We acknowledge that wellness and well-being are buzzwords. They show up at every turn. But what are they? And what does it mean to be well?
While there is no one set definition of well-being, there are a few key components that most people agree upon.
Well-being is holistic: While people might think of mental health or physical health when the word well-being is mentioned, it is really a BOTH/AND. Well-being is a combination of your mental, physical, financial, career, relational, spiritual, and all the other forms of health you can think of related to your many identities. Just as we are not simply a partner, friend, parent, co-worker, relative, or mentor, we are a combination of each of these identities.
It is active: Most things in life require awareness and action. Well-being is no different. There are decisions and behaviors that we must cultivate to enable well-being. It is rarely, if ever, something that just happens to you. We are active participants in our health. It is an on-going process: Say you budgeted for one month and are feeling good. Your financial health is not ✅ done. Rather, it is an on-going process that involves making decisions that align with your values, needs, and wants at each step along the way.
It is personal: Maybe the examples used do not resonate with how you think of health, happiness, and success. Chances are high that this is the case. Great! Well-being is personal and individual. Defining what well-being means to you is more meaningful than a self-help guru’s thoughts.
One other commonly shared characteristic of the modern well-being movement is to seek balance. You might hear things like “strive for balance” or “balance is key to success.”
While a good thought, the idea of balance can unintentionally do more harm than good. For instance, seeking balance might feel like:
“Now I have to do all of the things.” – It might feel like you have to go to the gym for your physical health, have a FaceTime to catch up on your relational health, all while advancing your career by networking and going to that event in your community. It can all feel overwhelming and inherently stressful. In fact, it might feel like perfectionism. Pro tip: Select some self-compassion to let go of that perfectionism voice and do what feels best for you.
“Balance looks different for me than it does for my friend.” – You are probably right. That is normal and okay. Balance is different for everyone, and changes at different times and phases of life. Pro tip: Let go of comparison and gain awareness of your own wants and needs.
“I have expectations of what others think is balanced and good for me.” – Examine where these pressures come from. You know yourself best. Better than any assessment. Better than any degree someone might hold. Embrace this expertise on you. Pro tip: Set healthy boundaries and live and lead from your values.
In summary, balance is also a holistic, active, ongoing, and personal process.
In fact, check out this thought: (image)
Balance isn’t about squeezing everything into one day, week or term. It’s about spreading what matters to you throughout time. It is unrealistic, and unhealthy, to have it all at once. But you can probably have most of it over time. Maybe Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet, said it best: “Life is a balance of holding and letting go.”
With this context, what does balance look like to you? What do you need to hold onto? What do you need to let go of right now?