A yearlong time-blocked calendar is possibly the most useful tool you can use to ensure that you have time to pay attention to ALL the different aspects of your life (physical, occupational, financial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, spiritual, environmental and medical) and so live the fully integrated life which leads to optimal health and wellbeing.
We often hear people talk about the “work-life balance.” It’s an interesting phrase because it implies that work is separate from life. It also implies that we can balance the two. But think about it… On the one side of the scale there is work, sitting all on its own and on the other side of the scale there is the physical, mental, spiritual, environmental, interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of life which all get dumped together as “life”. The imbalance is obvious – one aspect of life versus all the other aspects of life - and yet we still aim to give an equal amount of time to both sides. It can’t be done - and striving for it just sets us up for failure. It’s the old traditional linear way of thinking.
2020, a year that will never be forgotten due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, has been a challenging year for everyone. It was certainly not the year that any of us expected and it is for this very reason – that it was so unexpected - that many of us have struggled.
When there are discrepancies between our expectations and reality, all sorts of distress signals go off in our brains. It doesn’t matter if it’s an annual holiday ritual or a more mundane daily habit like how you clean your teeth; if you can’t do it the way you normally do it, you’re biologically engineered to get upset. We really are creatures of habit.
The Wellbeing Wheel is based on Systems Theory and is a useful tool to help us think about life in a circular way rather than a linear way.
The Wellbeing Wheel breaks our lives into eight different aspects, elements or categories and helps us to see that all the parts of our lives are linked to each other. When we plot our wellbeing on the wheel we can see at a glance which aspects we are paying attention to and which aspects we are not paying attention to, or neglecting in our lives.
We so often complain about how busy we are and that there is not enough time for everything. But what is it that you are actually focusing on? Are you including all the things that are important and necessary for your health and wellbeing? If you are, then you will be living a life that is meaningful and leads to optimal health and wellbeing. If you are not, you will merely be filling your days with frantic busy-ness on a path to physical and mental illness.
This well-known story will inspire you to think about what you are spending your time doing.
Whenever I visit Cape Town I like to visit what many consider to be the most beautiful garden in Africa – the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, on the slopes of Table Mountain. It is one of the most highly acclaimed botanical gardens in the world.
Reading a plaque one day, I was astounded to learn that it was started with the vision of just one man – Harold Pearson – a botanist who saw the need for a botanic garden in Cape Town in 1903 and set about achieving that goal.
It was 8 years before he found the place – the government owned Kirstenbosch Estate – where he wanted to establish the garden and another 2 before the land was set aside for this purpose. The garden began as nothing more than a neglected, overgrown farm with a ruined homestead, thickets of weeds and extensive plantations of alien plants. There were many difficulties to overcome – the topography was challenging for gardening, funds were severely lacking and the First World War happened leaving only one gardener. The worst blow was the untimely death of Harold Pearson himself in 1916. His dream, however, survived.
The beautiful garden we have today is of course due to many factors – the dream that started it all, the commitment and dedication of the staff during the early years, and the substantial support of the Botanical Society and its members over the years. Ultimately though, it was the vision and dream of just one man!
The lesson learned here is that if you dream and pursue that dream you can achieve mighty things.
Earlier this year I visited the Cape and spent time with a dear friend. Every day we did something different, but because we loved Stellenbosch so much we went back there many times. We ate in fabulous cafés and restaurants, we met interesting people, we popped in and out of wonderful shops and bought a variety of things that caught our fancy – artisan bread, a bone china tea set, a pretty scarf. We were delighted with the variety and diversity of our explorations.
The lesson here is to appreciate what is in your own backyard. In Stellenbosch I was made very aware that we were enjoying what millions of international tourists are drawn to annually – the sheer beauty of this land, its rich culture and heritage, and the warmth and hospitality of our fellow citizens. The rest of the world comes to enjoy the offerings that are already available to us.
At the beginning of every year, most people make plans and set goals for the year ahead. It’s a great idea, because knowing where you want to go is important – How can you get there, if you don’t know where you are going?
With my sailing background, one of my favourite quotes is “If a man knows not what harbour he seeks, any wind is the right wind.” ~ Seneca ~
But a sailor does not just allow himself to be blown about the ocean. It doesn’t matter what the wind, he just resets his sails to take him in the direction he wants to go. In the same way, when you know what you want out of life, you can set your course to get there, no matter what the circumstances.
But, you need to know where you want to go… you need to have a vision!
To help you clarify your vision, it may help to create a vision board (also called a Dream Board).
In our hectic, modern lifestyles, most of us focus so heavily on work and family commitments that we never seem to have time for pure fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we stopped playing. Even when we do make time for leisure, we're more likely to sit in front of the TV or computer than engage in fun, rejuvenating play like we did as children. But the reality is that we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously just because we’re adults. By giving ourselves permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, we will reap a variety of health benefits throughout life.
While cross country skiing in Keystone Ski Resort, high in the Rocky Mountains, I fell and a sharp piece of ice gouged a small chunk of flesh out of a finger. It was a small wound but for the next week it did not heal at all.
The ski season came to an end and my next adventure was to drive to Louisiana for the annual New Orleans Jazz Festival. I was fascinated to find that within 24 hours of entering Louisiana, which is hot and humid (the exact opposite of the extremely dry atmosphere at the ski resort) the flesh of my wound had drawn together and healing was well on its way. All it needed was the right conditions – wounds heal faster and better when kept moist.
In 1962 scientist George D. Winter found that the regrowth of skin proceeded twice as fast in a moist environment than under a scab. Wounds covered with a film dressing took about 12 to 15 days to heal, while similar wounds exposed to the air took about 25 to 30 days to heal. Our body’s cells need moisture to survive.
The lesson here is that the right things happen under the right conditions – we just need to discover and create the right conditions. This concept applies to all aspects of our life, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.