My guess is that it would be a rare life or personal coach that does not have their client try to dig into personal motivations. As coaches, we call them goals, mission, values, passion, why’s, etc. Our assumption as coaches is that as our clients grow in self-knowledge, their path to the future becomes clearer. It also puts a tool in our coaching hands. When a client seems to stall out, we make some mental leaps to their passion and try to get them moving forward on their program.
One place we often have difficulty is separating the material reasons from the mental ones. New coaches often go to the material corner. Talking about things is less threatening or invasive than talking about values and passions. Experienced coaches often go the other way; we ignore the material wants because they aren’t as personally exciting as digging into a client’s mental pathways.
Recent research points to the need to make sure that people are meeting both their material and their emotional needs. Angus Deaton, Ph.D., a renowned economist, and Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., a Nobel prize-winning psychologist put their heads and work together on an amazing research project. They wanted to discover the numbers behind happiness. They analyzed nearly a half million responses to the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index (GHWBI), a battery of survey questions about happiness.
The two concepts that we refer to as the “material what” and the “emotional why” are called “life evaluation” and “emotional wellbeing.” While the two dimensions overlap, they have distinct measures.
- Life evaluation is based on a view of our achievements. We look at things like goal accomplishment, financial security, education, marriage, and job satisfaction.
- Emotional wellbeing is social and reflects our day-to-day emotional quality and satisfaction.
Without getting into too many more details, there are two research findings that I found interesting from a coaching perspective.
First, achieving your goals is important for both dimensions. We evaluate our lives poorly when we fail (the “I just suck” syndrome) and it negatively affects our emotional wellbeing. As Dr. Kahneman explains, “Having goals that you can meet is essential to life satisfaction. Setting goals that you’re not going to meet sets you up for failure.”
Second, there is a dollar figure for happiness. In the United States, $75,000 is the threshold for happiness. In other words, when you earn $75,000, you’ve hit the magic number. More money doesn’t make you happier. People who earn more may have more a higher life evaluation (“I love my life!”) but they are any happier about it. Their emotional wellbeing has hit the top.
As a coach, I am intrigued by what these research results mean to my profession. Besides making sure my clients are aware of and working on both pieces, I have some cultural insights into where they might want to go.
Honestly, I can’t make this stuff up. I encourage you to read more of the research results as The Gallup Management Journal reports them.