Understanding integrated wellness means understanding how all the relative pieces and parts fit together to make one whole you. At Leadership Zen we call this the Mind, Body, Soul, Spirit or MBSS Connection, emphasizing the need to not only create harmony between these individual aspects of your wellbeing, but also to actively nurture and cultivate them so that you can achieve maximum fulfillment.
In most of our lives, we seek to balance competing forces to gain some sense of control. Unfortunately, that often ends up being an oversimplified battle between work and home that is often referred to as work-life balance. While the need to preserve that balance is very real, it doesn’t begin to cover what we need to be whole. That’s because work and home life are really just roles we play every day, personas that we can switch on and off reasonably at will, rather than core elements of what make us up. As an example, when we take a week’s vacation with our family, we expect (and I know many people don’t or think they can’t) to be able to flip the switch on work and not live in that persona for a week. When we return to work, we spend certain hours of our days back in the persona, where we entrust family life to teachers, caregivers, or our partners to ensure that runs smoothly while we work. Managing that balance is certainly important.
But as important as it is, it also remains incomplete. Would that life really were that simple! That’s where the MBSS Connection comes in. Think about it as a series of interconnected roads and highways, each becoming less relevant unless tied to the connected whole. A highway becomes useless, as an example, if the exit to get to a street that leads to home is closed down. That’s how the MBSS Connection works, because it isn’t about person, it is about you as a person. Rooted highly in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it focuses on basic things that humans not only desire, but that are necessary for us to be whole and to be well.
Imagine, as an example that you are fighting the work-life balance thing but you are over-tired because you haven’t slept a normal schedule in a week (it happens). In your work persona, your productivity will likely wane, while in your life persona you might be tired and cranky and unable to be effective in your relationships. That is your body telling you it needs you to take better care of it.
Or imagine that you stop learning. The world continues to move even if we don’t, and because of that the mind cries out its hunger for learning and advancement. Maslow might have called this self-actualization or the ability to be the best that one can be. If we are stifled in a job, or worse – not competing because we haven’t kept up with trends and disruptions because we like the safety of what we know, it is going to be hard to stay competitive in our work persona, because someone else will. Even at home we require mental stimulation, lest we bore into routines that start to work less and less over time.
The same is true with the Soul and the Spirit, although I find practical explanation of these terms might cross over in some readers’ minds. That is ok, because our philosophy is fluid that way. When we refer to the soul we refer to maintaining a deep understanding and connection to who we are, meaning that we take the time not only to nurture ourselves but also to understand where we came from in order to direct where we are going. It means rooting ourselves in authenticity, and to ensure that everything we do or say comes from a place that is pure for us. Anything less is disingenuous, and will come across so to others. Cultivating this authenticity is critical to growing the MBSS connection.
The Spirit on the other hand refers to spirituality – no matter what your religious beliefs are. It is a mistake to confuse spirituality with religious affiliation; while your religion may embrace your spirituality, even those who declare no religion still have a relationship with the cosmos. Relating to that is key to advancing this aspect of the MBSS Connection, and I believe it equally important as the rest. Everyone needs a deeper connection to who we are, where we came from, and whether there is some sort of plan in the design or whether we are just random factors of chance – even just figuring what our place is in this crazy world. These ideas are not mutually exclusive, and understanding the bigger picture from other people’s perspective can have a profound effect on who we are as individuals, and how influential we can be in the world around us. The death of both good leadership as well as our own integrated wellness starts with intolerance of different views and ideas. Nurture your own spirituality.
The MBSS Connection is the central theme of integrated wellness in Leadership Zen. Don’t shortchange the you in you by reducing the struggle for balance and harmony to the roles we play, instead try to focus on those internal needs we all have as humans and you will be well on your path to your own wellbeing.