Time to Update the Dimensions of Wellness?


The Dimensions of Wellness were developed almost 50 years ago – in 1976 and continue to be the primary basis for most organizational (and personal) health & wellness strategies. Health & Wellness Coaches, Benefit Consultants, HR Managers and others continue to look to the Dimensions model as the guiding light throughout the journey for all involved. It’s clearly a valuable model, but is it time for an update?

There’s no question the Dimensions of Wellness model was an eye-opener when first created and has served to be a valuable tool for so many of us since that time. And yes – there have been some minor tweaks related to the number of dimensions over time. However, 1976 was also the year we were introduced to the Apple I computer, the VHS recorder and the original laser printer (which took up an entire room!). Can you imagine if we remained satisfied with minor tweaks to these items over the past 50 years? True upgrades – and not just subtle tweaks – are central to sustained success over time.

With that in mind, we are delighted to introduce a completely new way of structuring and integrating the dimensions of wellness into your coaching, life or organizational strategy: the Catalyst Building Blocks of Performance (brief video overview available here). The new Building Blocks model not only provides you with an easy-to-understand and fully functional way in which to engage in those elements most important to each individual at a specific point in time. It also opens the door to utilize the sub-components for enhancing the personal & professional outcomes you, your clients or your team members may be pursuing…

The dimensions of wellness model originated back in 1976 thanks to Dr. Bill Hettler and focused on 6 dimensions: Emotional, Occupational, Physical, Social, Intellectual and Spiritual. It provided a valuable way to expand the view of health and wellness beyond simply physical pursuits during the fitness-crazed 70’s and has been utilized across an expansive number of settings. Later models made subtle adjustments. One eliminated the Occupational category to create 5 dimensions while others chose to add categories for Environmental, Financial, Creative and Accountability to generate 7, 8, 9 and 10 dimensions. There’s even a 36 dimensions of wellness model. Just kidding – but you get the idea. The number of dimensions have been tweaked, but the core of the model has remained constant since 1976…

Until now. Just like the first Apple computer, laser printer and VHS recorder, upgrades – not simply tweaks – are a must if we’re going to truly optimize reality over time and not simply tread water. The dimensions of wellness provided an outstanding initial tool for almost 5 decades. Now, we have an opportunity to integrate an upgraded model – The Building Blocks of Performance – that will both expand our opportunities and enhance our outcomes.

The Building Blocks incorporate 3 core elements. At the base, we focus on Health. This foundational piece includes components that do just that – set up the stable foundation on which we can build. In the corners of this block are Illness & Injury Management along with Emotional and Mental Health. Supplementing these are the elements of Move, Fuel and Rest. For many, this provides the clear starting point, addressing the essentials that set the stage for the next component: Wellness.

In the foundational Health block, our energy is focused on creating stability, filling underlying gaps that previously limited our progress forward. Once established, the Wellness block then shifts gears and moves toward the opportunity to Thrive. This category incorporates a variety of “next step” potential, ranging from intellectual development to community contribution, financial fitness, relationships, spiritual growth, mindset and physical vigor. Just as Health provided the foundational elements and forms the stability upon which we can then grow, the Wellness block is where that growth is able to take root to move us – and our lives – to a new level.

The final building block – Optimized Performance – may apply only to a subset of your clients or team members. However, for them, it will be of utmost importance – and this is a SIGNIFICANT addition to the model that can enhance your engagement and bolster your outcomes, regardless of your role. In fact, its inclusion into the model may create an enhanced groundswell of interest and engagement in the first two building blocks (and for organizations – in your overall strategy). As with the other blocks, the emphasis here is specific to the individual. For one person, Optimized Performance may be directed toward career success while another may aim to be the best possible mother or husband. It could involve an athletic pursuit or bringing another level of focus, energy and creativity to a new product or company launch. In fact, the word “launch” encapsulates this final building block quite well. If Health is the foundation and Wellness is the shift toward thriving, this 3rd block is the launch – the pursuit of something of elevated importance to that individual that may have previously seemed out of reach.

One important sidenote about the Building Blocks of Performance model: No single block is “better” than the others. For example, Launches – fueled by the Performance block – can be risky. They put us at the edge of our abilities and capacities. The building blocks layout brings to light the opportunity each individual has available to pursue a better life, one step at a time. While not everyone will choose to pursue something in the 3rd block, EVERYONE in the 3rd block will benefit greatly from addressing those aspects in the first two blocks. Based on what I’ve seen in decades as a healthcare executive, experienced in events like the Hawaii Ironman World Championship and the Cycling Race Across America, and documented in my PhD work that’s been published in various scientific journals, there is no doubt this is the case. If you have a team member or client who desires to truly optimize their performance and not just play the game, the building blocks absolutely provide the pathway to the top.

Are you seeing the power in this upgraded model? The dimensions of wellness did an exceptional job of reminding us to tune into the various – and important – components of our lives. Now the Building Blocks of Performance provide the structure on which we can move forward. It reminds us not only that foundational health sets the tone for wellness but also that optimal performance is bolstered when built on the foundation of health and wellness and how to incorporate them as we move forward.

Health… Wellness… Optimized Performance

Stabilize… Thrive… and then, if desired, Launch! The Catalyst Building Blocks of Performance – the upgraded model incorporating the dimensions of wellness that – when utilized effectively- may just be the game-changer you’re looking for in your organization, your coaching practice, or your life.

[Please see this link to access a 6 minute video explanation of the Building Blocks model, including visual representation. Educators, Coaches and Managers/Directors are welcome to use the video in full if beneficial to the work you are doing.]

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