By Susan Wright, TCP President
Well-Being is not something that just happens for most of us. It takes a conscious intention and persistent effort, like most things that bring us joy and reward in life. Well-Being is not complicated. It emerges simply from intentionally performing a set of integrated practices consisting of disciplined action, repeated custom or regular exercise. It is cross-training in life. By exercising the body, mind, heart and spirit routinely, we get tremendous synergistic benefits.
To begin, think about your current activities on the following dimensions:
Physical: healthy diet, cardiovascular and anabolic exercise, sleep, supplements, massage, chiropractic. The benefits of physical Well-Being are agility, coordination, flexibility, strength and speed. How would you rate your current physical Well-Being on a scale, say, of 1 to 10?
Mental: reading, critical reflection, perspective taking, creative writing, drawing, hobbies. The benefits of mental Well-Being are problem solving, information processing, critical thinking, and the ability to take multiple perspectives. How would you rate your current mental Well-Being on a scale of 1 to 10?
Emotional: relaxation, stretching, reflective dialogue, journaling, yoga, Tai Chi, therapy. The benefits of emotional Well-Being are composure, patience, the development of presence, the deepening of relationships, and learning to deal effectively with stress. How would you rate your current emotional Well-Being on a scale of 1 to 10?
Spiritual: meditation, contemplation, spending time in nature, devotions, centering, prayer. The benefits of spiritual Well-Being are calm strength, stronger connection to self and others and the world, deeper awareness, and moving beyond ego. How would you rate your current level of spiritual Well-Being on a scale of 1 to 10?
These are only a few examples of the thousands of practices that you can tailor to your unique Well-Being plan. The idea is to choose at least one practice in each of the four domains and practice them concurrently. Being dedicated to a few practices will create greater Well-Being than half-heartedly practicing more. Notice, too, that many practices benefit multiple domains, such as yoga or Tai Chi.
Before creating your Well-Being plan, there is one other assessment required. In order to achieve Well-Being, we need to engage in practices in three ways: alone, with others, and out in the world. So, for example, you might choose to read and reflect on your own but begin to attend a meditation group with an instructor. Or you might join a book club and set up a meditation area in your home. You might choose to visit the cathedrals of Europe and learn their history on your own or plan to act as tour guide for family or friends. How would you rate your current practices in relation to these three ways of practicing? For many of us, finding time alone where we can be intentional about practice is a challenge.
Designing your Well-Being Plan
There are five steps involved in designing a Well-Being plan. The first you’ve already done: assessing your current practices. If you practice intentionally in each of the four domains in a variety of ways, and you gave yourself a 7 or more out of a possible 10, congratulations! You may want to tinker for motivational purposes but you have the essence of Well-Being. If you missed one of the domains or ways of practicing, or gave yourself a lower score, read on. You can create or revitalize your practice with great benefits to your Well-Being.
Step #1: Assess current Practice
What is your honest appraisal of your current practice status? Do you regularly touch base with all the domains and ways of engaging with your own Being? How effective is the connection with Well-Being?
Step #2: Identify Gaps
Once you have a sense of where you are, it is important to decide where you want to go. What does Well-Being look like to you? What is the quality of Being you are seeking? Think of a word or short phrase that would symbolize the quality of Well-Being that is ideal for you. Perhaps you would like to increase the quality of your Presence or Connection or Energy. What would that quality look like on your rating scale? Would some domains be a 10? Would others not change? Think about the size of the gap on each of the domains and in each of the ways of engaging in practice.
Step #3: Evaluate Commitment
Before moving into choosing practices, take a second look at the commitment you are making. Is it doable? Is it sustainable, at least for a period of time you choose, say 3 months as a start? It is better to commit to a realistic plan you will be successful in practicing than to reach too far or expect too much and fail. If your commitment is unrealistic, scale it back so you feel comfortable that you will be successful.
Step #4: Choose Practices
You probably already have some ideas about the practices you will choose in each domain and how you will engage with them. Some may be practices you have been routinely carrying out for years. For these, you may want to add some new cross-training element. For example, you may add a deep breathing practice to your stretching during your workout. Some practices may be new to you. For these, you may want to join a group to benefit from an instructor and the motivation of practicing in a community.
Step #5: Practice Diligently
Once you have your Well-Being cross-training plan in place, choose a period of time during which you commit to fully practicing all of the elements concurrently. It need not be long – a few weeks or months will reward you with observable change in the quality of Well-Being you have chosen. Feel free to make minor design changes as you practice. As long as you are intentional about your plan, you can adapt your practices to your life circumstances.
Good luck, and let me know how you’re doing!