It was fascinating to see how our son and daughter are growing up and becoming/being independent and this manifested itself on numerous occasions. In one conversation my daughter was discussing the possibility of travelling to Cambodia to work with an NGO.. her mum was not too keen but she suddenly said..'look you can advise me but I'm going to make the final decision on whether I go', I'd never heard that sort of thing before.
I am just starting to think of wellbeing as a dimension of lifewide learning. My daughter has just started writing for her university newspaper so I have commissioned her to write an article for Lifewide Magazine (which she can also use for her newspaper) on how students understand their own wellbeing. I developed a simple questionnaire and interviewed her and her brother to pilot it. It worked a treat and we had good meaningful conversations. Both, in their individual ways, made the point that their wellbeing was not just about happiness or feeling good, but was much more about discovering, pursuing and achieving your purposes. Both indicated that trying to find your purpose and that they try to do this by taking on new things.. not at random, but guided by their interests, values and relationships.
When I added my tags to the post I realised that this was the first time I'd had categorised a post using 'wellbeing' so it not a concept that comes in to my head very much. Perhaps the things I do and the relationships I have are so integrated into my wellbeing that I take it for granted. As a generalisation I do feel fulfilled and happy with my life. I am a valued member of a family that I am supporting and gaining much love in return. I enjoy my work which gives me challenge, interest and opportunity and a belief that what I'm doing is worthwhile.
I latter completed the questionnaire myself and realised in doing so how much of my own sense of wellbeing was bound up with my family. Seeing them find and achieve their purposes, and playing a part in helping them do this, was perhaps the main source of my wellbeing.
1 What does 'wellbeing' mean to you?
I am very fortunate to have more than the basics in life including a lovely home and income to support my needs, time to do things I want to do and I am reasonably healthy and fit. These things all contribute to my sense of wellbeing. But ultimately wellbeing is about understanding and fulfilling my purposes - or at least the ones that I think are most important in my life.
My wellbeing is founded on the relationships I have with the people who matter most to me. My immediate family which includes my three children by my first marriage and my wife and three children and grandchildren from my second marriage. My greatest sense of achievement and fulfillment comes from the love and attention they give me and my involvement in their lives. Seeing and helping them grow up and find their own ways in life has given me my main purpose in life. A second set of purposes which cause me to get up in the morning is my work in promoting lifewide education. Here fulfillment comes from a sense of making progress in achieving the educational goals I believe in.
2 Is wellbeing linked to happiness? Are they the same thing?
Yes. I believe I am contented and happy with my circumstances and although things do crop up in life that make me anxious, sad and unhappy - the big picture is one of happiness. But wellbeing is not only about happiness it is much more about discovering and pursuing purposes and doing things that you believe are worthwhile, meaningful and valuable and deep and meaningful forming relationships.
3 Which aspects of you does your wellbeing involve or affect?
Given what I have said it must affect me physically. Although I can no longer run because of my knee I am generally in good health and physically I can do most things that I need or want to do day to day. It affects me psychologically and emotionally - I generally feel positive and rarely suffer from negative feelings, and sadness can usually be offset with joy. Aspects of my daily life keep my mind active so it affects me intellectually. And spiritually, I am comfortable with my understanding of who I am, why I am here and what will happen to me when I die.
4 What sorts of things do you do that enable you to cultivate a sense of wellbeing?
I am surrounded by my family and I am involved in their lives, some more than others. At the moment I am helping my daughter a couple of days a week with childcare - looking after her 8 month old twins. Its hard work but very rewarding and it gives me a lot of pleasure to feel I am giving her practical help and time to do other things in her life. Beyond this my wife and I do lots of things with and for the family both immediate and more extended and these experiences ground me in the life of others.
I enjoy my work, and my writing it stimulates me intellectually and gives me the satisfaction of creating new things. I play in a band and have weekly rehearsals and that also gives me enjoyment and challenge. When time and weather permit I like to get out into my garden and do things in it.
5 Is your sense of wellbeing something that comes from doing one thing or many things?
It comes from different things in different parts of my life - indeed having things happen and making things happen in different parts of my life enriches my sense of fulfillment and achievement.
