The concept of well-being has become prominent within national policy goals in the UK since the end of the 1990s. However, the concept of well-being remains ill defined, an instability that is increasingly understood as problematic to policy making. We engage with this terminological instability through an exploration of how the concept of well-being is practised discursively in local governance and critically examine the place of the concept in local policy making. In contrast to the current enthusiasm to define and measure well-being, we argue that the conceptual instability has inherent value for local governance. The concept of well-being is practised through a number of potentially conflicting discourses, but it is exactly this conceptual instability that enables a local negotiation and combination of alternative policy frameworks for local place-shaping strategies. As such, well-being not only is an overarching goal of governance but also contributes to the dynamics of the policy process.