Engagement and Well-Being

My brain seems to be heavily geared towards looking for patterns – and to be delighted by finding them (or creating them).  This week I found convergence in writings related to well-being.

Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education both alerted us to the results of a survey of 30,000 college graduates by Gallup and Purdue University that looked at being engaged at work and experiencing high well-being after graduation.  There is a wealth of fascinating information in this study, but I want to key in on a few points.  Five components of “well-being” are considered: purpose, social, community, financial, and physical.  Only 11% of those surveyed were found to be thriving in all five areas, and more than one in six are not thriving in any of these areas.  However, those who are engaged at work are five times more likely to be thriving in all five elements of well-being as those who are not engaged in their work.  Being employed is not enough; rather, it is workplace engagement that is associated with well-being – and less than 40% of these employed college graduates are engaged in their work.  Those who like what they do every day and who get to learn or do something interesting on a daily basis are most likely to be thriving in purpose well-being – and more than twice as likely to be thriving overall.

In a Big Think posting about Workplace Culture, the Editors discussed the fact that “human beings are naturally wired to contribute… [and] driven to have a purpose, to feel as though our lives and working hours have meaning.”  Sounds to me like another way of saying that Engagement = Well-Being! “Productivity stems from motivation, and people are clearly far more motivated when they feel as though they are a part of something” – something that matters.  Adam Bryant, author of Quick and Nimble and the “Corner Office” column in The New York Times, talks about how important it is that we understand how our work contributes to the overall goals of our workplace.

Leigh @ workI am immensely grateful that I have the opportunity to work for an organization that has a vision “to be the premier global association for the development and dissemination of innovative theory, research, and practice of academic advising in higher education.”  At NACADA, all of us (staff and members) are deeply engaged in “promot[ing] student success by advancing the field of academic advising globally.”  Every day, our EO staff members all work hard to “provide opportunities for professional development, networking, and leadership for our diverse membership.”  We are productive because we are motivated, and we are motivated because we all know that we are a part of something that matters.  What we do makes a difference for our members, and what our members do makes a difference for not only their students, but for all of society.  I feel very certain that were we to be surveyed by the Gallup folks, we would score high on purpose well-being!

But purpose is only one of the five areas of well-being.  What about the others? At age 56, I most likely have less than a decade of work-life left.  What about those other areas that will remain when my current work is done?

My friend and EO colleague, Jennifer Joslin, has been blogging a series entitled “50daysfor50years” and this week she has shared advice from those who have passed the half-century mark to those who are approaching it.  In it are some tremendous words of wisdom related to engagement and well-being – some of which I have already begun to practice, and others that I can learn from now.

PF shared that, in our 50s, we “finally come to grips with who [we] are, and more importantly, accept [ourselves].”  Because of this acceptance, along with the knowledge and skills we have gained, we have the ability to “make a real difference in [our] chosen field.”   I certainly concur, and this falls in line with what I have already said about purpose well-being.  But PF further recommends that we “keep [our] wisdom, skills, experience and health in balance” and “maintain [our] friendships.” Following this advice can help us to thrive in all five of the areas of well-being identified by the Gallup study.

KS cautions that, while “having a job you like is wonderful,” we need to remember that there is more to life than work.  Sometimes the “to-do list can wait” while we spend time with family and friends.  CS also acknowledges the importance of making a difference with our work and accomplishing our professional goals, but encourages having personal hopes and dreams outside of work as well – to “begin to imagine what it will be like to just enjoy life with loved ones and friends.”  Having three of my four grandchildren born in rapid succession about the time I hit the half-decade mark certainly helped me to incorporate this wisdom into my life!  I feel incredibly blessed to live in the same town with both my children and their families, and I cherish every moment I get to spend with them and every memory we make together.

PMB stressed the importance of “getting healthy/healthier now!”  I must admit that the fact that I have enjoyed excellent health throughout my life has led me to take this area for granted and I have not been as vigilant in the area of physical well-being as I should have been, but I heard a “wake-up call” a few months ago and have made significant lifestyle changes that have this area moving in a more positive direction as well.

In an earlier posting, I wrote about living authentically – living with integrity – and wanting my life to be “meaningful and true.”   I don’t know how I would have scored on the Gallup survey – whether or not I would have met their criteria to be viewed as “thriving” in the five measured areas – but I do know that I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to say, “Yes, if today were the last day of my life, I would be content with how I have spent it.”

And for that, I tip my hat to the advice given by Jennifer’s friend CN, who said, “it’s a great celebration time for you to be objectively proud of who you have become in just a mere 50 years”!  I hope all of my friends and family are celebrating whatever stage of life you are in, and learning to thrive in all the areas of well-being!


Life in College Matters for Life After College – http://www.gallup.com/poll/168848/life-college-matters-life-college.aspx  (Download the complete report at http://www.gallup.com/strategicconsulting/168791/gallup-purdue-index-inaugural-national-report.aspx )

Workplace Culture: How Would You Rather Be Spending Your Time? (May 7, 2014).  http://bigthink.com/think-tank/workplace-culture-must-be-purpose-driven

NACADA Vision and Mission – http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/About-Us/Vision-and-Mission.aspx


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