We live in an increasingly pressurised society that constantly demands us to do more, have more, be more, achieve more and give more. This can lead to a feeling of depletion, unhealthy levels of stress, low levels of life satisfaction and in some cases can have an adverse effect on family life, occupation, finances, relationships, lifestyle behaviour and one’s self-esteem. Does this description sound familiar? If so, how can you increase your wellness and life satisfaction?
First things first
Becoming aware of one’s discontent is only the first necessary step towards change. In spite of the fact that many of the people who come to me for coaching want to improve their life, they are often not sure where to start. Usually they express dissatisfaction with aspects of their life or lifestyle, yet feel powerless to change. They go through the motions of daily life merely ‘surviving’ rather than actually ‘thriving’. Some even report low levels of personal wellness. Many have surrendered their personal power to fear, or to the negative voice of their inner commentator.
So the second step towards change is realising that the power to achieve higher levels of wellness and greater life satisfaction rests within each and every of us. This is often impeded by low levels of self-efficacy. Therefore, when my clients awaken to this realisation, I coach them to gradually reclaim their personal power, silence the negative voice of their inner commentator and start building what I call their ‘Personal Wellness Foundation’. But how do you do that?
One’s wellness journey involves harvesting wisdom so that one can blossom into the amazing person one is destined to be. To harvest wisdom you need to step back from the busyness of everyday life and reclaim power over your thoughts, your time, your health, your relationships, your occupation, your lifestyle choices and your self-belief. As we journey through life we are presented with a series of lessons, veiled in either positive or negative experiences. Central to living well and wisely, is being open to these lessons, focussing on the areas where you can make change, and accepting or letting go of what you cannot or do not need to change or control. But how do you build your ‘Personal Wellness Foundation’? Let’s look at 4 steps.
1. Identify what needs to change
Building Your Personal Wellness foundation begins when you identify the changes you wish to make in your life – including those related to diet, physical activity, stress, education, finance, job, relationships, community participation or spiritual practice – and take practical steps to implement them. Undertaking any change may present some challenges, but will also open up many opportunities for a more fulfilling life.
A practical starting point is to establish your current life satisfaction including your overall health and wellness. It is important to take time to reflect on and acknowledge the positive aspects of your life and what is working well and then make a list of these. What you put on this list is totally personal: it may span from having an income to achieving greater job satisfaction; from being able to hear the sound of music and birdsong to living in a supportive community; from having the gift of friendship to being in a loving relationship; from enjoying good health to the wellbeing of one’s family members, just to give a few examples.As you add to this list, you will gradually awaken to the magnificence of the life you already have. You will realise that not everything in your life is a problem, not everything is wrong, not everything is hopeless. So make sure you document the positives aspects of your life, regardless of how insignificant they might seem.
You can then examine those aspects of your life you want to change or improve. Is there an imbalance between what you perceive to be working well and those aspects of your life you are dissatisfied with? If yes, then your initial wellness foundation work will be focussed on restoring some balance. In committing to building Your Personal Wellness Foundation, it is important to develop a clear vision of what you want to achieve and how you want to live your life. Let your vision reflect your dreams and your inner truth, let it be informed by the imbalances you have identified and want to address, and let it guide your life choices. Never allow anyone to dismiss your vision and your dreams, or to trample on either.
You should think of yourself as the architect of your own life and therefore invest time in developing your personal wellness plan and treat it as the ‘blueprint’ for building Your Personal Wellness Foundation. Your life vision should excite you and you should be passionate about living it. Harness your excitement and passion into an energy force, and then design a personal wellness plan to make this vision a reality, like a ‘roadmap’ guiding your journey. When developing your personal wellness plan, adopt a whole person approach by considering goals relating to physical, mental and spiritual wellness.
2. Set clear goals
The key to developing your personal wellness plan is being clear about what you want to achieve, what changes you want to make, and when and how you are going to make this happen. For example, if an aspect of your life vision is to lose weight and increase you fitness level, this will involve change in two areas of your life, namely diet and exercise. There will be overlaps but it is important to identify goals for each area. Consider also any factors that might impact on your ability to achieve your goals. If you are not in a position to lose weight at this time, this does not mean you should give up on your goal. In that case, you could identify the steps you can take to set the wheels in motion and lose weight in the future.
To ease yourself onto the wellness path, break your goals down into simple actions or steps some of which are achievable in the short term. Achieving early success on your wellness journey is a powerful reinforcement, and will help you stay focussed and on track. You are not necessarily going to achieve every goal or implement every change in the timeframe you want, but it is better to be on the path to wellness than a couch spectator.
3. Equip yourself
Your capacity to successfully implement your personal wellness plan and to sustain change is based on a number of factors. Let’s look at some of them.
- self-belief: remind yourself that you have power over and are in control of your life.
- available resources and support: the most obvious sources of support are family members, friends and colleagues. Other sources of support, such as a nutritionist, a holistic therapist, a counsellor, a ﬁtness instructor, or a life coach, are provided by society. In either case, you have to be willing to reach out to them. Resources might include the experience of a support group, facilities such as a sports/leisure club, joining an education programme, a church or visiting the local library. Your plan should state how you are going to access such support and resources.
- readiness for change: whilst being very enthusiastic about goal setting, many ﬁnd it difﬁcult to take the first step toward achieving their goals. This is often because they are not ready to leap into action as they are stuck in a ‘rut’.
- commitment to achieving your life vision: your life vision should motivate you when you struggle to implement change so keep it very clear in your mind.
- taking responsibility for implementing your wellness plan: it’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming others or making excuses when you are struggling to implement a change. Remember that you are in charge of your life.
4. Evaluate your progress and review your vision
The only way to know if you have achieved your goals is by evaluating the outcomes you have achieved, the changes you have made in relation to your personal wellness plan and reviewing your life vision. In life there is no certainty: an unexpected event can impact on your ability to implement your goals. Therefore, it is important to review your personal wellness plan at regular intervals, particularly if there has been a signiﬁcant change in your personal life circumstances.
Evaluating your progress gives recognition to your achievements, and provides an early indicator of when you are starting to go off track. There are numerous ways in which you can track your progress. Some of the most common are:
- using a computer application for monitoring and recording your physical activity, food intake or other lifestyle behaviours;
- keeping an electronic or paper based calendar, diary or journal;
- writing a blog or use an online tracking tool;
- ringing your coach, a friend or a member of your support group.
Irrespective of which method you choose, it should be simple to use, should provide evidence of your achievements and should highlight those areas where more attention is required. Should you ﬁnd yourself slipping back into old habits you need to identify what is interfering with your personal wellness plan. Perhaps you did not sustain the changes because you were not committed to, or ready to make the change, or, perhaps you did not have the necessary support you needed. It is important to identify what is getting in the way of you achieving the life of your choosing and, then to do what is necessary to overcome, avoid, or eliminate these obstacles on your path to wellness.
You should also review your life vision at regular intervals. Personal growth and self-discovery are an evolving journey: what may have been a priority a few months ago may seem less important today. As you grow in wellness and wisdom other priorities will emerge, so add them to your vision and reflect them in your personal wellness plan. Revisit your goals, link into the supports available to you and most importantly never lose sight of your vision for wellness, personal life satisfaction, and fulfilment. This is your ‘Time to Blossom’ so why not start to build Your Personal Wellness Foundation from today?