Take another look at that headline up there.
You’ve seen similar things before, haven’t you? I know I have. It’s all over the Internet:
“Seven easy steps to becoming the most enlightened, fulfilled, popular, wealthy, productive, thin, successful person on the planet.”
Or something like that.
Let’s be honest with each other, though…
If I was promising you five quick and easy steps to fulfillment, I’d be lying.
I’ve learned — and I’m sure you have too — that change takes time. But that one day you can suddenly look back and say to yourself, “Wow! I’ve come a long way!”
I’ve learned that happiness, health, professional success, meaningful relationships, anything really worth pursuing — these things are ongoing journeys. There’s no end point when you know you’ve finally succeeded and can check it off your list.
Instead, they’re practices.
As with a spiritual practice (meditation, bible study, journaling, yoga, etc.), it’s something you commit to and engage with on a regular basis because it is deeply meaningful and important to you.
And so that’s the idea behind this framework.
This is not a checklist. It’s not “5 easy steps”. Instead, it’s five areas to focus on and work with in our ongoing journeys of self-development.
(I say “our” because I’m in this with you!)
So here it is…
The Working Well Framework
Looking at the big picture, there are two key ideas here:
- that the choices we make drive everything else, and
- that all aspects of our lives are intertwined and impact each other
Let’s look at each of these core ideas…
Your Choices Are Your Life
How did you spend your time yesterday? Who were you with? What did you eat? What did you think about? What tasks did you put on your to-do list? What kinds of things did you say to yourself in that internal dialogue we all hold with ourselves?
Some of our choices are ones with a long-term impact.
A diet of fast food or a smoking habit, for instance, are things we all know will ultimately lead to a break down in our physical health.
Deciding today to contact a career counselor to help you figure out your next steps professionally? That could be the turning point that leads you to an even more rewarding and enjoyable work life.
That new friendship you started last week could turn out to be more important than you ever imagined.
Other choices have an almost immediate impact.
Take 30 seconds right now to think about the most precious blessings in your life, about the people who have changed your life for the better.
Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.
Now, how do you feel? If you’re like most of us, just taking a tiny bit of time to reflect on the people and things you cherish will really lift your spirits.
That experiment right there? You made a choice about what to think about. Even a choice that simple can have a big impact.
And imagine if you were to keep making healthy, self-nurturing choices like that all day. The choices add up.
It may feel at times like you have no choice.
It’s true. Some things are beyond our control.
There are certainly times in our lives when we will struggle, no matter how wise our choices are, because of things we are powerless to change.
But even in those situations, the choices you can and do make will help you or will make it all that much harder for you. Even when we can’t change external realities, we can choose our attitude toward those realities and toward ourselves.
Reversing the Dreaded Downward Spiral
The other core idea in this model is that all aspects of our lives are intertwined.
If you’ve ever had the experience of falling into a downward spiral — where one negative event seems to lead to the next — then you’ve experienced this interconnectedness.
But the good news is that the spiral works in the other direction too.
So by making the wise choice to intervene in a positive way in any part of your inner or outer life, you can begin to change the pattern and start spiraling up instead of down.
Your inner world impacts your outer world (and vice versa).
So what do I mean by “inner world”?
Here, I’m talking about your mind game. How you think about yourself, about other people, about the future, about the stuff you need to do today, etc., etc., etc.
Think about that experiment you did a minute ago, thinking about the things you’re grateful for. That was an inner world intervention.
You changed your thinking. And when you change how you’re thinking or what you’re thinking about, then that starts to have ripple effects.
You become kinder, or more determined, focused, optimistic, etc. — which in turn changes the way you approach your work, your relationships, and your other life activities.
The different parts of your outer world impact each other.
And what’s this “outer world” thing?
By that I mean your observable activities in the different domains of your life.
For simplicity, I’ve divided those activities into three basic domains. Experience (and a doctorate in psychology) has taught me that these three areas of our lives have a huge impact on our well-being.
- work — that allows you to learn, grow, shine, connect, achieve, aspire, be who you are
- relationships — that foster authenticity, intimacy, empathy, compassion, communication, healthy boundaries
- renewal — through sleep, nutrition, exercise, play, laughter, inspiration, time off, self-care
If your work doesn’t allow you to express your truest gifts and passions, or if it stymies you instead of allowing you to keep growing?
If your relationships at work or at home are strained, judgmental, or draining?
If you’re persistently short on sleep and you rarely take time for “non-essential” activities that strengthen, energize, and inspire you?
Well then it would be impossible to thrive in your life, wouldn’t it?
Sometimes we imagine that we can “make up” for a deficit in one of those three areas. That we can compensate for a lack of meaningful and rewarding work, for instance, by quality time with friends and family. Or we imagine that we can “get by” without time for renewal.
But the truth is that we’ll never reach our potential in life if we shortchange ourselves in any of those three areas. And that all areas of your life will suffer if one of these key areas is lacking.
Because our different roles and activities are not as separate as we might like to think.
Did you ever go through a period of stress at work and, during the worst of it, find yourself snapping at or resenting your family members, the very people you love most?
Or maybe you started a new exercise or meditation routine and then discovered that you suddenly have a lot more energy, perspective, and focus when you’re at work?
It’s all interconnected.
You need to pay attention to your well-being as a whole person if you want to excel in any domain of your life.
Going Forward From Here
You can look for a lot more posts on these topics going forward.
In fact, this framework captures on a very broad level the things I’ll be writing about here — making wise choices, mastering your mind, building healthy relationships, helping yourself thrive at work, and making time for self-renewal.
The primary lens I’m looking through here is the “work” part of the framework. But I cover the big picture because it is all intertwined and all of it will impact your happiness and effectiveness at work. And because thriving in your whole life matters.
So a tip for you as a Working Well Blog reader:
Those post categories over in the sidebar correspond to the components of this model that I’ll be writing about. As I add posts, I’ll label them according to the parts of the framework they relate to. If you have a particular interest in one aspect of the model (e.g., healthy relationships), you can click on the corresponding category to view all posts on that topic. (Update: I’ve changed the post categories a bit over time, but you can still use them to guide you toward the content that interests you most. Go to my Topics page to see what’s here now.)
Meanwhile, I welcome you on this journey with me. I hope you’ll stick around. And if you like what you find here, I hope you’ll share it with others.