After a year of a pandemic that has taken a physical and emotional toll on hundreds of millions of people, the elusive idea of “well-being” is more relevant than ever. Even before the pandemic, it was already a hot topic with an established multi-billion dollar industry. The need for organizations to prioritize their employees’ well-being is more present than it has ever been. Does this mean we have the right tools and resources at our disposal? Not exactly.
The Road to “Well-Being”
One of my qualms about the idea of “well-being” is that it often follows a prescriptive approach. This is how one “should” eat, workout, rest, work, etc… oh, and here is the evidence for it. As well-intentioned as this might be and as well-substantiated as the proposal may be, I have noticed that many of us find it difficult to fully connect with it beyond just accepting what is proposed.
In many cases, we fall into a loop of feeling we “should” do something or be a certain way. We feel bad when we fail to follow the recommendation or achieve the state we believe we should pursue. We sometimes even reach the conclusion that doing or being a certain way is out of our reach because of __________ (fill in the blank with your favorite response – the one I found most people reference is the lack of willpower or discipline). In many cases, we are either left with the option to “try again” and see if this time we will have the willpower, or try the next new workout class, diet, or meditation app in hopes that this time it will be different. Many of us are familiar with the new “hope-try-drop it-feel disappointed” cycle.
Why is it so difficult to adopt changes that are good for us… that we know are good for us?
I have been passionate about exploring this question for years now. I did so silently as I focused on consulting Fortune 500 companies on topics related to innovation, agility, and digital transformation. A couple of years ago, I realized that there were a series of overarching themes in the space of innovation that actually shed some light on helping us adopt those changes. Coupled with some of the core aspects of behavioral science popularized by many habits books and publications, I found an interesting intersection: behavioral innovation through personal experimentation. This was the starting point for Optimal Me, a program we launched at Axialent in 2019.
Ever since, we have worked with seasoned leaders from over 10 countries, spanning Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa. We have asked them to run experiments on a wide range of topics – whether it’s intermittent fasting to increase focus and energy, new workout routines to help with stress reduction, breathing practices, personal productivity methodologies, or team productivity approaches. The most gratifying aspect of this work has not been the direct results of the experiments, but when people reestablish the confidence to playfully experiment with learning something new. Trying out a workout regimen for a couple of weeks, measuring how I feel about it, and trying to learn what works best for me is very different than powering through two weeks of doing something that may not even be the right fit for me, but I have a sense of obligation that I should do it.
We have learned that people are much more likely to stick with well-being initiatives if they actually enjoy doing them. Working on discovering this joy through a non-threatening (yet rigorous) personal experimentation process, supported by basic tenets of behavioral science is the core experience we are trying to instill in our Optimal Me participants.
Research has shown the incredible benefit of workplaces that provide well-being initiatives. Eighty-nine percent of employees at companies that support well-being initiatives were more likely to recommend their organization as a good place to work. Organizations with supervisors that supported their well-being plans reported a higher number of workers motivated to do their best, higher job satisfaction, and better relationships with their superiors.
If you are interested in innovation or growth mindset, Optimal Me will offer you a concrete way to embody it in your life. If you are just interested in learning how to be better in key aspects of your life, Optimal Me can offer you tools and approaches for you to test your way into it.