A chief aim of wellness programs in America today should be the furtherance of Shakespeare's Socratic maxim, “To thine own self be true.”
Every step we take towards greater awareness of our inner state of being is a step towards that truth. Every choice we make that helps us feel better about ourselves is a choice for being true to ourselves.
When it comes to health, many have spent the majority of their lives ignoring that “still, small voice” within that has tried to tell them “this is the way, walk in it.” Nutritionists often comment that one of their biggest initial obstacles with long-term overweight clients is the process of getting to the truth. If someone has lied to themselves for years, they often don’t realize when they’re lying to a counselor.
Beginning where we are
For employers, the question of truth is far more than a Pilatean shrug of, “What is it?” If employees are living in a state of internal discord, it won’t be easy for the employer to find a state of workplace harmony.
Employers are already spending a literal fortune on health insurance. That truth is easy to see. The harder truth is to discern what’s happening inside the bodies, minds, and hearts of employees and their families. Flash: your employees don’t know much more than you – perhaps less. For all our world-envy-provoking wealth, for the people of America, survival anxiety buzzes under our collective saddle.
Managing health plan costs through benefit cutbacks and payroll deduction increases has been like standing in the stern of a boat, staring at the wake, trying to steer. While it is useful to know where we’ve been, to plot a course to where we want to be means knowing, first, where we are.
From the stern to the helm
A key tool in finding the “You Are Here” spot on the wellness map is the Health Risk Assessment (HRA). When enough employees have taken an HRA, the aggregate data delivered to the employer help pinpoint the current state of employee health.
The emphasis can then shift towards communication and education, both of which should be designed – initially – to raise awareness. When we are aware – both of what we want and where we stand in relation to it – we begin to notice, we begin to feel, when our choices are aligned with our desired outcome – and when they’re not. We begin to steer from the helm.
Many of us were taught to put others first. Yet, even the Golden Rule says to love our neighbors “as ourselves.” How well do we love ourselves? How true to ourselves are we? How can we love ourselves and be true to ourselves unless we know – deeply – who we are?
To thine own self
Individuated genius and personal magnificence: these are the hallmarks of what it means to be human. Call it “created in the image of God.” Creatures in God’s image should thrive, should they not? Yet we cannot thrive if we try to be other than what we are, other than what our deepest voice of conscience, wisdom, and personhood whispers unto us.
To be true to ourselves we must be aware of when we are not being true to ourselves. Gaining that awareness is the spiritual quest of many, and it is more and more becoming the business quest of progressive companies.
We will surely continue to cut costs here and there, to cut better deals hither and yon, to cut a new product line out of old cloth from time to time. But cutting away the non-essential is what reveals the essence, and that requires awareness. As Michelangelo said of his greatest statue, “I merely cut away all that wasn’t David.”
From birth, all of us had layers of viewpoint, conditioning, and reaction troweled upon us. For many, that sheathing resulted in poor self-image, poor relationships, poor work ethics, poor health, and poor lifestyles: all the markers of being “stressed out.”
To become aware of our own truth – especially as it regards health – is to become aware of what our bodies are telling us, what our hearts are telling us, and to bring these into the Council of the Mind, calming the incessant buzz. Fred Sterling says, “Truth is the integrity of thought, word and deed that creates the freedom to be who you truly are.”
Aware of how our choices affect our health, we begin to realize how health affects attitude, how it affects work, how it affects relationships with colleagues, and how it affects our happiness at home.
Aware that, in many respects, we have chosen that which has brought us pain, we can begin choosing anew that which will bring us serenity, that which will begin to build up rather than to tear down.
Doing the unstressed
An Institute of HeartMath Research Overview observes: “With stress levels continuing to rise all over the world, people are becoming more conscious not only of the long-term effects of stress, but also of how unmanaged emotions compromise the quality of one's day-to-day life, limiting mental clarity, productivity, adaptability to life's challenges and enjoyment of its gifts. At the same time, most of us have experienced how positive emotional states, such as appreciation and care, add a quality of buoyancy and coherent flow to our lives, significantly enhancing our efficiency and effectiveness.”
Employees who truly love their work don’t view their position as a mere “job,” they view it as a calling - a vocation. The only way to know we’re in our vocation is to have chosen it, and that comes from a deep awareness of self. Only from within can we know that the choice we are making is the right one.
David Allen says, “Most of the stress that people feel doesn't come from having too much to do -- it comes from not keeping agreements they've made with themselves.”
The last word
Wellness programs offer a simple, compelling means for employers and employees alike to increase their awareness levels, make better choices, and begin truly to enjoy their shared activities. It begins with a company and its people, becoming more and more true to themselves. Only this can lead to shared trust, and that is a most sacred agreement, indeed.