When most people speak about professional wellness, they talk about work/life balance. I think this is a superficial distinction. Work is a part of life so it’s all life. It’s about total balance, but not between work and life. In order to have wellness, personal or professional, you need to balance your needs.
What are your needs? According to Choice Theory®, there are five basic needs. William Glasser called them Survival, Love & Belonging, Power, Freedom and Fun. I call them Safety & Security, Connection, Significance, Freedom and Joy. A tenant of Choice Theory, Glasser proposed that the strength of our needs is genetically programmed and remains relatively stable throughout our lives.
I agree with this, except when outside forces act upon a person. For example, genetically, my highest needs are Connection and Freedom. When I look back over the choices I’ve made in my life, most of them can be traced to a desire for more Connection or Freedom. However, if I’m walking alone in an unfamiliar place, my Safety & Security need will feel like the most important, even though Safety & Security is not something I typically pay much attention to.
This means that, despite your genetically programmed need strengths, when a need becomes frustrated and your ability to meet it is limited, that need will temporarily feel like the highest one.
A quick way to figure out what’s your highest need is to imagine a powerful witch tells you that you would go through the rest of your life with the ability to only meet one of your needs—which one would you choose? You might think choosing Safety & Security would ensure your survival, however, consider what kind of life you would have without connection, significance, freedom and joy. Not choosing Safety & Security doesn’t result in your immediate death; it would mean you would be living life on the edge. Which one would you pick? That is likely your highest genetic need.
Now, take a moment to close your eyes and ask yourself which need feels most important right now. In other words, which area in your life is most frustrated or out of balance: Safety & Security, Connection, Significance, Freedom or Joy?
Whichever one you choose, finding wellness in either your personal or professional life would involve doing things that are aligned with your values to meet your needs. If you are working at a job that you assess doesn’t meet your needs at all, then seriously ask yourself, “Why do I stay at this job? What do I get out of it?” If the only thing you can come up with is that it pays your bills, then your job meets your Safety & Security need. This is good. If you also make enough money that you have some freedom and can enjoy some things in life, then your job actually provides you with Freedom and Joy, as well. Learning to stop dwelling on the things you don’t like about your job and start focusing on the benefits of your job will go a long way toward developing professional wellness.
While you are appreciating your current job, you can begin looking for a job that will better align with your values, interests and maybe even your passion. Workplace wellness is best achieved when people feel safe at work, free from gossip, harassment and discrimination; connected to colleagues, managers, leaders, the mission and vision of the company, and the customers or clients; are making a difference and their work matters; have autonomy over at least a portion of their work, some independence and freedom to make choices rather than having just one way of doing things; and can experience joy at work, either through laughter and humor, collegial relationships, opportunities for relaxation and meaningful, relevant learning.
If you are a leader of your company, then you can provide, or advocate for, these conditions at work as a way of improving professional wellness. Training in Choice Theory will help. And if you are an individual striving for better professional wellness and your managers aren’t listening or joining the conversation, then you need to know that you have the ultimate responsibility for meeting your needs.
Because I am advocating for life balance, you don’t need to have all your needs met at work in order to feel healthy and happy. You can achieve life/need balance by making sure you have the ability to meet all of your needs, particularly your most important one, or your most deficient one, daily, even if it’s outside of work. Life is life. Your needs don’t care where they get satisfied, just that they are satisfied. If work is frustrating your needs, be sure to find places outside of work where you can fulfill them.
If you aren’t sure how to do that, perhaps you’d benefit from some need-balance coaching. If you would like to set up a complimentary consultation about these services, make an appointment to talk with me here: https://calendly.com/kimolver/free-exploratory-coaching-session.