A Deep Dive Into The Wellness Wheel
See the forest, see the trees
This January, I attended a weekend retreat to middle-of-nowhere Virginia run by my business school’s program office. The focus: career discernment through the lens of personal discovery. The weekend's activities included drawing relationship boards, practicing visualization, designing your ideal workplace, journaling, and more.
I’ve been on my fair share of retreats and know how the intense lineup of workshops usually goes: it starts off uncomfortable, gets interesting, peaks in an aha moment (if you’re lucky), and then ends in exhaustion. That weekend, a wellness wheel coloring exercise took the prize.
I invest a significant amount of time in my overall health and considered it to be in pretty good shape. That is, until I broke down the 8 components and honestly colored in their respective levels. Instead of a 10/10-all-across circle, my diagram resembled a small mountain range with a valley in occupational health* (a 2/10 at the time).
*Note: I treat professional development as a synonym of occupational health, to extend the category to full-time students.
I had just begun exploring my professional interests in the previous months (thus my draw to sign up for the retreat), but my efforts tapered off once the semester picked up. Leaving the topic aside had similar effects to depriving myself of sleep, social interaction, or hobbies: increased feelings of uncertainty and unease.
With the colored-in wheel in front of me, I understood why. Cutting my intake of information dedicated to professional exploration impacted my health. The link highlighted my responsibility to myself to engage with the professional development process. I couldn’t expect smooth travels towards personal growth and fulfillment with one (or more) of my 8 health engines inactive.
I discovered new levels of health and satisfaction when I improved my sleep schedule (physical), created a budget (financial), and began meditating (spiritual). The result of addressing professional development (occupational) with a mindful, curious, and actionable approach proved to be no different.
Successful professional endeavors (any sort of professional learning) require a certain level of self-awareness beforehand and almost always result in personal growth. The two thread through each other and neglecting to develop one diminishes the other. I've found this link to be equally applicable to any other two dimensions of health. Never thought about spiritual fulfillment? Your social life probably won't be in line with your values. At war with your roommate? The environmental stress will likely negatively affect your mental health, etc.
The different dimensions of health shown in the wheel aren’t anything new. But the exercise presented an impactful way to analyze and improve my health. My findings focused heavily on professional development, but the wellness diagram is all-encompassing.**
**Note: I’ve also seen versions with sexual and intellectual health as additional categories.
I invite you to fill out the wellness wheel (colored pencils and all) and take a look at the results. Are any sections lower than 5? If so, consider:
More isn't more. Each category is filled by meaning, not quantity. 10 brief social exchanges may provide fewer feelings of social connection than 2 meaningful conversations. For occupational health, lots of unexplored interests or meaningless networking events don't count.
Add, don’t cannibalize. You could add 10 hobbies in exchange for your entire monthly budget, but the net effect would be 0. Growth comes from expanding your pie, not shifting slices around.
Rate based on trends. On the other hand, sometimes working on one dimension requires a temporary decrease in another. One short night for a social event is fine. Never sleeping more than 6 hours is not fine (unless you’re a biological anomaly). What matters is the trend.
I’m much too young to be an expert on health and write purely from my experience and observation (as always). But seeking to improve and noticing my occupational health in context granted my side projects and professional goals a new level of meaning and prioritization.
What aspect of health needs your attention?