Well-being is a field that I’m very interested in. Not only overall well-being but also well-being in the workplace. There are different definitions and types of well-being. In this blog I want to focus on overall personal well-being. The Oxford dictionary defines well-being as the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. Research shows that people with higher well-being have lower health-care costs, are more resilient, more productive, more involved in the successful development of their community and organizations they work at. It is, therefore, important to start focusing on well-being if we want to create flourishing societies.
Gallup and Healthways have developed a Well-being Index indicator to measure the well-being of different populations. They interviewed different people and then calculated the perception of their well-being through the following five interrelated elements that they believe make up well-being:
Sense of purpose – like what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals.
Social relationships– having supportive relationships and love in your life.
Financial security– managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.
Relationships to Community – liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in you community.
Physical health – having good health and enough energy to get things done.
According to their 2014 global research report, Panama is the country with the highest well-being, whereas Afghanistan scored the lowest. The European countries lead in financial well-being. The United States overall well-being is ranked 23rd of the 145 countries that participated. South Africa’s well-being is ranked in the lowest 25% (number 109). I was a bit shocked to read that the global overall well-being is only 17%. It made me wonder how important is well-being to others? (If you are interested you can read the full report http://www.well-beingindex.com/2014-global-report.)
As part of my coach training this year I had to assess my overall well-being at the beginning of this year and again now (at the end of the year). It is time consuming and not always easy to do an overall well-being check with yourself. It brings to the fore aspects of your life that you rather want to push aside or ignore. But if there is one thing that I know, it is that avoidance does not solve anything. If we don’t take the time to review our overall well-being we may never notice our patterns of behaviours or the consequences of our choices on our self, relationships and community. I want to challenge you to do a well-being check on yourself. If you are up for the challenge here are some questions that will get you going:
How clear is my sense of purpose?
What support am I providing to my loved ones and how much support am I receiving from them?
How effectively am I managing my financial resources?
How active am I involved in the community to foster compassion, service to others and a feeling of safety?
How well do I listen to what my body is telling me and respond accordingly?
‘To know the world, first know yourself. To change the world, first change yourself.’ Anonymous
The time in between is sometimes challenging. You’ve taken the courageous step to resign and start your own business. The first few months are still fine. You manage to live on the savings, but then the growing of the new business takes longer than you anticipated. You realise that this is the time in between. This is the uncertain time that you feared and nearly prohibited you from taking the leap of faith. You become more aware of the competitive environment you are entering. You are confronted with the your own familiar critical thoughts of ‘Did you really think you could do this?’, ‘Why will someone pay for your services if they can contract other more capable people?’. This is the moment when your true colours are tested.
Are you willing to sit with the discomfort and uncertainty for a bit longer and keep on trusting that your inner voice will guide you on your unbeaten path? Or are you going to let the voice of fear of ‘what if’ overwhelm you and turn back to the familiar road even though you know that path is not good for your soul.
You realise that all the reading and mental preparation you’ve done are now put to the test. You remember practising being comfortable with uncomfortableness. That the secret is to stay calm in these in between times, not try to frantically find something to do, not to start looking anxiously around but to sit with it. To use this time to become aware of your emotions, thoughts, body sensations and to learn from it. In the sitting I’m reminded of the beautiful poem of Mary Oliver,
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognised as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.
After reading the poem again I realise I am not ready to turn back and to give up. I know that I need to go deeper. I need to simplify my life and leave behind the critical voices that don’t serve me anymore. I need to let go of the ‘false securities’ that I’m clinging to. This is a journey that I feel called to follow. It is one that I need to live before I can guide others on it. We all have our own unique journeys that we are called to follow. Are you on your journey?
I’m privileged to travel much this year. During one of my flights from South Africa to Boston I watched the new Cinderella movie. Something I wouldn’t usually do if I were not stuck in a plane for 12 hours. There was a scene in the movie that resonated with me. Cinderella was on her way to the prince’s ball when she took a final glance of herself in the mirror. While she was looking in the mirror the narrator of the story said: ‘The biggest risk we take is to show the world our true self’.
I decided to take the risk and to show the world my true self. This blog is one of my first steps.
We often read about the term ‘True Self’ in the media but what does it mean? According to D.W. Winnicott (1960) your ‘True self’ is your spontaneous, creative and real you. It is simply being. This made me wonder why do we regard showing the world our ‘True Self’ as such a big risk? Wendy Palmer writes, in her book ‘The Intuitive Body’, that growing up seems to be a journey into fear. That as we get older our major task is to protect ourselves from getting hurt.
I always wanted to blog but allowed fear to hold me back. I knew that by starting this blog I was lowering my guard and opening myself to the opinion of others. I was trying to protect myself from criticism. What if just being me is not enough?
Just before Cinderella’s mother passed away she talked about courage and kindness as important qualities of life. I realized that I needed to be kind to myself. Give me the chance to be the person that I’m meant to be. This is easier said than done. It is difficult to find opportunities in this competitive world where time is money. However, I learned that it is not about finding opportunities but about having the courage to create them. It is also about not needing circumstances (including myself) to be perfect. It is a process of developing kinder-lenses to look at the world as well as at myself.
There are many people who show the world their ‘True Self’ on a daily basis. In doing that they are improving the lives of others and giving me the courage to face my fears. I want to invite you to join me on this journey. Start something you always wanted. Take the courageous step and put on those kinder-lenses. Be your ’True Self’.