“Rethinking Wellbeing for Today and Tomorrow” by Deb Friedman (Guinea)



12 June 2024

My client had recently taken the helm of a mid-sized travel business when I started coaching her. She had stepped into the role infused with positive energy, hopefulness, and sharp leadership instincts; she quickly developed an ambitious plan to transform her organization. She had inherited a team suffering from low-morale, high stress, and uneven performance. The goal she set for herself was to build an engaged and high-performing team, achieving sustainable growth and impact within 18 months.
My client had already moved her family across the country for the job; now, she quickly found herself waking up early and working late into the evening. Hobbies were set aside and she regularly missed dinner with her husband and kids. Even when she was home with them, she was often lost in her phone – absorbed in emails and texts.
When I began working with this client six months into her new position, she had already experienced a variety of unexpected setbacks, and it became clear that the realities of the job were not aligning with her expectations. Her energy and optimism had begun to wane. Her mindset towards the ongoing daily challenges of the job had shifted notably, and she was starting down a path towards burnout.This is a common experience in the workplace: holding ourselves and others to the highest of standards in unwavering pursuit of our professional goals, often at the expense of other areas of life. The link between personal sustainability and job effectiveness is often overlooked.
Wellbeing Generates Welldoing

Traditionally, wellbeing has been an afterthought in the conversation around business growth and impact. Now, a growing body of research tells a new story: employee wellbeing is a strong predictor of individual and organization-level performance. Wellbeing generates welldoing. The conversation about wellbeing is expanding beyond a simple assumption that if you are not sick, you are healthy, and is moving towards an appreciation for the science and practices of wellbeing as a roadmap that can support and sustain our effectiveness.

Amidst the growing interest in wellbeing in the workplace, many organizations have implemented new policies and benefits aimed at helping to improve satisfaction and curb burnout – so far, with mixed results.

Wellbeing is especially important for purpose-driven organizations committed to making a positive difference now and for generations to come. To successfully play this long game, wellbeing must be a priority rather than an afterthought. The practices that support employee wellbeing also help strengthen the collaboration, adaptability, and effectiveness of organizations seeking to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable and rapidly changing world.

Wellbeing is Within Us

While the role of business leaders in supporting workforce wellbeing is crucial, individual wellbeing begins within each of us. One of my favorite definitions of wellbeing comes from my colleagues at Wisdom Works – an organization working at the intersection of thriving and leadership. It is the feeling of being well-resourced for the complexities and demands of life and work. Wellbeing is a fluid state that ebbs and flows, and it is generated from the inside out – by our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. While it is impacted by external factors and forces, wellbeing is an innate capacity within us all. I am reminded of the people in my life who have experienced more than their fair share of crises and heartache, and yet have learned and grown from each challenge, and have maintained a healthy optimism, positive energy, and hopefulness about life.

Life and work inevitably come with all sorts of pressures and stresses. What is in our control is our relationship to those stressors. Shifting our personal stance towards wellbeing – prioritizing it and thinking differently about its sources and influences – offers the opportunity to experience a greater sense of thriving. Making this shift starts with feeling a responsibility for our wellbeing, then becoming curious about the internal resources that are available to us. By tapping into those resources in new ways, we can intentionally design our lives to experience greater wellbeing. The choices we make shape how we see ourselves, and we evolve.


© ATTA / Hassen Salum – AdventureWeek São Paulo
Six Dimensions of Wellbeing

A useful framework for wellbeing, developed by Wisdom Works, includes six dimensions: Thriving, Fuel, Flow, Wonder, Wisdom, and Thriving Amplified. Each dimension can be explored through simple daily practices. The Be Well Lead Well Pulse® assessment offers the opportunity to delve further into this framework.


Thriving involves the degree to which we view wellbeing as a standard of success in life and work, as well as a source of resilience in the face of difficulties. A starting point for this perspective shift is recalling two or three moments in your life – anytime from childhood to the present – when you felt like you were thriving. What themes and patterns connect these memories?


