Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

Why Measure Happiness?



We often use the terms wellbeing and life satisfaction in favour of the sometimes wrongly interpreted label of “happiness”, yet there is no getting away from the fact that happier people do better in life – on many fronts! But first, how do we measure happiness? There are two commons ways of measuring “happiness” – firstly, subjective wellbeing – people are asked about the degree of life satisfaction they experience and this is matched with a high level of positive emotions and a low level of negative emotions. This is more about a snapshot at any one time. The second way is of a more enduring measure – how much fulfillment we are getting from our relationships, how much meaning we are experiencing in our life and whether we feel we are developing as a person. 

So when we have this “score” what correlating relationships do we then look for?  Well, research has shown that happier people experience the following:

  • Greater productivity at work;
  • Greater creativity;
  • Higher earning and better jobs;
  • More likely to be leaders;
  • More satisfying relationships;
  • Better overall health;
  • More likely to be helpful and generous.
Sonja Lyubomirsky presented at a Coaching conference in September this year and emphasised that the research also showed that happier people tend to be more focused on others, and sadder people more focused on self.  We might question which comes first, for example, if we are not experiencing good health, then surely we will be unhappier.  However, Sonja described a study which exposed people to the cold virus (after measuring their happiness levels).  The virus was actually injected into their nasal passages. And guess what? The happier people were less likely to develop a cold. This gives weight to the notion that happiness is the cause rather than the effect of all these other positive factors.  

So we know that around 40% of our overall happiness can be influenced by the activities we do.  (The other 60% is either genetically determined – 50%, or linked to our circumstances.)  What are those activities?   Well there are many but here are a few tried and tested:

  • Express gratitude;
  • Be physically active;
  • Be mindful and savour experiences;
  • Practice forgiveness;
  • Set life goals;
  • Perform acts of kindness (make someone else happier).
The important thing also to note is that the activity needs to be a good “fit” for the individual. It needs to fit your personality, culture, and even strengths and what might work well for one person may not work for another. We need to remember this when working with clients and at times help them find the source of their unhappiness and come up with an activity that will counteract this.

Helping our Clients Define Success



Inevitably, our clients want to move forward - in a direction that they may have struggled with in the past. In fact they may even have failed in that area. So their drive is to succeed this time, which is why they have a Wellness Coach.

Our job as a Wellness Coach is to help them define exactly what it is they wish to achieve and of course to help them get there. But first, conversation around this concept of “success” is essential. Closely related to the idea of achievement is the notion of  ”ambition” and an exploration of both terms can reveal interesting insights for both ourselves and our clients. 

Some people describe themselves as ambitious and others may not relate to the term. The word is often associated with competition and succeeding at the expense of others, but if we accept that a better and more accurate definition is “a strong desire to do or achieve something", surely we would like our clients to become more “ambitious” around their goals? Words can do strange things to our interpretation of life. Success and ambition are really very personal constructs and relate purely to what a person truly wishes to obtain in their life. So to be motivated and enthusiastic about working towards goals is a great thing as it can lead to success, but in this sense, “success” is not about “winning”, neither is ambition.

The first question to ask a client is “what makes you fulfilled and happy in life?”  By doing this we can uncover a person’s core values.  So let’s take a look at a few examples. They may identify strongly with any of the following:

  • Imagination and creativity;
  • Kindness and compassion;
  • Lifelong learning;
  • Building relationships and connection with others.
These are all values and also strengths and if we can recognize what really drives us, we can then set goals accordingly and ensure that the steps along the way give us opportunities to incorporate these core values.

The next question is, “How do you measure success?” The answer to this could be anything, and you may hear responses such as:

  • How much fun I have in life;
  • How peaceful and calm I feel;
  • How much I can contribute to the world.
These bigger picture questions and answers can help shift someone’s mindset and help them identify changes they would like to make that may be somewhat different from what they thought they wanted, or at the very least affect the choice of the ways in which they choose to move forward. When we work with clients to help them define the steps they wish to take, we must never forget to explore their bigger world view first.

The Prison of Perfectionism


How many clients do we work with who admit to being perfectionists? (Often said quite wryly but we can sense the pride behind the statement.) It’s as if they know they are trying to achieve impossible goals yet are upholding a value that often defines them. So we get this sense of conflict which so often happens with our client. They know it’s unrealistic to expect to be perfect all the time but they’re driven by an internal measure. I.e. their heart dictates the value. Sometimes perfectionism comes described as being an  “all or nothing” person. Unless they totally give something up, they can’t cut down, they have to embrace change completely or they won’t bother taking the first step. 

