By Jaya Saxena • March 06, 2015•Writers in Residence
Do you remember the last time you had a flat tire? The road felt bumpy and you started to have difficulty steering. You felt like you were about to get into an accident until you suddenly came to a halting stop. Your plans for the day unexpectedly changed and you weren’t able to reach your destination. Maybe you were frustrated, annoyed, and aggravated all at the same time. Isn’t it a much more pleasurable experience when we don’t have a flat tire – we are balanced, at ease, and can more easily focus on getting to our destination!
Now imagine the various aspects of your life as the spokes of a wheel. These aspects might include social life, career, nutrition, family, finances, spirituality, intellectual stimulation, recreation, intimacy, breathing, among others. Each of us might have different spokes depending on what’s most important to us. Although some aspects might be stronger than others, each plays a critical role in our overall wellness. And, the greater the balance among these various areas, the smoother the wheel rolls and the greater the sense of holistic wellness we are likely to experience.
I learned about the wellness wheel early on in my health and wellness coaching program. It’s a really effective tool to reflect on one’s overall health and well-being, and coaches commonly use it to help clients achieve their highest potential in all areas of life.
With that, a sample wellness wheel is below. Keep in mind that there are countless versions of the wellness wheel – there is no “right” version. Ultimately, it is based on areas of your life that are most important and relevant to you.
We’ll get into the actual exercise in a bit but, first, let’s reflect on several of these aspects in greater detail.
Given that my blog series is about discovering your authentic professional self, we’ll start with career. This aspect involves finding personal satisfaction and fulfillment in one’s life through work, and recognizing that your work is meaningful to you. This means that you are in a career that is consistent with your personal values (see Exercise #1 on Values in my first blog post), interests, and beliefs rather than in a position that is unrewarding. It is also the ability to pursue your career while also engaging in other aspects of your life.
Below are several questions to help you reflect on this aspect of your life.
- Do you take on unnecessary and often unrealistic burdens and responsibilities?
- Does the work you do enhance the wellbeing of others and the planet without taking away from anyone
- Can you make much of your work into play?
- Is your work rewarding to you?
- Are you proud of your accomplishments?
- Are you a good worker?
You can also complete the following sentences with the first thoughts or feelings that come to mind.
- Work is ….
- My work is ….
Another aspect of our overall wellness is our financial situation (labeled as “money” in the sample wellness wheel above). I highlight this dimension because I think we, all too often, think about career planning without realizing that it also involves financial planning. Financial wellness is understanding the need to sustain ourselves financially in the short and long-term.
- Do you live beyond your means? I once heard a speaker talk about working at a large law firm with the goal of ultimately practicing public interest law. He said that it is key to live below your means while you’re at the firm so that you don’t get caught up in a lifestyle that you will then feel the need to sustain. That might be one reason so many folks get trapped into working at a large firm even when they initially saw it as a temporary step to pay off loans and get some good experience before transitioning into government or nonprofit work.
- Do you have a personal budget?
- Do you have a plan to pay back your student loans?
- Is your credit card debt paid off each month to avoid interest?
- Do you have a savings account?
III. Intellectual Stimulation
While this dimension isn’t listed in the sample wellness wheel above, I think it’s particularly relevant to the work of law students and lawyers and you could always add it to your own wellness wheel if it’s important to you.
Intellectual stimulation captures the idea of being a lifelong learner so that you can grow and develop. It encourages curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. It means maximizing our educational opportunities by being engaged in the experience, asking thoughtful questions, and being open to new ideas and skills.
- Do you have good study habits and time management skills?
- Do you challenge yourself to see various perspectives of an issue?
- Do you develop your own new ideas and opinions or do you have a tendency to agree/disagree with others’ viewpoints?
- Are you exposing yourself to new ideas, views, or people that are different or unfamiliar?
Exercise #2: The Wellness Wheel
While I only reflected on several of these aspects (they are the ones that I think are most closely related to our workplace although others – e.g. social – are also very much related thereby demonstrating further how each of these aspects is interconnected), I encourage you to think about what each of the aspects you’ve identified on your wheel means to you.
Once you have identified five to ten spokes of your wheel (the various aspects or dimensions of your life that are important to you) and reflected on what each means to you, the next step is to rate your satisfaction in each area. Use a scale of 0 (no satisfaction) to 10 (greatest satisfaction) and draw lines to connect each aspect as demonstrated in the example below (this is a different version of the wheel than the one above, but you’ll see that it has many of the same categories). The ranking I suggest is based purely on intuition, but there are other ways to rank each of these aspects in a more methodical and calculated way.
How smooth are the edges of your wheel? Are they uneven signaling that you’re on a bumpy ride (which is the case for most of us!)? Might the imbalance be making it harder for you to reach a destination of holistic wellness?
By ranking ourselves in each of these aspects, we can then identify areas in need of improvement while also recognizing and appreciating what’s going well in our lives. We can start to set goals so that we can start to feel more balanced, whole, and….authentic.
Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride!
Until my next post,
[Note: Much of my ideas for this post came from the Wellness Workbook: How to Achieve Enduring Health and Vitality (3rd edition), which is written by John W. Travis, M.D. and Regina Sara Ryan (Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony 2004) and a number of online resources, including http://unh.edu/health-services/ohep/wellness.]