Fuel looks at how we use wellness behaviors, such as healthy eating, movement, rest, and conscious breath, as a sustained, balanced source of physical, emotional, and mental energy. As an example, one way to tap into breath as a source of fuel is to practice a conscious breathing practice. There are many effective breathing exercises. One technique is to close your eyes and take five to ten deep breaths. With each breath, inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, filling your lungs with air. Pause for a count of four, then exhale through your nose for a count of four, emptying your lungs of air as much as possible. Then pause for a count of four before beginning your next inhale. Breath is a powerful tool that can ground us in the present moment, regulate our emotions, and reduce stress.


Flow involves bringing mindfulness and presence to the activities of life and work without distractions – resulting in focus, energy, enjoyment, and a richer sense of how life unfolds. To connect with your sense of flow, re-engage with a hobby that brought you joy in your youth. Give yourself some time and space to get absorbed in it without distractions. Notice your experience finding flow in your hobby and the effect that it has on your mind, body, and spirit.


The dimension of wonder involves embracing a diversity of people and perspectives to challenge what you know, connecting with awe and beauty, and seeking learning and growth. An example of a practice that helps us tap into wonder is committing to try one new thing each day for a set period – one week or one month, for instance. This might include eating something new, researching a topic of interest, taking a class, meeting a new friend for coffee, or visiting a place you have never been.


Wisdom represents the degree to which you are guided by an inspiring vision and purpose, and experience internal balance, lightness, sufficiency, and wholeness. One way to explore this dimension is to connect with the core values that drive your decisions and actions. Make a list of your values, or complete a core values exercise like this one. Then notice ways you are aligned with – or in tension with – those values in your daily activities.

Thriving Amplified

Thriving Amplified is about bringing forth your potential to energize others, maximize their growth and effectiveness, and cultivate an environment where all people can thrive. One powerful leadership practice that amplifies thriving is to ensure diverse voices are heard in the workplace. The next time your team is working through a challenge, save time for questions like, “Who has not yet been considered?” and “Whose voices have we not yet heard?” If necessary, allow for a silent moment for quieter participants to come forward. Then listen. This practice will provide team members with an inviting space to fully and authentically express their ideas and viewpoints, resulting in more creative, thoughtful, and effective decision-making.

© ATTA / Rupert Shanks – AdventureELEVATE Europe 2024


By reflecting on our relationship with each of these dimensions, we can discover untapped inner resources and develop a roadmap through which to enrich our sense of wellbeing. When we approach wellbeing from a place of empowerment and possibility, we find an increased capacity to better manage stress and respond to challenges with openness, curiosity, and abundance.

As for my client, she ultimately saw that to sustain and maximize her impact as a leader, she needed to recommit to her own personal wellbeing – and that of the people she leads. One breath, thought, and decision at a time, she began the journey of opening herself to the full expanse of resources within her – and the new perspectives, capabilities, and wisdom they offer.


About Deb Friedman

Deb Friedman (Guinea 2002-04)

With 20 years of experience leading in complex environments, from a volunteer with the Peace Corps (Guinea 2002-04) to a travel industry executive, Deb Friedman helps organizations develop engaged and high-performing leaders for a rapidly evolving world.

During her 15-year tenure at National Geographic, a Walt Disney Company, Deb served as an influential senior leader at the intersection of mission and profit. She sustainably grew the brand’s travel business ten-fold while creating transformational experiences for new and diverse communities of life-long learners.

A graduate of Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching program, and a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation, Deb founded Cairn Coaching in 2021. At the core of Deb’s work is the principal that every person is naturally creative resourceful, and whole. She is passionate about the intersection of wellbeing and leadership, and about the possibilities that arise when we approach wellbeing as a foundation from which to live, work, and lead. Deb is a Certified Guide for the Be Well Lead Well Pulse® assessment.

Deb lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two sons. In her personal time, she enjoys hiking and camping, meditation, and making music.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2022. Peace Corps Worldwide.