We are living in an ever-increasing complex world.  Technology is changing at lightning speed and our human population placing additional demands on the environment and the world we live in.  In addition to these increasing complexities, we are also facing an ever-increasing mental health crisis and a massive struggle against a booming illegal drug trade.  Mental health and drug related issues will become the greatest cost to health provision in all countries around the world.  Furthermore, we also know that in many countries around the world suicide is one of the leading causes of death.  We have a massive mental health crisis looming. Despite our growing awareness about mental health issues we don’t seem to be making headway into improving the situation and if left unchecked will become the greatest challenge that we face collectively and cost to our countries health system.

We need to urgently and proactively enhance well-being.  We need to start with ourselves and our children.  This article outlines 5 steps to cultivate wellbeing in ourselves and secondly to reflect on how we can better cultivate well-being and resilience in our children.

The five ways to cultivate well-being are not the typical things we might hear about cultivating well-being. As you read on, put yourself in a reflective state and assess how well you are currently implementing each of the strategies below. In summary the five ways to cultivate well-being are as follows:

  1. Stop blaming & take responsibility
  2. Take a good hard look at your choices
  3. Disciplined habit of absolute focus
  4. Let it go and move on
  5. Choose how you spend your time

Let’s explore each of these in more detail.

Stop Blaming & Take Responsibility

With over twenty years of working with people, both those with high levels of well-being and low levels of well-being, there is one thing that has become very clear to me. Those with high levels of well-being take responsibility for their actions whereas those with low levels of well-being consistently blame others or the situation for their current state.

Every time we blame someone else, the situation or something for our emotional response and state of mind, we disempower ourselves.  Whereas, when we examine what is our responsibility we identify what is in fact ours to own, which then empowers us to overcome the difficulty or challenge. Without owning the difficulty or challenge we are unable to identify what we need to improve or learn to become better or more able to deal with the difficulty.

How Do we Stop Blaming & Take Responsibility?

  • When having an emotional discussion eliminate ‘You’ from your language and replace it with the word ‘I’. Instead of “You didn’t tell me” replace this with “I didn’t ask”.
  • Use the words “… was my responsibility” in your conversations
  • Identify the learning and explain what you have learnt (or need to improve) as a result of the event or situation to the other person
  • Shift your mindset to a belief that ‘in every situation there is always something that is your responsibility’
  • Always ask your children: “but what did you do?” when they are upset about a situation to cultivate ownership in your children
  • Admit fault and always apologise for negative impact

Take a Good Hard Look At Your Choices

Fundamental to well-being is the idea that ‘We Always Have a Choice’.  Those with high levels of well-being very consciously choose everything they do and say.  Those with low levels of well-being will very often report that they “Don’t have a choice”. 

Choices are like the steering wheel of a car: if we grab the steering wheel we empower ourselves to go where we want to go.  When we are a passenger without a steering wheel we become powerless to the environment. Regardless of your life situation, it is 100% because of your choices.

How Do We Take a Hard Look At Our Choice?

  • Every situation we are in, is a result of our choices. If you are in a bad situation, then you need to track backwards and examine each and every one of your critical choices and assess where you might have made a different and better choice. 
  • Reflect on the choices you have made and identify the learning from the previous choices. How did you choose to respond? How did you choose to perceive the situation? Who did you choose to speak to or involve? Why did you make the choice you did?
  • Now look forward and ACCEPT and ACKNOWLEDGE that your life from this point forward is 100% your responsibility, and that every choice you make directs your pathway (good or bad).

Disciplined Habit of Absolute Focus

Two factors impact significantly on sustainable levels of well-being – habit and focus.  Constructive habits are essentially behaviours or actions that have become ritual, common practice or habitual.  Clarity of focus is the level of clarity we have on our priorities, what is most important, and our purpose.   This clarity of focus is both long-term and short-term.  It starts with clarity of a long-term goal and purpose, followed by a daily practice of gaining clarity on what is most important today.

When we have a disciplined habit of absolute focus we live a life where every day has purpose, every day has meaning, and every day we are able to spend our energy only of those things that are most important to reach our long-term goals. The impact of this clarity of focus is primarily that it enables us to deal with set-backs and bad days.  We all have bad days, but when we have a bad day and we have clarity of focus we are able to contextualise the bad day and reduce the negative emotion in the moment, thereby enhancing well-being.

