The Myths and Misconceptions of  (Leadership) Wellbeing.

There is no shortage of wellbeing programs for employees and we are starting to see the emergence of programs for leaders to. Whilst most are well-intentioned many are based on flawed assumptions and misconceptions. Even those who take heed of the contemporary research my not reach their target markets because of the misconceptions held by leaders themselves.

Misconception 1:

Fitness, positive mental health, happiness and wellbeing are all the same thing.

Fact: Whilst there are definitely overlaps, the pursuit of each one has slightly different intended outcomes. The aim of Wellbeing is to increase flourishing by increasing positive emotion; engagement; positive relationships; meaning; accomplishment and health (PERMAH). Each of these elements contributes to wellbeing but none of them defines it. Flourishing people operate on a wholly different level to those who are just doing OK.

Misconception 2:

Fitter people are happier, with greater wellbeing.

“I have never met a happy, obese person” Michelle Bridges

Fact: Exercise and fitness is only part of the story. There is mountains of evidence to support exercise being good for you, both physically and mentally . However not all physically fit people are psychologically happy or experience life satisfaction. Even the fittest amongst us can experience periods of poor mental health

Putting on your pedometer and gym gear is a good start but it might not be enough, the other elements of PERMAH also need consideration.

Happy woman

Misconception 3:

You can measure health but can’t measure happiness .

Fact: It turns out you can measure wellbeing! There have been a number of valid and reliable measures for life satisfaction and positive psychological functioning  for a while now. More recently a number of simple online tools to measure individual and group wellbeing have been developed – some right here in Australia at the University of Melbourne. Contact me if you would like to participate in an individual of workplace profile.

Misconception 4:

Happy people are born and not made. People’s happiness levels are determined by genetics and cannot be substantively changed

Fact: Despite persuasive evidence from some studies that well-being levels are strongly influenced by genetics, more recent research suggests that genetic influences on happiness might be weaker than originally thought, with environmental influences explaining a large portion of individual differences in happiness. (Layous & Lyubomirsky, 2014). Again evidence suggests that there are a number of small and simple activities and habits that can boost wellbeing regardless of your genetic start point.

Misconception 5:

Leadership wellbeing involves a massive overhaul of my life or the way I work.

Fact: Evidence suggests that changing one’s life circumstances e.g., marital status, career, location, and income is not the most fruitful path to greater well-being (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006a). There are simple strategies that people can employ in their daily lives which have been found to reliably improve happiness and positive emotions. These strategies do not involve making major shifts to people’s current life situations and can be used by anyone, regardless of their genetic make-up.

Misconception 6:

Leaders are well paid, they get great entitlements what’s not to be happy about?

Fact: Studies also show that the relationship between people’s income, relationship status, or health and their happiness is not as strong as intuition would suggest. For example, the fulfilment of one’s basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) is a better predictor of daily positive and negative emotions than one’s income (Diener, Ng, Harter, & Arora, 2010).

I’m not paid to be happy and it’s certainly not my job make other people happy.  (They get paid don’t they???)

Fact: Employees with higher levels of wellbeing have been found to learn more effectively, be more creative, have better relationships, be more pro-social in their behavior, feel more satisfied in their jobs and perform better (Chida and Steptoe, 2008; Diener et al., 2010; Dolan et al., 2008; Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). It is estimated employees are up to eight times more likely to be engaged when wellbeing is a priority in their workplace (Michelle McQuaid) There is emerging evidence that stressed leaders create an unhappy workforce and which increases leaders stress.

Misconception 7:

Wellbeing courses are all touchy-feely and uncomfortable.

Fact: True and false. Whilst there are many new-age and self help gurus out plying their trade there are many other qualified professionals who use researched-based positive psychology strategies. Positive Psychology practitioners including coaches like myself approach the well-being of individuals and groups scientifically,  we;

  • measure baseline wellbeing,
  • suggest and model targeted strategies appropriate to the need of the individual/group
  • support and coach you to develop new wellbeing habits
  • then test for effectiveness.

Interested to know how you can improve your own wellbeing and that of your team members? Book a discovery call with me to find out how coaching can be an investment in your own wellbeing and effectiveness. Or participate in one of our upcoming courses.

Jenny Cole ; Aspirant Leaders training 2019

Hi, I’m Jenny a busy professional woman just like you. A mess of glorious imperfections stitched together with good intentions. I am a coach, facilitator, educator and mother to Albert the spaniel.

I am endlessly curious and draw greedily from the well of worldly wisdom and I am always keen to share what I know. My goal is to help you to take your best self to work AND bring her home again – through coaching, workshops and events. As a coach I work with your strengths, I treasure what you bring and cheer you along to meet your goals.  I believe that the world is always ready for a little more joy and my focus is ensuring you find it and build it into your life.

My experiences are diverse – I am a recovering special education principal, accredited leadership coach and I have post-grad qualifications in Positive Psychology.

References Layous, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). The How, Why, What, When, and Who of Happiness: Mechanisms Underlying the Success of Positive Activity Interventions: Oxford University Press.

Hello there! I am Jenny Cole – Coach, Consultant and Cheerleader. I work with women to create careers, workplaces and lives that allow them to flourish.

I love nothing better than watching smart, capable but overwhelmed women step confidently into their best self and truly succeed.

I am endlessly curious with two successful businesses behind me. My blog shares what I see, what I know and random musings.

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