• Developing Potential

The Art of Wellbeing

How many of us are concerned about our wellbeing? Answer, probably most.

But in a world which seems to be going faster and faster how do we get off the merry-go-round of our sometimes chaotic lives? Well the honest answer is that in our current society it is difficult but the good news is that all is not lost.

It is import to realise that we have choice and although we can’t control all the external factors in our lives like work and family commitments we can manage them. It was Roberto Assagioli the Psychologist who first coined the phrase Psychosynthesis. He recognised that humans have two modes of operating being and doing. Unfortunately we tend to emphasise the doing more than the being.

Most individuals, teams and organisations concentrate on doing i.e. taking action which leads to achievement and results. In some schools it seems the only focus that really matters are SATS results.

Without some ambition and goals life would become lacking in direction and boring however ‘doing’ needs to be balanced with ‘being’. We don’t refer to people as human doings but as human beings. So what does being really mean? Well it refers to the importance of the whole person to their life’s meaning and purpose, to the values on which their behaviour is based and to the importance of people rather than things.

All achievement starts with enjoyment (being), inspiring people to want to do things is essential. The next stage is to engage in learning which ultimately leads to outcomes or performance (doing).

What can we do as individuals, parents and teachers to address this potential imbalance? Always start with being and ask yourself and others what you/they are interested in, what motivates you/them and what gives you/them a sense of meaning and purpose. Understanding the importance of being will engage and empower yourself and others to want to pursue appropriate challenges and goals.

Being also entails giving ourselves time just to be and enjoy the moment and to take time out to feed our deepest needs. Spending time listening to music or walking the dog or talking with friends is fundamental to our wellbeing.

But how do we manage our time to get things done and still have time for just being human?

Again there are no easy solutions but we need to draw up boundaries on what we are willing to do. Recognising that your wellbeing comes before others might seem selfish but the reality is if we don’t look after ourselves first, then we can’t help others. One analogy comes from the advice given in an emergency when on an aeroplane. The instructions are clear - put your own mask on first before trying to help someone else!

When I coach busy teachers I ask them to compartmentalise and plan their day to ensure that time is allocated fairly for themselves, their work and their family. I am often challenged by teachers who feel that everything in their life has to be perfect, with many worrying about every little detail. This can lead to stress and exhaustion. I suggest using the 80/20 rule or The Pareto principle. This states, for example, that the first 20% of time spent on a task will give you 80% of the result. The question to ask is does this piece of work need to be perfect or just good enough. When writing a lesson plan how detailed does it need to be? Or can it be a framework that is adaptable?

I challenge teachers to delegate, often their immediate response is I have no one to delegate to. While that may be true, the next question is how often do you ask others to help? We sometimes feel that asking for help is an imposition but remember that people like to be of service and it might benefit them through learning and development.

Who can you delegate to? The answer is everyone with whom you interact. If we encourage people to be more self-responsible it will make our lives easier. It starts with children in the classroom, can we encourage them to be more independent? Can your students help through giving feedback and supporting each other’s learning? Can parents be more involved in supporting learning? Can support staff be more proactive? At home, are you the one who does everything and thinks for everyone? How can you train them to support you and think for themselves?

Wellbeing encompasses the four key areas of mind, body (doing), emotion and spirit (being). Spirit involves our sense of meaning and purpose, while emotions refer to our values and the importance of our relationships. As humans we need to foster our relationships as having a great support team is fundamental to our wellbeing. So the message is prioritise people over doing even more work!

We have already discussed some elements of the mind, setting plans and managing time but we must also include an emphasis on the body which means two things taking action and looking after the physical you.

Taking action is important. A vision remains a dream unless acted upon. How often do we say to ourselves I want to do such and such but never take action? My suggestion here is to avoid procrastination and take a first step towards want you want in life.

Finally all wellbeing starts with the physical. You wouldn’t expect a car to perform well without the right level of care. Therefore my question to you is, how good is your physical wellbeing? How good is your nutrition? How hydrated are you? How much exercise do you take? How well do you sleep? If you answer positively to these questions then all is well and you are clearly striking a balance. If not, think about how you might change your lifestyle to better look after yourself.

There are lots of resources out there to help us with our wellbeing. Let us know what you find useful as we’d love to share your ideas.

Les Duggan