As we look forward to a new school year, my heart is filled with both gratitude and wonder, and a strong sense of pride at the many accomplishments and impact our schools are making in our community.
As we continue to rediscover and nurture passion and creativity and care, and as we to develop our strength of will, strength of mind and strength of heart, we are guided by a roadmap to embrace those around us as whole persons: people with passion to pursue life goals, creativity to adapt and overcome challenges and people who care for the community we belong to.
Well-being is important in all areas of life, but especially in the development of young people. We know that young people feel well when they enjoy their learning, when they look forward to coming to school, and feel valued by their families and friends. We all want them to experience joy, to thrive physically and emotionally, and to have a say in their learning and their future. Well-being brings us balance in the present. Wholeness pulls us towards the future. In a larger sense, wholeness comes from being of service to others and being involved in something larger than yourself. Ultimately, this is about each of us taking personal responsibility for realizing the wholeness of our vibrant connected community, centered on our purpose to nurture passionate learners, creative thinkers and caring leaders. It is also premised on each of us embracing self-care and wellbeing, so we can experience wholeness ourselves.
One of the definitions for wholeness is “the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole or unity”. Contentment, with its root word, contentus, which means “held together” or “intact, whole” arises from wholeness. It is the knowledge that things are fine exactly as they are right now. Indeed, you do not have to be perfect in order to be whole. Your fears are a part of you, and so is your bravery, your faith and your resilience. We accept both our strengths and shortcomings. Our flaws are a part of us, and so are our strengths. In a 2020 journal article entitled “Beyond Well-being: The Quest for Wholeness and Purpose in Education”, Dennis Shirley, Professor at Boston College's Lynch School of Education and Human Development sets out a fuller development of wholeness and the purpose of education that supplement and go beyond the current well-being agenda in schools.
Wholeness with contentment, according to Daniel Cordaro, Professor at Columbia University, comes from our relationship with what is going on around us, rather than our reaction to it. It is the peaceful realization that we are whole and complete just as we are, despite the anger, sadness, joy, frustration and excitement that we experience from time to time. This perspective shifts the narrative of humanity’s quest for something greater. All other emotions require external input; they are reactions to the outside world. Wholeness with contentment, on the other hand, requires no external input, and is sourced entirely from within. Instead of seeking external sources for our wellbeing – which are always going to be out of our control – wholeness with contentment offers an incredible power and stability.
Instead of striving for temporary wellbeing, we can settle into a sustainable sense of wholeness that nobody can take away from us, and nobody can give to us, either. It is already inside of us. In reality, there are some emotions we like so we hold on to them – emotions like happiness, joy, elation, serenity, and other pleasant feelings. There are other emotions we despise so we would prefer not to feel them – emotions like shame, sadness, despair, embarrassment, rage, and other unpleasant feelings.
It turns out that at the end of the day, all emotions are here to guide us and provide valuable information about the world around us. What if, instead of trying to cling on to some emotions while pushing others away, we allow all of them to come and go, without needing to change them? This in turn allows us to appreciate all of life’s experiences, to pursue wholeness with contentment. Wellness and wellbeing are all about wholeness. Our overarching goal is to enable all to achieve fulfillment and find our path to “the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole or unity”.
Yes, we have made some mistakes. And we have also made some good decisions. Learn and grow from the things that went wrong. Nurture the things that have gone right. Even when they were small and seemingly insignificant, they count toward meaningful growth in our lives. In today’s complex world, we need a new perspective to embrace our wellbeing by pursuing wholeness with contentment.
This year, as we journey ahead, we invite all our stakeholders to join us in the quest for wholeness, both within and beyond the school. May we always find joy and contentment, meaning and purpose in all we do, while accepting the occasional disappointment and sadness. This is what wholeness beyond well-being is all about, a higher calling for all to aspire and live our lives.
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