Why Wellbeing is a an Often-ignored Enabler of High Performance

by Fleur Heazlewood 5th of October, 2023
Why Wellbeing is a an Often-ignored Enabler of High Performance
Why Wellbeing is a an Often-ignored Enabler of High Performance

People that are well, do well. But we are doing a lot of doing, and not enough well. any of us still operate with the industrial age model of work which focuses on and measures success by effort, productivity, and revenue. Where people prioritise work first, and fit health, wellbeing, rest, and recovery into whatever time is left. The story we tell ourselves sounds something like this, ‘if I work hard and achieve my targets, I then deserve happiness and wellbeing.’ 

But this equation is broken and backwards. Shawn Achor’s work over the last decade from Harvard University shows that with this mindset we never get to wellbeing. Every time we hit our targets; we increase our targets. We get a nice car; we want a bigger one. We get a good job; we want a better one. 

In our race for more, we are reducing ourselves to less. 


Our busy lifestyles keep us in a constant fight-or-flight state. Our body continuously pumps out adrenalin and cortisol designed to keep us safe from threats in short bursts, but not as our regular operating system. 

When we are stressed and in survival mode, we can’t perform well. Our brain prioritises the resources needed to keep us safe from risks and threats, but in order to do this, it deprioritises resources less essential to survival like perspective-taking, problem-solving and innovation. 

People are under pressure. 


Pressure from economic and financial uncertainty on top of exhaustion from the pandemic and other external events are contributing to high levels of chronic stress, burnout, and mental health issues around the globe. Each of these conditions drains our energy, engagement, and ability to function well. 

We are wired and over-tired.

Most of the leaders I work with are caught in the busyness treadmill, and with change and disruption happening faster, more frequently and more dramatically than we are used to, we are struggling to keep up. 

We want better health, wellbeing, and balance, but stay stuck frantically juggling the multiple balls in the air. We rarely shift back to a state of calm, to rest and replenish before the next amygdala hijack. 

Continuing to do more of the same isn’t working.

We need to flip our wellbeing to work equation. 

Over 10-years of research shows that when we prioritise wellbeing and happiness we have better productivity, sales, creativity, relationships, and resilience, and less burnout. And at organisational level Kim Cameron’s studies from the Ross School of Business, show we have better engagement, less turnover and higher performing businesses.

Our brains on positive perform significantly better than when we are stressed or negative. And by investing in our health and wellbeing, and cultivating happiness and optimism first, we not only feel better, but we experience a performance advantage.

Change is challenging

Our brains have an inbuilt negativity bias that automatically scan the world for the risks, threats, and problems to keep us safe. And prioritises our automatic thoughts, behaviours and routines that are known and efficient. So making change regardless of how small it is disrupts our comfortable ways of operating. This is why it takes conscious effort, focused energy, and persistence to stay on track even when the change is something that we want and care deeply about.


Small, simple investments reap big returns


The best way to set ourselves up for wellbeing success is to consider it as an investment. Start small and start the day well when our energy and willpower is at its highest. Consider refining the way you approach your morning to include:

  • Grounding: Focus the first 30-minutes of your day making progress on something that is important to you, connecting with your family, your fitness, education, or a hobby. Resist opening your device when the alarm goes off and let the content from the rest of the world set the tone for your day. 
  • Moving: Just ten-minutes walking boosts your energy, fitness, emotional state, mental health and when combined with nature and your pet or a friend provides an oxytocin boost as well.
  • Mindfulness practice: Ten minutes of journalling, a mindfulness practice, meditation, or immersing yourself in music or an activity that brings flow, boosts focus, clarity, and concentration.
  • Boundary setting: Treat yourself like the precious finite resource that you are.

We are well overdue putting the healthy back into high performance. And research from Gallup and others, clearly shows that people who feel valued and that their wellbeing at work matters, perform better, are more engaged and stay longer. To put it simply, people who are well do well.

Tags: tips small business entrepreneurs

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