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What Is Well-Being?

And How Is It Different From Happiness?

How you can create your own, personalized definition of well-being?

Happiness is an emotion. Yesterday, I got to see my 11-week fetus wiggling on an ultrasound. A smile immediately crept across my face. That's happiness, or more precisely, joy. Happiness can also feel like contentment, like when you're relaxing in a sunny spot with a cuppa. In other words, there are slightly different flavors of happiness, but broadly speaking, it's a transient emotion.

Well-being is different.

My favorite measure of well-being is a very simple one. Try answering this question:

Do you feel like your life is on track?

In research, single-item measures like this often perform as well as much longer questionnaires.

Let's dive further.

How to create your own, personalized index of well-being

What makes one person feel like their life is on track won't be the same as for another person. We're different. For example, I've written quite a bit (e.g., here) about how some people most strongly prioritize happiness, others prioritize meaning, and others prioritize psychological "richness" (these folks prefer varied experiences).

Each of us can create what's called an "operational definition" of what makes us individually feel like our lives are on track. 

To give you an idea of how to do this, here are aspects of my definition:

  • One factor that's incredibly important to me is if my work and hobbies are creating interactions with people who think in interesting ways. I like people who are equally as smart as me (or smarter), but who have different personalities and thinking styles
  • Another factor is that I like to feel like I'm growing. I like to incorporate others' thinking and behavioral styles into my own, in ways that make me a more flexible, more skillful person.
  • A third factor is whether I'm successfully using my difficult emotions to fuel my goals. For example, if I feel embarrassed because I gave a poor answer in an interview, am I using that embarrassment to fuel my dedication to developing a better answer? (If you're interested in how to harness your difficult emotions, Stress-Free Productivity teaches how to use your difficult emotions to improve your focus.)

Tips for creating your own definition

  • Be sophisticated about it. Notice that my examples are very personal, specific, and nuanced. Choose the most precise words you can to encapsulate exactly what you mean.
  • Focus on what you have some control over. For example, my life feels most on track when my family and I are healthy. However, I have limited control over that. For the sake of resiliency, include what would help you still feel at least partly on track, even if you were having health challenges or experiencing physical pain. It's ok to include concepts like the health of your family, but also include what you have more control over.
  • Let yourself mull over this topic. Some of your best ideas might come to you immediately but you'll be reminded of other things that are important to you if you tuck this question in the back of your mind, and refine your definition over time.
  • Use this exercise as a way of understanding and expressing who you are. If you have a partner, consider communicating what you come up with to them, to allow them into your inner world.
  • This can be a fun exercise to do in a therapy session. You can take this article along to your therapist and ask them to help draw your most well-fitting answers out of you.

Read the original article here >>>>>>

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