Nine Pillars of Well Being
BY: Troy Murphy | September 2018
We achieve well-being through a balanced approach to life, working with nine key areas of living.
Our well-being is a matter of universal concern. We don’t simply wish to survive, pass on our selfish-genes, and die. Our conscious involvement in living demands much more. We want to live and live well. We want to flourish, experiencing aliveness, and meaning. This aliveness—flourishing—demands more than food in our bellies, a protective roof over our head, and sex.
Living a fuller life isn’t achieved with an unbalanced life. We must harmonize many practices to improve life. The beautiful architecture of rock and decorative stone must rest upon sturdy pillars, designed to equally share the weight. Imbalances eventually cause collapse. For the purposes of clarity, I divide the well-being fronts into nine distinct categories; however, the lines between the categories are blurred. Each element spilling into the domain of others.
Nine areas of well-being for us to attend to are physical health, acquiring knowledge, spiritual maturity, emotional stability, relationship security, financial freedom, extraordinary experiences, personal achievement and generous contributions. Threads of these categories are quietly integrated into all of my writings, and prominently found in my first contribution to this project in this project (Ten Beacons of Light).
"We must harmonize many practices to improve life. The beautiful architecture of rock and decorative stone must rest upon sturdy pillars, designed to equally share the weight. Imbalances eventually cause collapse."
When our life stalls, and we begin to suffer, we can examine the nine pillars of well-being, determine an area lacking, and engage in healthy work of improvement. We can alter attention, moving from one category to another. When problems in one area become to vexing, relationships crumble, addictions debilitate, or health falters, we don’t helplessly curl in the corner and cry out, “there is nothing more I can do.” We refocus (not always simple) by turning to a different element, replenish our strength, supplement our resilience, and prepare for an eventual return to the obnoxious barriers that sent us reeling into the dark.
If a chemical addiction has outmatched us, pounding each attempt at sobriety into submission, leaving us anxious, defeated and depressed, just stop fighting this losing battle, move on to something else (temporarily). Work on gaining knowledge, perhaps. Or repair a few relationships.
Addictions make everything more difficult; but making small gains in other important areas may prove much easier and open the door for the eventual battle with the demon destroying your life.
Let’s take a closer look at the pillars.
We experience life through a continual flow. We perceive from our senses and the information is disseminated throughout the body. We construct the meaningfulness from information received as it is assimilated into our memories. Emotions and feelings are physical. They are felt by our bodies. The more grounded our bodies, the better we process information in constructive ways.
We know what the body needs: seven to eight hours of sleep, a diet rich in nutrients, and regular exercise.
Physical health is so basic that it should be a go-to response for almost all of life’s persistent troubles. When life starts to intrude, and we feel overwhelmed—take a walk, eat a healthy meal, improve sleep patterns.
We are all ignorant. But many are ignorant of their ignorance. They believe they have it all figured out.
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.” Confucius
Most successful people have a daily reading habit, constantly soaking in knowledge. We are surrounding by information—some wholesome and some deceitful. If we allow others to filter knowledge, we become susceptible to manipulations. We must draw knowledge from a variety of sources, reading about politics, biology, psychology, history, cultures, and technology. Our broad approach to knowledge creates a firm foundation for assessing incoming pleas for support.
A book can be a healthy answer to stagnation, giving life a deeper meaning, and our problem a different perspective.
Life is never going to perfectly fit our ideals. It’s too complex, too broad, and unpredictable. We need practices to help us through the anxiety of vulnerability. Spiritual work fills in the gaps where science and logic fall short.
Accepting our role in a much greater universe gives a sense of awe. Our spirituality dissolves separations and creates connections. Spiritual practices (meditation, worship, prayer, yoga), when properly performed, calm soul, stop the ruminations of the mind, and give a wordless embrace.
“Spirituality lies in what you do and how you do it and not what result you get.” Kapil Dev
Our success and enjoyment of living must delve into the mind. We can do everything right (no one does) and still feel like a failure. Shame, anger and stubborn sadness can poke and bother every quiet moment. We must do some psychological work. Whether childhood trauma or an unsettling life, our minds are susceptible to pressures and begin to adapt. When we perceive the world as threatening or as our footstool, our emotions form around these mental constructions. If the feelings intrude, pushing actions that violate commitments and hurt loved ones, we need a little emotional work; we have a problem to address. The other pillars of well-being begin the process of soothing emotions, but we may need additional help—a professional or a trusted friend.
Practices of spirituality tend to give significant emotional bonuses.
Humans thrive in healthy relationships—healthy lovers, healthy friends, and a healthy society. We need the security of others. We do not and cannot live alone. We need the contributions of others. We survive through the inventions, knowledge and resources of others. Our mental health draws upon the strength and support of surrounding intimates and friends.
Our relationships mold our experience, we are intricately linked to others; but as a warning, Daniel Goleman reminds, “The link is a double-edged sword: nourishing relationships have a beneficial impact on our health, while toxic ones can act like slow poison in our bodies.”
Our well-being is tied to the quality of our relationships. We need a small group of close and trustworthy connections.
We are wired to survive. Although money is a construct of culture, it is necessary for our survival. When we scratch and beg to pay rent, have access to transportation and put food on the table, our stress levels skyrocket; not because we are negative thinkers, emotionally unstable, or mentally ill but because we are programmed to survive.
When finances are in order, we have security in the bank, our peaceful moments are more frequent and stay longer. We benefit our well-being with steady work, reasonable spending, and comfort of a roof over our heads, transportation for our needs, and food for our tummies.
We improve our financial standing through education, development of skills, self-discipline, and careful budgeting of money.
We can’t be all business. We need to seed the ordinary with extraordinary. By purposely planning experience regularly into our lives we enrich our memories. These experiences draw us out of the routines of daily life and infuse the monotony with specialness. These experiences standout in our memories for decades while the drab moments fade away. Finances can’t be an excuse for failing to live. Extraordinary experiences don’t necessarily require burdensome costs. In fact, spending too much on extraordinary experiences can weigh against overall well-being.
Take a trip to a nearby mountain, beach or river. Watch the sunset in the horizon, eat a picnic lunch in a park. The world is full of extraordinary, we just need to make a plan, escape the routine, and refresh our souls.
Thomas Carlyle aptly stated, “nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.” Start small, build on the successes. We may not be ready to landscape our yard—but we can plant a flower.
We need to structure in challenging (but attainable) goals. These accomplishments can be in any of the other pillars of self-esteem: read a book, join a yoga class, make a new friend.
We are part of a much grander universe. Our problems easily distract and we self focus. We need to reconnect. By giving generously, something magical happens. Our problems remain but they don’t seem so onerous. Our connection to the whole puts the insignificance of our individual needs into perspective.
We give through donations, service, and political engagement. By giving, we become rich.
Well-being is a whole-body engagement. We can’t narrow our focus, constantly fighting the most noxious intruders while ignoring significant other aspects of development. Often the non-glaring other eight pillars might be the answer we seek in solving the instability in obvious remaining pillar. Mix up your approach to self-improvement, get out of the ruts of failed answers and try something new. Life awaits the changes and great rewards are sure to follow.
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