Take Away Line
Whether it’s to survive the tough times we live in or to perform in the Olympics, we have to keep well. Keeping well is the baseline for job satisfaction and happiness generally. But wellness is not just a narrow concept akin to fitness or diet; it encompasses taking a holistic view across body, mind, emotions and inner core and of maintaining a balance that’s right for us between those four aspects. Our happiness – and the health of the environment we create around us – is considerably affected by our attitude and commitment to wellness in these terms.
Feeling tired yet?
You didn’t need to spend long watching the Olympics and Paralympics to work out that athletes not only needed to be fit and healthy, they also needed to be strong mentally and to be able to tap into an inner sense of themselves or a higher purpose to really succeed, to go the extra. The highest levels of performance demand the highest levels of general well-being as well as specific fitness and training in the chosen sport or activity.
If this is true for top athletes, it must also apply to our own working lives. To what extent are we in shape, in the broadest sense of that term, both to deliver immediate work goals, but also to sustain ourselves longer term and to ensure we can connect our work with who we feel ourselves to be. Well-being, job satisfaction and happiness are closely linked.
And yet, I don’t know about you but just hearing a title ‘managing well-being sounds a little irritating, if not perverse. And I simply feel tired when I read quotes from the canon of management thinking like:
‘The world will belong to passionate, driven leaders – people who not only have enormous amounts of energy, but who can energise those whom they lead’.
‘Your first and foremost job as a leader is to raise your own energy level and then to help raise and orchestrate the energies of those around you’.
Yet, if it’s not we who ‘manage’ our well-being who is it? Perhaps it’s the word ‘manage’ that’s the problem or it just sounds like all too much effort? Either way, there is no doubt that:
- A high state of well-being adds to our enjoyment of the things we do, including work
- It’s only we ourselves who can take charge of this
- There are ways of making a difference to how we feel which at the very least takes away some of the barriers to happiness
So, let’s take a look at well-being and see what the literature’s got to tell us. In fact quite a lot:
- We can think of well-being as energy being in balance
- Well-being, then, is sustainable, not fleeting
- Well-being can be thought of as holistic, so we can think of energy in terms of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – we’re trying to foster a condition in ourselves where we are fit enough, mentally alert, committed to the task in hand and in touch with our inner values or beliefs
- Another aspect is the balance between the realms of knowing, being and doing the things to give us higher levels of well-being
- Well-being has a social dimension – we can support others to build our well-being and we can be supported by others
We all know it: the ‘energy’ we give off radiates to those around us; the level of that energy and the nature of that energy. So, managing our energy is something that we have to consider if we’re in it for the long haul. The consequences are too dire not to.
Colleagues and I will shortly embark on delivering a leadership programme to a group of senior development NGO leaders. They are exhausted: their organisation expects a lot of them, the question of sustaining energy levels and well-being is not part of the organisation’s normal discourse and change is the only constant in their world. So, we’re going to tackle this question and suggest that well-being be a central thread to their organisational lives if they want to deliver change and still have the ‘umph’ to live with the change once it’s been delivered! This element of our leadership development programme could be bumpy!
The hardest part of this is commitment. Once you present the concept everyone gets it very quickly, but like those gym memberships taken after Christmas, the commitment can be hard to sustain. What to do?
Back to the Dalai Lama’s words on self-awareness, the best place to start is to take a look at the current situation, which in brief can be summarised under the following questions:
- What’s your current energy status?
- What do you do to keep well now?
- What do you need to do to develop greater well-being (breathing, nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise, relaxation, reconnection, reflection, etc)?
- How do you avoid burnout – to what extent is what you do in fact aligned to your values?
Well-being and Leadership
Such questions as these help structure our thinking and plan how to improve well-being If we happen to be in a leadership position, it’s also worth asking:
- Where are your leadership strengths in this area?
- What are the challenges for you?
- What do you need to do next for yourself?
- How can you help others/your team in this area?
- To what extent is well-being part of your organisation’s internal discussions and debates?
- What can be done to bring it centre stage in our working lives?