Career Wellness Part 2: Making the Math Make Sense

Isn’t it annoying when someone answers a question with more questions?

Yes, I left off last week with a bunch of questions without the common decency of providing any answers whatsoever.

The nerve.

I talked a bit about wellness wheels last week, in an attempt to make the impression that balance between the different areas of your life leads to a higher likelihood of overall wellness. Of course, this includes career considerations, but extends far beyond the typical qualities ascribed to “work-life balance,” a phrase I come across often that I have somewhat of a bone to pick with, as it tends to connote that “work” and “life” are separate competing entities, and never the ‘twain shall meet.

I did leave off with some questions in last week’s post, so I suppose the fair thing to do now would be to start talking answers.

Establishing balance in your life is about more than the amount of time spent doing activities in one area or another. Getting caught up in that kind of thinking might lead some to spend less time doing things that are really important to them, or that naturally occupy a disproportionately large amount of our time, as careers tend to do. Think about it: is there any single thing other than your job that you consistently spend 8 hours or more a day doing? 40 hours a week?

This doesn’t mean that you should be cutting down the hours at work. Rather, one way of thinking about it could be establishing for yourself a sort of inner mathematical formula that determines how much time spent doing different activities contributes to your wellness. Each activity type would then have a sort of “wellness coefficient” that, ideally, would even out every aspect of your life to equal the magical whole number 1, thereby achieving both mathematical and life balance. Ahhh.

Lost you? Let’s try it out. For example, you spend 40 hours at work. If that’s what works for you, then work would have a very small wellness coefficient (0.025, if you want to be exact).

40 (hours of work) X 0.025 (wellness coefficient) = 1 (balance)

If you felt particularly overworked, say you worked 60 hours this week, and the coefficient stayed the same, you would have a number higher than 1 as a result (overbalanced).

If you felt that yoga, for example, was a really great way for you to achieve spiritual balance, you probably wouldn’t need to spend 40 hours doing it to feel balanced. Maybe you only do yoga for 5 hours a week and that suits you just fine. In that case, yoga’s coefficient would be larger (0.2), as you wouldn’t need to spend that much time doing it to feel balanced.

Yes, maths
Image by akirsa via Flickr

Maybe you spend 3 hours doing yoga (3 X 0.2 = 0.6) and 2 hours of an activity that has a similar effect on your spiritual balance, like walking in nature (2 X 0.2 =0.4), and together (0.6 + 0.4 = 1) you feel spiritually balanced.

I think you get the idea. This is but one way of conceptualizing balance between the different areas of your life – of course things are going to have different levels of importance or restorativeness at different times of your life. As long as you are intentionally paying attention to these different areas at least some of the time, you are doing a lot to help yourself.

With careers, there are a number of things you can do to work towards wellness, but for the most part they are highly individualized. Maybe you’re the type that needs to feel challenged consistently – if you’re in a job where there’s not much challenge, maybe there are other areas of your life that you can challenge yourself to make up for it. Maybe there’s an opportunity for you to take some initiative on a new project or to come up with a new project for yourself. Maybe you have enough time on the side to draw up a plan for your own business at some point down the road.

Similarly, maybe you are getting the sense that your work is not providing you with enough of a sense of meaning, and feel a bit unfulfilled as a result. What are some ways that you derive meaning from other parts of your life, and how could you use that information to make whatever alterations you come up with in your career?

Maybe you’re considering making a risky career shift. With all of that uncertainty (read: open-mindedness) surrounding your career, what are some other areas of your life that you can count on for a sense of stability? Relationships? Leisure activities? Physical health?

The bottom line is that everything affects everything else. Small differences in one area of your life could have a drastic impact in other areas, at other times, and you might never know it – think of the movie “The Butterfly Effect.”

Only without Ashton Kutcher. Stay out of my movies, Ashton Kutcher.

*Cross-posted at Career Services Informer.