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How do I find more energy? Could I be happier? How can I feel more connected? Why does everything seem hard right now? Can I maintain this pace? How do I do my best work?
If you have spent any time thinking about questions like these, you are not alone. Our mental well-being affects how we feel and perform every day. Many people are looking for help to close the gap between where they are today and where they want to be. It’s complicated because sometimes, especially over this past year, just getting through the day seems challenging enough. Yet we still crave forward motion.
Consider where you are right now and ask yourself, “where do I land most often in my thoughts and actions?” Now imagine where you would like to land in your thoughts and your actions.
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BetterUp Coaches meet with members across the entire well-being spectrum, supporting them on their unique journeys — from negative back to baseline. In the following section, I use my experience with real Members to help personify what each state of well-being sounds like and how small shifts in mindsets and behaviors can ignite a spiral of positive change.**
The following examples illustrate some of the ways people experience various states of well-being.
If you’re stuck, there’s little movement. You don’t know where to begin. Someone in this phase has difficulty identifying a clear goal for themselves because they simply don’t know how or where to start.
Peter struggled to even articulate a coaching goal because he felt defeated and wasn’t motivated to make a change. He felt paralyzed in his current role after working very hard to become a senior manager. He didn’t feel hopeful or optimistic and had trouble motivating himself at work. His awareness of not feeling passion or purpose in his work just made him feel worse. He didn’t make an effort to spend time with his friends anymore, and they had started to distance themselves because of his negative attitude. He didn’t like where he was but was overwhelmed at the idea of doing anything to improve his circumstances, especially in the middle of a pandemic.
At work, he was just getting by. When conflicts arose , he would cancel or miss a meeting to avoid confrontation with colleagues or his own reports because he didn’t trust himself to hold it together. He started to think maybe everyone hates their job — this is just how it is now. In the evenings, he was too tired to go for a run, instead indulging in junk food and Netflix. In his stuck state, he had come to a standstill. . On the outside, he looked fine. But he was not well.
Peter was stuck and seemed likely to stay there without some help to feel less heavy and exhausted. Working with Peter meant giving him the space to discover the role he was playing in his discontentment. No judgment. No external pressure. Just listening and asking questions.
Self-awareness, understanding what he was thinking, feeling, and doing that kept him stuck, was Peter’s first breakthrough. Using a tool called Putting it in Perspective, Peter explored the worst thing that could happen if he chose to make a change. He thought about the best outcome in his situation and considered what was most likely to happen. By redirecting his thoughts from irrational to rational, he developed a plan for the most likely scenario. That moved him into a strategic planning mindset, offering him the ability to clarify what he wanted along with an approach for his next step. Meanwhile, I recommended Peter consult with a BetterUp nutritionist and as a result, he started to feel more energized and motivated to make changes in his life. He began reaching back out to his friends to talk about the plans that he had for himself and ask them for advice to help him put his plan into action. This started shoring up his social connection and sense of belonging, and he noticed he could find reasons to be hopeful and optimistic. He also found it easier to catch himself when he fell into negative thoughts. Peter started to feel less alone and more in control of his life.
When you feel strained, you think there is nothing you can do to influence a situation. Someone in this state wonders if they will ever bounce back and feels like everything is taking a toll on their ability to move forward. Because so many people are strained so much of the time, it can start to feel normal. We tend to accept that we get derailed by everyday stressors and unexpected setbacks.
Joanna had just lost a major account with a key vendor when we began our coaching journey. She was completely focused on what happened to her, which she was sure she could not control. Joanna felt that others were out to get her and believed there was little she could have done, nor could do in the future to change her circumstance. If there was a decision to be made, she didn’t have confidence in herself to take action so she would avoid making any moves. She second-guessed every decision she would make. In her strained state, she began to compare herself to others in her organization who seemed to move through their projects with ease and started to assume they thought very little of her for not being able to do the same.
She judged herself harshly and wondered if she would ever be able to recover. She was in a cycle of thinking that there must be something wrong with her and everyone seemed to know what they were doing except her. Even trying to make plans with friends seemed like such a chore because it hurt to hear about the success they were experiencing while she felt so low so she would only make plans that didn’t leave time for conversation like playing tennis or watching a movie.
Joanna was focusing on what she couldn’t control – and our work together went to a new level when she made a choice to focus on those things that she could control.
Her shift began when she stopped beating herself up and considered what would happen if she treated herself with kindness, using the mindset of self-compassion. Using a role-play exercise, she arrived at a place of responsibility for her actions. As she concentrated on what she could control, she was able to see her part in the loss of the account. Joanna decided to return to the vendor and offered a plan for the next phase of the account. She asked open-ended questions and listened, and she got a second chance. With a growing sense of integrity, Joanna affirmed that she could respond differently to demanding situations. By accepting responsibility for herself, her relationships improved and her comparisons to others diminished.