How Do We Implement A Disciplined Habit of Absolute Focus

  • Develop shared goals for the family for the next 12 months (some people use a Vision Board) as well as personal goals for the next 12 months.
  • Write down what is most important for you and the family and put this on the fridge door.
  • Dedicate time every day to create focus e.g. in the morning on the bus or the last thing before winding down to bed at night.
  • Make a short list of things (that are achievable) that are most important to do each day during the Focus Time (there are some great Apps that assist with this e.g. Wunderlist).
  • Tick off the list at the end of the day (results in a boost of Serotonin and provides a sense of achievement).
  • In every situation, particularly when things go bad, ask yourself: “Is this important?”

Let It Go & Move On

One of the most fundamental skills for cultivating well-being is the ability to let things go and move on.  When we don’t let things go, we become resentful, angry, bitter which then impacts significantly on our well-being.  When we manage ourselves really well and have a well-developed skill of letting go we are able to eliminate significant negative emotion from our lives. 

Like the disciplined focus, letting go is also a discipline and requires effort and hard work to develop the ability to consistently let go. The earlier we learn to let go the better.  If you are a parent of young children then start developing a strategy or ritual to practice letting things go.

How do We Let It Go and Move On?

  • Identify what you are hanging onto and spend 15 mins writing about the thing that you are struggling to let go. Write down how you are feeling, what you are thinking, and what you would like to do onto a sheet of paper. Instead of writing you can also draw or paint what it is you want to let go.
  • Ritualise letting go. For example, once you are done, crumple the piece of paper into a tight ball (as tight as possible) and then THROW the piece of paper as hard as you can into the bin, and at the same time yell out “Let it go!”. By doing this you are creating a neurological pathway for letting things go.  Do this every time you are struggling to let something go. Slowly but surely you will be able to reduce the length of the ritual of letting go until it becomes an internal thought process.
  • Whenever you experience any negative emotion, ask yourself: “Can I let this go?”, and if yes then repeat the above.
  • Whenever you recognise a feeling of resentment, anger or frustration, immediately remind yourself to let go, and then let it go.

Choose How You Spend Your Time

One of the most practical ways to cultivate well-being is to improve the way we choose to spend our time.  I often hear people say: “I don’t have enough time”.  You would rarely hear this complaint from those with high levels of well-being, whereas those with lower levels of well-being would frequently use this as an excuse of way to avowing taking responsibility.

My response every time to ‘I don’t have enough time’ is this: “Well clearly then you are not clear on what is a priority and what is most important”.  If you are clear on your priorities and how you are prioritising your time, then you will always have enough time!!!

How Do you Choose your Time Better?

  • Have clarity on what is most important and a focus (see above) and prioritise everyday what is more important.
  • Create time ‘blocks’ for those very important activities in your calendar that are non-negotiable (or close to). For example, my wife and I have agreed that our family always eats dinner at a dining room table and always together (if in the home), which then makes time to connect and be together as a family.
  • Ask yourself: “Why am I doing this?”
  • Consciously choose what you spend time on everyday.

Ultimately, Well-Being is up To You

Our well-being at the end of the day is our choice.  I truly believe that we can manage our daily emotional experience and eliminate negative emotions from our life by very consciously choosing how we perceive our current situation.

If you are a parent, then teach the five practices to your children. Challenge them to take responsibility. Talk about choices and help them identify their choice in every situation. Encourage clarity of focus and setting goals. Teach them how to let things go and support them to choose how to spend their time.

"Well-being is an outcome of disciplined self-awareness and self-management, conscious decisions, and absolute clarity of focus."

Well-being should not be the goal, but in fact an outcome or end-state as a result of a goal of disciplined self-management and awareness, better decisions and absolute clarity of goals and purpose.  If you would like to have high levels of well-being, then consider which of the five practices above you need to work on and set in place an action plan to make changes.  Convert intention into action.


About the author

Gregory Bayne is one of the Directors of Total Leader and Coach Solutions Australia.  Greg works with senior and executive leaders assisting them to make shifts in the way they work, the way they think and the way they live their lives to become better leaders, colleagues and team members. Greg has a particular focus on assisting leaders create a culture or accountability and high performance. His expertise and knowledge is around building and developing a culture of accountability, leading high performing teams, and getting the most out of people to deliver the highest standards of work. We cultivate sustainable behavioural change in individuals, teams and organisations to drive a performance culture.

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