Advice related to well-being often revolves around changing our habits: start something, stop something, enforce boundaries, etc. The challenge is that by the time we are worried about our well-being, we are already low on bandwidth to do more.
This article is about how to look after your well-being without changing any of the things you already do.
A few years ago, I was reading Christina Wodtke’s article on personal OKRs and was struck by her mention of “health metrics.” It made me realize that we can be creative with what we measure. This is when I started introducing my coaching clients to Key Wellness Indicators. After a lot of repetition, the name stuck:
Key Wellness Indicators = KIWIs
The idea is simple: A KIWI is a personal indicator of well-being. Specifically, KIWIs are personal behaviors that change when we are under stress. By keeping an eye on our behaviors, we are able to monitor our stress levels and self-calibrate when we are about to lose balance.
Think about behaviors you change when you are under stress.
Maybe you eat more junk food, order more takeout, go to bed later, sleep very little, sleep too much, watch more TV, lose your temper with the kids, forget to call your grandmother, abandon your skincare routine...
You get the gist. These are personal behaviors that you already have and know.
It is common to confuse KIWIs with health or well-being goals.
Health goals are changes we aspire to bring about. This often looks like healthy habits we are trying to incorporate into our lives. Some examples are: doing more exercise, drinking more water, going to bed earlier, etc.
KIWIs, on the other hand, don’t require us to do anything new. KIWIss just tell us about the state of our well-being, and help us focus on behaviors that we do routinely.
The only thing that KIWIs ask us to do is notice when they are off. That’s it.
KIWIs act as an early warning system for stress. They allow us to see when we are starting to lose balance before we hit the stress wall.
To continue with the example above, anyone who works out regularly feels stressed if they stop working out. But this doesn’t happen the first week; it may happen a couple of weeks down the line. A little change in our KIWIs is not a big deal. The problem is when we don’t adjust back to a regular pattern on time. Then, we are close to the wall.
Monitoring our KIWIs allows us to adjust our behavior.
In the Heron community, I’ve seen KIWIs fall within these categories: Connection to others, Family and Relationships, Self-care Habits, Chores, Boundaries, etc. See this page for some examples within each of these categories.
Once you have a list of possible behaviors, choose the top three that are easy to track and remember. I recommend tracking your KIWIs once a week. This takes less than a minute but it does mean that you need to be able to “remember” the last seven days.
For behaviors such as number of hours of sleep, bed time, or steps, a smartwatch solves this problem. On the other hand, behaviors that are events, such as going to the gym or calling grandma, are easy to recall by memory.
Users are surprisingly spot-on when choosing their KIWIs. I’ve only seen users change one of them after getting started.
If it is not part of your routine, it is not a KIWI. Choose a KIWI that represents the status quo of your well-being today.
People interested in KIWIs are also interested in improving their health as well. It is great to have health-related goals; just track them somewhere else.
KIWIs are surprisingly stable. I’ve seen users do an update once or twice a year but no more than that.
There are two scenarios for changing your KIWIs:
I recommend tracking your KIWIs once a week. To track them, you can simply use a spreadsheet and put a reminder on the calendar to check-in. It takes less than a minute:
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity. This is an awareness exercise. Just checking in on our KIWIs helps you pay attention throughout the week and self-calibrate.
KIWIs are also a great bounce-back tool. They give us a point of focus when projects and business goals seem to be falling by the wayside. If the KIWIs are off, that’s always a good place to start to regain balance across the board.
Heron users commonly track business goals alongside their KIWIs.
These are the patterns I’ve seen:
KIWIs is one of those simple ideas that work. They allow us to be active in looking after our well-being without asking us to do more of anything. By simply staying aware of key changes in our behavior, we are able to self-monitor and adjust for resiliency.
We idealize work-life balance as a state of equilibrium. But it is really an exercise. Just like a tightrope walker, it requires effort and our constant attention.
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