In the steady state of well-being you encounter challenges, foresee obstacles, and forge ahead. Someone in this phase might still check the rearview mirror, but they feel like they’re in a pretty good place in the moment. You might be less sure of whether you can keep up the pace or keep going through major life setbacks, and you might have a sense that you could still be feeling and performing better.
With ten new direct reports, Phoebe was feeling the pressure of managing an unfamiliar team in a new city with varying personalities and skill sets after getting promoted. She didn’t have much time to get them up to speed with a re-org that had just taken place and hardships facing each member who had seen some of their colleagues lose their positions. Meanwhile, she was struggling with loneliness and lack of clarity herself. She had just moved to a new city to lead this team and did not have the support of friends close by to get her through the challenges she had before. She knew she was stressed, but she also had the awareness that she had been here before and knew how to get herself and her team into a better place. Phoebe created a schedule to offer listening sessions for each team member and incorporated their concerns and ideas into a working document. With their input, she organized a novel method for making clear requests for deliverables and received commitments from each member to follow their plan. She also made a plan to try out some new yoga studios around her neighborhood to make some new friends and set up a couple facetime dates with loved ones to feel more supported.
Phoebe wanted both herself and her team to feel supported and know each person had a role to play despite the uncertainty in their organization, they all could face each situation individually and corporately.
The steady state Phoebe exhibited grew with her ability to adopt a focus mindset and ignore the noise going on within the organization to hone in on what was most important. She added a resilient mindset to help her and her team bounce back from the impact of the re-org. In our coaching, Phoebe’s goal was to improve her own mental wellbeing so that she could be more flexible and less defensive when managing difficult conversations with her team and management. She started meditating and prioritizing her wellbeing by consistently attending a yoga class with some friends over zoom. At work, she used Fred Kofman’s Mutually Beneficial Agreement template to define a mutually beneficial purpose, express her view and hear team’s views, negotiate a strategy, and get a commitment. She also made sure that she had the support she needed to fulfill her growing duties and to lay the groundwork for whatever was next for her in the organization. It wasn’t an easy transition, but one in which she continues to flourish.
In the strong phase of the spectrum of well-being, you are thriving and energized by what is going on in your life and in your work. Someone in this phase finds themselves creating an impact beyond themselves by influencing others through what they learn and implement.
Nothing has come easily for Taylor, and nothing seems to have stopped him from going after what he wants in life. He insists he doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, that there has to be another option. Taylor stands out with his drive to go after what he wants, his ability to connect with others, and the integrity he brings as a leading sales manager for a Fortune-500 company. He’s eager to learn how his competitors beat him so that he can make sure he uses that information for the next round. Oftentimes, conversations with Taylor focus on his personal relationships and how he can be a better friend or mentor to his sales reps. He has a very close group of friends from college that he has been intentional with about planning trips and staying involved in what is happening in all of their lives. We constantly talk about work life balance and strengthening his why in life. Taylor finds a lot of purpose and meaning in volunteering at an afterschool program once a week that helps kids from difficult backgrounds find respite in creativity and sports. He really wants to set up a service day for his company where they can help beautify the campus.
Taylor expressed that for him to progress, he wants to have a stronger impact on those around him and increase his connections with other professionals within and beyond his field of expertise.
To remain in this strong state, Taylor realizes that he could get depleted and he won’t be able to keep growing and achieving if he keeps all of the decision-making and workload himself, even though that is his instinct. He is exploring the mindset of empowerment as a way of allowing others to step up and control how they do their work. This allows him to shift his focus from having to tightly manage his team to instead setting up more opportunities for all of them to network and give back. He also recognizes how much he is energized by learning new things from different areas of the business and recognized an opportunity to make a greater impact with his knowledge. He wasn’t certain how to retain all of this new information, so we explored the Learning Pyramid and discovered that implementation is a key way to absorb 90% of what you’ve learned. To do that, Taylor now teaches someone what he learns immediately, even if he makes a mistake. He tells someone his new idea, writes it down or shares the information with a colleague. His impact is making a difference in the lives of many people in his organization and in his community.
The spectrum of well-being offers you a way to visualize what happens when you are stuck, strained, steady, or strong. The phase you are in might be different from one month to the next, especially when you’re learning something new.
The good news is that while you may occasionally find yourself feeling stuck or strained, the time you spend there will be less intense the more you start to focus on your well-being you can start to build the mental muscles that will allow you to bounce back faster. A big move, a heated discussion with a loved one, or a mistake at work that used to get you stuck for days can be managed in hours, or minutes with the right mental fitness routine.
Does your team have the tools they need to get unstuck and face obstacles with optimism, emotional agility, and confidence? BetterUp can support the full spectrum of well-being with various coaching modalities, an array of resources, and personalized support that will meet them wherever they are in their journey every step of the way. Isn’t it time we all were able to be at our best?
**The names and the stories have been changed to maintain anonymity for our BetterUp members.
Better Up Fellow Coach, PCC, CBC