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Short-term incentives, Long-term objectives and your Well-being

Tom Rath and Jim Harter of Gallup wrote, “Contrary to what many people believe, wellbeing isn’t just about being happy. Nor is it only about being wealthy or successful. And it’s certainly not limited to physical health and wellness. In fact, focusing on these elements in isolation may drive us to frustration and even a sense of failure. Wellbeing is about a combination of 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 is about how these five elements interact.”

While 66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7% are thriving in all five. If we're struggling in any one of these domains, as most of us are, it damages our well-being and wears on our daily life. When we strengthen our well-being in any of these areas, we will have better days, months, and decades. But we're not getting the most out of our lives unless we're living effectively in all five.

Although these elements are universal across faiths, cultures, and nationalities, people take different paths to increase their individual well-being. For many people, spirituality drives them in all these areas. Their faith is the most important facet of their lives, and it is the foundation of their daily efforts. For others, a deep mission, such as protecting the environment, inspires them each day. While the things that motivate us differ greatly from one person to the next, the outcomes do not.

With so many options to satisfy ourselves in the moment, it can be difficult to make the right long term decisions. It is, after all, in our nature to do things that will provide the most immediate reward. This is wired into our DNA for basic survival. For decades, psychologists have described increases in the ability to delay gratification as a cornerstone of human development from childhood to adulthood.

But the reality is, our short-term self still wins and gets dessert, despite objections from our long-term self that wants a healthy body and a long life.

As long as we allow short-term desires to win, it will be difficult to effect long-term behavioural change. However, we learned from people with the highest levels of well-being that there is a simple solution to this problem: If we can find short-term incentives that are consistent with our long-term objectives, it is much easier to make the right decisions in the moment.

When we can see an immediate payoff, we are more likely to change our behaviour in the moment. This aligns our daily actions with our long-term interests.

This provides a great opportunity to engage with your preferred life coach to discuss short-term incentives that are consistent with your long-term objectives and set appropriate goals.


Gallup, G., & Hill, E. (1960). The secrets of a long life. New York: Bernard Geis.

Schelling, T.C. (1978). Egonomics, or the art of self-management. The American Economic Review, 68(2), 290-294.

Sibold, J.S., & Berg, K. (2009, May 29). Mood enhancement persists for up to 12 hours following aerobic exercise. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, Seattle, WA.

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