In the sustainability field, there is plenty of talk about the "well-being of the planet" and "community well-being." But, unlike the coaching field, less attention is paid to individual well-being and the notion that a healthy happy person is more likely to apply the same principles for life to the wider world.
Next month the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability is bringing this firmly onto the agenda by hosting a festival to celebrate the nexus between leadership, sustainability and well-being. Others are also writing about this issue. In Forbes Magazine, author Jeanne Meister explains that at this year’s World Economic Forum, “mindfulness was one of the hottest topics, with multiple sessions not only devoted to the science behind mindfulness but also how to practice it.”
Perhaps I can be forgiven for speculating that this surge of interest in creating healthy employees is motivated by a desire to do better business, more of the same business that has contributed to resource depletion and pollution around the world. But more on that another time.
Interestingly, the only time in my life when colleagues, bosses and clients have urged me to truly prioritize my own well-being above my job was when I was quite visibly pregnant. I frequently was given advice such as “put your feet up” and “take a rest at lunchtime” and “don’t work too hard, you mustn’t get stressed.” A year later, as a busy working mother, this advice would be even more relevant and welcome. So why don’t we apply this logic all of the time to all people?
Recently on BBC Radio, spiritual speaker Brian Draper noted that there is nothing wrong with hard work, “but it’s the lack of permission we give each other, and ourselves, to find a rhythm in which to flourish, that’s concerning. Because we’re not computers; we’re creatures, who live in a natural world of seasons and cycles, and our energy flows and ebbs.’’ He continues: “If we see our rhythm as working from rest, and not vice versa, our rest becomes less about recovery, or physical survival, and much more about starting from a place of poise and purpose.”
This to me is where well-being and sustainability really align, and where coaching comes into its own – we are part of nature, whether we like it or not. We are affected by the seasons, the weather and the space around us. In some cultures this is so blindingly obvious it would be beyond strange to point it out. In ours, it sounds like something a spiritual leader would say, not a CEO in a big city. The world of ‘work’ that we have created would need a fairly sizable transformation to really take this premise into account. But unless we see ourselves as part of nature, I doubt we will ever truly recognize the natural world as the incredible, life giving, finite phenomena that it is.