The Well-Being Journal - A Small Nudge for a Big Change

The Well-Being Journal - A Small Nudge for a Big Change

February 22, 2023


Everyone cares about well-being and a small nudge can lead to a big change.

Otto Scharmer, from MIT, studied transformational change management in entrepreneurs and innovators across science, business, and society. He synthesised his years of research into Theory U - a framework for transformation change at personal and organisational level.

The U-shape refers to the idea that in order to create meaningful and sustainable change, we must first go deep within ourselves (the bottom of the U) before we can move out into the world with new perspectives, new ideas, and a new sense of purpose.

Theory U has a five-step process (refer to the image below):

  1. Seeing: Seeing with fresh eyes.
  2. Sensing: Connecting with emotions and the larger system.
  3. Presencing: Connecting with our values, strengths, and purpose.
  4. Crystallizing: Developing a vision to realise values, strengths, and purpose.
  5. Prototyping: Testing out new ideas and habits.


The Well-Being Journal (WBJ) is a small nudge designed to facilitate these 5 steps. And it can take place both at an individual or organisational level. The WBJ has over 40 validated well-being interventions, spanning across a 200-page journal, each page beautifully designed.

A simple acronym to remember how we can use the WBJ to facilitate the Theory U process is D.S.L.R. which means - Do, Share, Learn, and Reach out.

Do Phase - Seeing, Sensing, and Prescencing

Let’s say if a leader wants to start cultivating a culture of well-being in their organisation. They can start by having their staff each pick a well-being activity from the WBJ.

This facilitates seeing, sensing, and prescencing by giving staff a greater sense of autonomy to evoke new perspectives through the different activities (seeing). The introspective journaling space nudges staff to gain deeper awareness of their emotions and what drives them (sensing). This can spur deeper connection with their values, strengths, and purpose (prescencing).

The Share Phase - Crystallizing

A time can be arranged for the staff to come together to share their experiences, which facilitates the crystallizing process.

Different arrangements that suit the context is possible - from grouping people who have done similar activities to keeping the groupings random to inspire staff to try other activities that they group members have tried.

The Learn and Reach Out Phase - Prototyping and Embodying

Each activity can be an invitation to learn more about the science or to extend the activity to others. This encourages the participants to start prototyping the a new idea, or an action.

For example, a group of staff may have tried writing the gratitude cards and experienced some positive outcomes. They may now be more interested to learn about the how the science of gratitude improved subjective well-being. The science now carries a greater personal meaning.

In addition, the staff can reach out to others with what they have embodied from their experience with the activity. For the teacher, it can inspire translating the activity into the classroom to benefit the students. For the leader, it can simulate new ideas or practices that are aligned to one’s values, strengths, or purpose.


Theory U is a suggestion for transformational change management. For that to happen, the framework endeavours to facilitate an open mind, an open heart, and an open will.

The Well-Being Journal works towards fulfilling these three characteristics, encouraging participants to choose their interventions - facilitating an open mind. It brings participants to share about their experiences, thereby facilitating an open heart. And it nudges participants to extend their learning and what they find useful to others, hence facilitating an open will.

For anyone who may want to consider a transformational change towards a well-being culture, you may want to try a small nudge for a big change approach using the 5-steps of Theory U. It aims to open up the mind, the heart, and the will.

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