Sound like perfectionism?  It is

Perfectionism has been linked to a wide array of mental health issues – depression and anxiety being the most common.  Instead of thinking it as a virtue, we need to think of it is a form of vice – or a prison that keeps us locked into unrealistic expectations - that we will never fulfill.

There is a better approach. moving from perfectionism to optimalism. Optimalists also strive for success for they are “more flexible, resilient and adaptive in the pursuit of their goals”, according to Tal Ben-Shahar.

So what’s the difference between an optimalist and a perfectionist? Here are a few, Which do you lean towards?  
  • Perfectionists have a fear of failure – optimalists view failure as feedback
  • Perfectionists are defensive – optimalists are open to suggestions
  • Perfectionists look for faults – optimalists look for bright spots
  • Perfectionists are rigid and inflexible – optimalists are adaptable and flexible
One of the most debilitating characteristics of perfectionists is their tendency to procrastinate – simply because unless they can do something perfectly, they hesitate to begin or to do it at all. They freeze. 
 
“Don’t let great get in the way of good” is an excellent mantra for these people.

So what do we do with clients who are perfectionists?

As coaches when we work with perfectionists we encourage the idea of setting goals as “experiements”.  As something they can learn from.  If we set them up in this way, they are more likely to enter the journey willingly and with a better attitude.  The answer to perfectionism?  Be authentic!  Be who you are, go after the things you love, use your strengths, accept your weaknesses and learn to get satisfaction from within no just from outside, i.e. other people!

How do we experience success?




Ihave often wondered why I feel uncomfortable tying the word “success” into any description of wellness coaching – after all, isn't that what people want to experience? At a recent workshop the question came up again and it gave me cause to think, read (and chat) further about the concept. What does success actually mean?  

A positive interpretation would be the achievement of any goal you set yourself.  This morning watching the German soccer team run around the pitch having won the final in the World Cup, there was no doubt that they were exhibiting symptoms of that feeling of “success”!  How proud they were. Positive emotions abounded. There was plenty of “meaning” in their efforts and they were certainly “engaged” and the shared joy which came from the “positive relationships” with team members, their coach and their fans all would have contributed to a longer lasting feeling of happiness than if the win was a rapid competition between two men with little publicity.  In this case, “success” was evident and a good thing!

But what makes me feel uncomfortable is when people are seeking “success” with their main aim to be seen to be successful by other people.  In other words an externalized recognition.  And we do see this when clients come to us to satisfy someone else’s idea of what they should look like or how they should be living. “Being successful” to me seems quite empty compared to the notion of living an enriched and fulfilling life.  

Moments of satisfaction are wonderful and even more so when we have bounced back from setbacks, yet I refer to Simon Sinek’s words that “there is often an irony to success. Many people who achieve it don’t always feel it”.

I agree that success and achievement are not the same thing. When we achieve a goal, we tick a box and feel good – for a while. We have got WHAT we wanted. Real success comes from the feeling of clarity around WHY we want it.  Back to purpose and meaning again. Our goals are milestones along the way. Ok you might say this is simply a semantic argument and I’d agree but whatever word you use, whether you see achievement and success as the same thing, be clear about the reason why we are doing what we’re doing in the first place. 

Because this is who we are.

Things that Trip Us Up


When we work with people around lifestyle changes, one of the main areas to focus on is the potential hurdles that get in the way and prevent our success. These come in many shapes and sizes and very often people mention things like lack of willpower, too little time, no support, insufficient knowledge, competing priorities etc. One that is rarely recognised and identified yet often becomes evident in our coaching sessions, is the sheer amount of “clutter” that exists in our lives! Now this may be physical clutter – ie can’t find my running shoes, clothes or hand weights in all the mass of belongings in the house, or it may be mental clutter where our minds become too full of things to remember to really make a plan that we can stick to.

I was interested to read that there is now a professional organisation who governs a new industry of professional organisers and was struck by how closely related our work would be. In today’s overwhelmingly complex life full of materialism and choices, people become frozen by indecision or lack of clarity around what they want, why they want it and how the heck to get started. And most of this is simply because their lives are full of excessive “stuff”. Hanging on to useless possessions can indicate that someone is not coping and can really bring a person down. Many times we have worked with people who want to lose weight and helped them create a plan to get their past five years tax returns lodged – before they begin to sort out the pantry!

So when you think about your unachieved goals, ask yourself? Is there any area of my life that is creating a potential block in letting me move forward? It may not be the obvious, time worn obstacles to change.

Whether you use a Wellnesss Coach, a professional organiser, or both, change takes time and energy and an impartial third party can be just the ticket!



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