work with your long-term self, you have an opportunity. You can intentionally choose to spend more time with the people you enjoy most and engage your strengths as much as possible. Through these daily choices in the moment, you can create stronger friendships, families, workplaces, and communities.”
It took only a moment to think about two people from your gene pool that personified these attributes.
Like Coach Rav, both lived a long wonderful life under their own terms.
They found their tribe within a social community.
They focused on experiences rather than material things.
And in their own way, they did their best to take care of themselves. A taco supreme every now and then or a bowl of ice cream never hurt anybody, right?
She lived in her house until a little after her 90thbirthday.
She lived through the Roaring 20s and the Great Depression. She said goodbye and welcomed back her love from a World War. She watched as the Towers collapsed and the Internet connected us to the world. To her friends in the Eastern Stars, she was Nel, but to us, she was Gram.
This word came up over and over again when the members of Messiah Church described your GG Richard. He rode on a destroyer in the Pacific. He lost his wife at 87 and lived 6 more years on his own terms. He participated in the choir at church and was in a walking group. At 93. No matter the environment or the experience, everything was always “joyful.”
In their research, Gallup found that Physical Wellbeing is defined as having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis. People with thriving Physical Wellbeing effectively manage their health. They exercise regularly and feel better throughout the day as a result. They make good dietary choices, which keeps their energy high throughout the day and sharpens their thinking. They get enough sleep to feel well rested and to process what they learned –and to get a good start on the next day. People with thriving Physical Wellbeing look better, feel better, and will live longer.
GG walked. And he walked. And he walked some more. Even into his 90s. While he walked, I can picture him listening. In the years I knew him, he didn’t speak up a lot. While the walking helped raise his physical wellbeing, finding a tribe (even in his 80s) elevated his Social and Community Wellbeing.
Exercise could also include gardening or working in the yard. Gram always insisted on keeping her yard up. The energy expended taking care of her yard gave her an extra push in the other parts of her daily life. She had more energy to find her “tribe” that contributed to her Community Wellbeing.
If you take care of your body with the proper meals, movement, and get enough rest, it will have a ripple effect in the other areas of your wellbeing.
According to Gallup researchers and the author, Community Wellbeing is the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live. They take pride in their community, and they believe it is headed in the right direction. This often results in wanting to give back and make a lasting contribution to society. People with thriving Community Wellbeing have identified areas where they can contribute to their community based on their strengths and passions. The positive outcomes of high community wellbeing may be what differentiates a good life from a great one.
After his walking group, GG Richard turned his attention to giving back. He delivered meals with joy to those in need. He sang with the choir and was very involved in his church community. GG’s strength came from his faith. It held him together in the tough times and boosted them in happy times. He took pride in his tribe and wanted to leave it better than it was when he arrived.
Gram loved to cook and sew. Each week she arrived with her friends at Eastern Stars to create these little dolls that they made to raise money. She helped to cook and put on dinners at the Hall. She served at those dinners and was always in the middle of the conversation. She took what she was good at to help others, which enhanced her life a great deal.
Social Wellbeing is defined as strong relationships and love in your life by the Gallup Researchers and Rath. People with thriving Social Wellbeing have several close relationships that help them achieve, enjoy life, and be healthy. They are surrounded by people who encourage their development and growth. They make time for gatherings and trips that strengthen these relationships even more. As a result, people with thriving Social Wellbeing have great relationships, which gives them positive energy on a daily basis.
Gram had the ability to meld into any group, discussing anything from current events or reminiscing about the matching Mustangs she had with my grandfather. Gram loved to go on trips and visit the ballpark. One of her favorite pastimes late in her life was ordering items off of the TV. A highlight of her day was the conversation with the post carrier and what was in the box. I always smile when I think about how much she would have loved Amazon Prime.
Amongst his walking group friends, GG Richard was by far the oldest. After their walks he would buy the entire group coffee at McDonalds. He personified the idea of strength in numbers. With the group’s positive energy, GG continued to grow and helped him stretch even further. At the age of 89, GG Richard boarded a plane for a daytrip for Veterans to Washington DC. Left at 6AM and arrived back at 10PM or so. No big deal. How did he do it? The energy from his Community and his strong Social Wellbeing.
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Financial Wellbeing is effectively managing your economic life. Rath and Gallup concluded that people with thriving Financial Wellbeing are satisfied with their overall standard of living. People with high Financial Wellbeing spend their money wisely. They buy experiences that provide them with lasting memories. They give to others and don’t just spend on themselves. As a result of managing their money wisely, they have the financial freedom to spend even more time with the people whose company they enjoy the most.
To me, GG Richard and Gram never seemed to worry about money. They obviously both had taken the lessons learned through wartimes and saved properly. They both gave to their respective churches and to organizations that helped those in need. They focused on making memories with those around them. Purposeful giving for the greater good.
Career Wellbeing is how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do everyday. People with high Career Wellbeing wake up every morning with something to look forward to doing that day. Whether they are working in a home, classroom, or a cubicle, they have the opportunity to use their strengths each day and to make progress. According to the Gallup researchers and Rath, those with a thriving Career Wellbeing have a deep purpose in life and a plan to attain their goals.
Each and everyday, GG Richard had his positive defaults in place to create a “joyful” day. He looked forward to his walking group and pizza night. He drove his car into his 90s to deliver meals or head off to sing in the choir. He would create little bookmarks for the kids that he taught Sunday school too. He definitely LIVED each day.
Gram always enjoyed a good meal, worked out in her yard, and loved a good nap. You would never have known my grandfather had passed away 27 years earlier. I never had the opportunity to meet Grandpa Bob in the flesh-but I did feel him through the look on Gram’s face as she told stories of him while we rocked in our chairs on her back patio. I always wondered how she was so resilient and lived a full life. How could I channel her approach to life?
“…Biologists have are discovering that events during our lifetime can be passed on not only to our children, but also to future generations. This newly discovered phenomenon, known as “epigenetic inheritance,” is much more common than we think. So as an added incentive for improving your own health for the next few hours, weeks and months, consider that your lifestyle choices might also influence the health of your children and grandchildren.”
We can learn a lot from those that walk before us. To begin our own journey to the fulfillment of our talents and potentialities, we must listen to the stories of our elders. To reach our potential, we must live effectively in all five Wellbeing elements-not in isolation, but keeping in mind they are interdependent. Just as Gram and GG Richard did, we all take a different path. Our “why” may be different, but we all have one as our north star. It motivates us to be the best version of ourselves.
So, what will you today to improve your wellbeing?
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