6 What sort of things erode your sense of wellbeing? Please give examples
Concerns and anxieties within the family have a big impact on my sense of wellbeing. For the most part these are small things that are all part and parcel of family living. But sometimes they are big. We have concerns that one of my daughter's premature twins might have brain damage because he stopped breathing when he was in the incubator. We watch intently for any developmental signs and it remains a concern that affects me emotionally. I also know that illness or injury has a negative impact. I damaged my knee playing badminton and discovered I also had arthritis and this has been painful, slows me down and inhibits me from doing anything really active like playing sport, jogging or long walks. Feeling overweight and slothful also makes me feel less good about myself. In the working side of my life feelings of not making progress or not achieving anything worthwhile erode my sense of wellbeing.
7 If you are unhappy about your state of wellbeing how do you change it? Can you give an example to illustrate?
Improving wellbeing always involves recognising what is causing the problem and doing something about it. A few months ago I felt overweight and this combined with my knee problem was making me feel not so good. I found a diet and stuck to it and began to lose my bulging stomach. But some of the really big things in life.. like the loss of a partner.. are hard to do much about.. grief and sadness are always with you no matter what you do. In my case I found someone else to share my life with her and her family, and my children, helped me enormously to rebuild my life.
8 Is there a relationship between learning and developing and your sense of well being? Can you give an example to illustrate
Yes. I am conscious that so much of day to day living involves learning and developing in order to accomplish something or help someone else. This LWE project aimed at exploring the idea of wellbeing and how it relates to lifewide learning is involving me in finding out what others think wellbeing involves through on-line searches, in devising an interview protocol (this set of questions) and using it to have structured conversations with people (beginning with family). I will also use the opportunity to develop new relationships with people. I am learning through this process, and this is one example of a continuous process of learning and developing.
9 Is there a relationship between wellbeing and achieving things that matter to you? If yes can you give an example?
Yes. Trying to achieve something I have decided to do becomes a significant focus for me and engages me on all fronts. If I do not make progress or the outcomes from what I am doing are not so good it makes me dissatisfied and that usually involves me in trying harder or trying something else.
In the context of trying to help members of my family - just getting feedback that shows that what I have done has been valued is sufficient to make me feel that what I have done has been useful and worthwhile. Example - it was my wife's big birthday recently and she did not want any fuss being made. My wife is Iranian and in her culture birthdays are not celebrated as an adult and she is quite anti-birthdays. But I thought it was important to mark the occasion and planned/plotted a family celebration with the children and the two older ones came home from university for the weekend. I searched for and found a Persian restaurant with music and dancing and invited other close members of the family. We had a lovely evening and my wife really enjoyed it and the whole weekend. The best moment was when she said she would have to revise her view of birthdays! On such occasions you can tell when what you have tried to do has proved worthwhile.
10 On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is least and 10 is most important.. How important are these things in creating your sense of wellbeing.
1 Connecting with and having good relationships with people I come into contact with everyday 10
2 Being healthy and fit....physically active - walking, sport, dancing etc 9
3 Being involved in the world - being curious and aware of the world around me - looking and finding new opportunities 9
4 Feeling creative - doing things that give me a chance to be creative, inventive or resourceful 8
5 Continually learning and developing myself 9
6 Doing new things that interest me 9
7 Making progress in the things I am doing 10
8 Doing things with and for other people 10
9 Having a close relationship with someone I trust and can discuss anything with 10
10 Feeling that I am valued by the people that matter to me 10
11 Being able to do the things I want or need to do 10
12 Achieving something that I think is worthwhile 10
11 Why are the things that you rate most highly very important to your wellbeing?
All these things are important to my sense of wellbeing. Most of the things I rate highly are to do with relationships and affiliations. Perhaps I would add feeling loved as well as valued as being important, and feeling I am acting responsibly in fulfilling my role as a parent or friend.
Perhaps implicit, but could be made explicit, is the need to belong to something - to be part of a family and by extension to be part of a community (lifewide education).
The other feature about my sense of wellbeing is my need to achieve the things I value - the purposes that I have defined for myself. In this way it is intimately related to my lifewide learning and ongoing development as a person.
12 Is there anything that is important to you missing from the list?
My sense of wellbeing is an integral to the way I feel about myself and the life I live. It is not a static thing.. It is continuously evolving and has to be sustained through the things I chose to do and the way I try to do them. Because it is influenced by many things it has to be viewed holistically and evolving. I did not mention spirituality but perhaps our sense of wellbeing is what nurtures our spirit that carries and sustains us on our journey through life.