A Missing Link Between Work and Well-Being

Emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman highlights the connection between purpose-driven companies and the well-being of employees.

Daniel Goleman, author of the bestseller “Emotional Intelligence,” is a regular contributor to Korn Ferry. His latest book, "Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body," is available now. 

What makes you happy? I don’t mean in an I-won-the-lottery kind of way, but rather what gives you a deep sense of satisfaction and well-being? It turns out there’s a difference between the events that make us happy for a while and what gives us that feeling of well-being.

Dr. Carol Ryff, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was among the first to disentangle well-being from a simplistic definition of happiness.

Dr. Ryff’s  multidimensional model of well-being views our well-being as a life well-lived, not simply a happy one. As Socrates reminded us, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”  Here are key points from Dr. Ryff that can help you examine your own life. Consider how you fare on each of these dimensions of well-being:

  • Self-acceptance: The ability to understand our strengths, weaknesses, and personal vision with a positive mindset. This means not having judgments about ourselves, particularly any limitations we have. A radical acceptance means realizing we are fine just as we are (and, as a saying goes, we can all use a little improvement).
  • Positive Relations with Others: The capacity to understand others’ perspectives and cultivate compassionate, trusting, interdependent relationships. This means extending that acceptance to others, with empathy and caring – a recipe for rich personal connections.
  • Autonomy: The ability to resist social pressures and act in accordance with our personal values. “To thine own self be true” has been hallowed advice over the centuries.
  • Environmental Mastery: How we engage with the world; understand and utilize opportunities; and seek situations that fit our values. Finding the best fit with our strengths and passions requires scanning our options and making good choices.
  • Purpose in Life: How we direct our vision with intention and pursue meaningful goals that enable us to look forward to our future. This sense of meaning and purpose requires self-awareness and tuning into what we truly feel – the path to an inner compass that we can draw on in making key decisions throughout life.
  • Personal Growth: How we seek continuous development by pursuing new challenges and remaining open to new experiences. This means not dismissing our abilities as simply what they are today, but having a growth mindset, a view of ourselves and the world as having the capacity to develop and improve.

Ryff’s holistic model of well-being illuminates the enduring connection between purpose and life satisfaction – one of her six keys to well-being. This connection shows up in the business world, too.

When Korn Ferry interviewed 30 founders, CEOs, and senior executives at consumer companies with “visible and authentic purposes, engaged employees, customer-oriented cultures, and strong financial results,” not only did 100% of these leaders agree that “operating from purpose makes them more resilient” (resiliency is a hallmark of well-being), they found that purpose-driven organizations shared four things in common:

  1. The CEO and others lead from values and purpose to make decisions. In terms of Ryff’s model of well-being, this resonates with “purpose in life.”
  2. People are the top priority; an example of Ryff’s “positive relations with others.’ These executives invest in people to drive growth.
  3. Culture is reflective of human communities, as people bring their whole selves to work. That seems close to “self-acceptance.”
  4. Enabling practices exist in all parts of the organization, revealing a pervasive commitment to purpose, and echoing the point Ryff makes about “environmental mastery.”

In short, companies can contribute to the well-being of their people by fostering a purpose-oriented environment.

Click here to learn more about Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification.