Well-Being is Better Than Happiness

by Stephen Mills on June 23, 2009


Occasional happy moments can happen to anyone.  Happiness can be a number of short-lived states.  Going further, I would say that you can be temporarily happy doing things that will hurt you and cause serious trouble in the long wrong.  These are differences you must grasp to achieve well-being.

In my mind well-being is more a state of contentment and a sense of serenity and peacefulness that comes from knowing you are doing things and living in a way that is right for you.  Well-being requires positive action on your part.  You are choosing to live according your values.  I would also add that in order to achieve this you have to mostly Live Now.

Dr. Tom Rusk lists five basic requirements for well-being.  I really like these and so I’m going to share them with you:

  • Fulfillment in your endeavors
  • Intimacy in relationships
  • Personal growth
  • Rest
  • Recreation

You may personally require others, but Dr. Rusk believes those five are essential for everyone.

Fulfillment in Your Endeavors

In order to achieve fulfillment in your endeavors there are some necessary criteria.  These are self-acceptance, self-respect, results, and rewards.


This is belief in your self-worth as a person independent of success or failure in particular endeavors.  This is something that is accepted as a given.


This comes from the effort to achieve your endeavors.  It’s a pride that comes from trying to do something worthwhile and living according to your values.  I believe that self-respect also comes from challenging yourself and taking risks.  Regardless of whether you succeed or fail you will respect yourself for trying.


In the end of course, producing some kind of results leads to greater fulfillment.  You may not achieve results on any particular endeavor, but you will still gain self-respect (see above) and you will achieve results on some of your endeavors.  You can’t be truly fulfilled if you fail at everything, and of course nobody does.

Recognition and Rewards

This one may not be as important, but you can’t escape it.  It is a rare person who does not achieve a higher level of fulfillment when their achievements are recognized by others.  Rewards can be in the form of money, recognition, appreciation, or often even the influence one has over others as a result of achievement.  Recognition may come from getting a large following on your blog :-).

Intimacy in Relationships

In order to have intimacy you have to have self-acceptance and self-respect.  You can’t truly love others unless you love yourself.  To attain intimacy you must have the following attitudes; first towards yourself and then towards others.

  • Acceptance
  • Respect
  • Caring
  • Understanding

Personal Growth

This comes from an expansion of you abilities and experiences.  Growth comes when you step outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself by taking risks.  Familiarity and comfort are not conducive to growth.

When you put yourself in challenging and new situations and force yourself to grow by those experiences, you do something very important.  You increase your self-respect.  The fact that you faced those challenges and risks creates more respect for yourself regardless of the outcome.  Thus personal growth yields fulfillment.


I’m not talking about sleep rest or body rest of any kind.  I’m talking about mind rest.  This means a time when you are not actively thinking, planning, rehearsing, visualizing, etc.  You are awake but you are not judging or analyzing.  Watching TV is not resting your mind.  It’s a passive way of collecting garbage.  This is especially true if you watch any news.

A great way to rest is to be present in nature.  Just stand by a camp fire, the ocean waves, or lay in the middle of a forest and be present.  Meditation is another fantastic way to rest your mind.  You are aware but you are not thinking.  You are just observing.

Mind rest is critical and it is something I struggle with.  I am finding the more I do it the more peaceful and serene I become.  My mood is better and yes I’m happier.


Recreation is simply play.  It’s not intensely competitive play, but relaxing play.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to compete, but if that’s all you do then you aren’t really playing and thus are not realizing the benefits of recreation.  This one is hard to accomplish.  First certain personality types in may be the hardest one of all.

If you go fishing just to enjoy fishing without worrying about the number or size of your catch then your playing.  If you are competing with yourself for the “big one” you aren’t engaging in recreation.  If you enjoy a good game of cards and could care less who wins or loses, then you are playing.  If you are competing then you aren’t playing.

I love birds and birding.  I used to keep lists and hunt for new birds to add to my list.  While exciting in a way, I was losing the pure enjoyment of bird watching in pursuit of the big list.  I don’t keep a list anymore.


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What do you think?  Leave a comment below.

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Les inspirations du 29 juin : Le lab d’Ambiome : vivre autrement, tout simplement
June 29, 2009 at 3:48 am
Contentment — The Rat Race Trap
July 5, 2009 at 8:36 am

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills June 23, 2009 at 11:56 am

Hi Stephen, I really like the feeling of balance this article carries. I actually felt a sense of well being just going through the various aspects involved. It was both interesting and helpful how you elaborated on “Fulfillment in Your Endeavors” by giving us a breakdown of some of the vital components in this category.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..The 5 Dimensions of Knowledge =-.


Deb Owen June 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm

I’m working on that ‘rest’ thing! 😉

Thanks for another great post!
All the best!
.-= Deb Owen´s last blog ..are you living life by default? or on purpose? =-.


Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob June 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm

I really enjoyed the tone of this article. Reading it gave me a feeling of serenity and reminded me that I need to take a break every now and then to unwind.
.-= Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob´s last blog ..Should You Stay At Your Cushy Job? =-.


Jay Schryer June 23, 2009 at 2:57 pm

This may be the most perfect blog post I have ever read. I mean, seriously, this is just about perfect. Thank you so much for this, Stephen. I’m going to print this out and staple it to my forehead. OK. Maybe not 🙂 But really, this is great stuff.
.-= Jay Schryer´s last blog ..Lazy Summer Days =-.


Positively Present June 23, 2009 at 3:12 pm

This is AWESOME! I love it.
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..how to find your calm before you lose your cool =-.


Matt | Small Biz Bee June 23, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Very true. Even when you’re depressed you may laugh sometimes, that doesn’t mean you have well being just a moment of happiness. To truly be happy you need to work on total well being…great post.

.-= Matt | Small Biz Bee´s last blog ..Series Recap: Small Business Questions Answered =-.


Ian | Quantum Learning June 24, 2009 at 6:55 am

This is such a great article .. and thanks for sharing these five aspects. They really speak to me!
.-= Ian | Quantum Learning´s last blog ..Heart of business =-.


Shamelle- TheEnhanceLife June 24, 2009 at 8:23 am

I couldn’t agree more.

5 important areas we tend to overlook in our busy lifestyle.
.-= Shamelle- TheEnhanceLife´s last blog ..When Confronted With Criticism You Don’t Really Want To Hear, What Should You Do? =-.


Vin - NaturalBias June 24, 2009 at 8:29 am

Great point, Stephen! I completely agree that a long lasting and well balanced mental state is much better than peaks of over excitement and lows of emptiness. I think the latter leads people into unhealthy behavior that’s aimed at reproducing the peaks of excitement.

I especially like your discussion on fulfillment and think that the other 4 aspects that you discuss contribute to fulfillment as well. Personally, I think fulfillment is the foundation of mental well being, and the more sources that it comes from, the stronger it is.
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..21 Reasons Why Alcohol is Dragging You Down =-.


Rosa June 24, 2009 at 8:54 am

This is great advice! I love the part about playing, we should all take more time to simply PLAY. Thanks for the reminder 🙂
.-= Rosa´s last blog ..La gente que me gusta – The people I like =-.


Alex - unleash reality June 24, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Hey stephen.

such an important distinction!! 🙂

i’ve seen it written about in a litany of places, from eckhart tolle to the sedona method and it’s a tough thing to explain, specially given the limitations of language… but you nailed it.

self acceptance is the biggest one for me, breaks the barrier between happiness (transient) and well-being (changeless) because non-acceptance makes it all erratic, acceptance makes everything okay no matter what changes.

inspiring stuff

keep well and in touch
alex – unleash reality
.-= Alex – unleash reality´s last blog ..Buddhist Butchers and Adventures of Change =-.


Rose September 12, 2009 at 12:42 pm

I want you to know that I am one of your biggest fans Stephen. I have literally become addicted to reading all of your archives, etc that I have missed out on because I barely found your blog about a week ago. I really like your viewpoints & know that in reading your insights that you must have a great life! Well deserved. Oh & I would definitely pay for your site & actually have ideas of making you as known as Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, etc. Seriously, I think you are better but they are marketed at an angle that you aren’t.. Well I have oodles of archives to dive into today & just wanted to say that you are impacting my life & I am sharing that impact with others & so on….



Stephen Mills June 24, 2009 at 8:30 pm

@Jonathan, Thank you for your support!

@Deb, I know the feeling! Thanks for stopping by to comment.

@Steve, I’m getting much better at the “serenity” thing. Thanks for your comments.

@Jay, that has to be the best comment I have ever had at my blog. Thank you so much!

@Positively Present, thank you for your support. Much appreciated!

@Matt, thanks again for your support!

@Ian, thank you! I’m glad it helped.

@Shamelle, thanks for checking in and commenting!

@Vin, fulfillment is definitely a key factor. Thanks for your continued support.

@Rosa, thank you! I’m guilty of forgetting to play and I agree we all need to play more!

@Alex, thank you so much for the support. Glad to see you here again!


Dragos Roua June 25, 2009 at 9:22 am

Well, what you described here is happiness for me, that I can tell you. I do think happiness is a process, not a goal, and by that it really fits into your “well-being” paradigm. Great reading 🙂
.-= Dragos Roua´s last blog ..The Morning Phrase =-.


Robin Easton June 25, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Hi dear Stephen, This is an important article because it distinguishes two things that people often assume are the same. I remember at one stage of my life my ex-husband said to me why aren’t you all excited. You love skiing and did it all your life, and here you are finally going skiing again after years of living in the tropics. You don’t seem very happy. And I turned to him and said, I am happy but it is much more. It is a deep sense of well-being that I am feeling today. I am at peace with myself and the world and that in more enduring and deeper for me than happiness.

Today in my life I live in a deep sense of well being and happiness is just an expression of that deeper well being. Happiness is no longer something I strive for through doing things, having things, a certain outcome, etc. It had nothing to do with what is outside me, but rather it has to do with what is inside me.

Thank you Stephen. Very insightful.
.-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..Goofy, Wacky and Happy! …Are You? =-.


Kikolani June 25, 2009 at 10:47 pm

I think that when you overall well-being is taken care of, you are happy. Whereas things can be completely upside down, and you can have a happy moment in the middle of it, but that doesn’t mean your overall being is good. Those five things really sum it up as to what can lead to overall fulfillment.

~ Kristi


Felicity June 26, 2009 at 11:01 am

I’m including the rest segment into my daily life appropriately. I shut down my mind while i remain prostrated for mins or an hour and let thoughts fly away to leave me unperturbed. (i might sound ‘high’ but this meditation expands the capacity of relaxing the tensed muscles). This is particularly helpful after work. It really flutters my insides because i envisionmyself displaced from my body. I made myself allow to feel ominous. It’s a wonderful feeling, and the reason it suffices our health encourages me to take things easily more… although risk-taking is on my mind too!


Felicity June 26, 2009 at 11:03 am

Sorry for my mistake on the term ‘prostrate’. I mean lie down on a reclining position.


Lalitha Brahma October 7, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Excellent article! I really liked the way you defined Well being as
“well-being is more a state of contentment and a sense of serenity and peacefulness that comes from knowing you are doing things and living in a way that is right for you.” We need to remind these over and over again, when things go wrong.


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