Independent Learning

Routine Reset for Social Impact Practitioners

The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust upon us new realities and responsibilities. We asked ourselves, “How can we design a routine that is responsive and supportive of the roles we must play in today’s context?” Using an adapted version of the Wheel of Wellness framework, CSIS team members Kaveh Sadeghian (Creative Director) and Anna Dausman (Program Manager) explored ways in which we could proactively respond to the situations we now find ourselves in. 

The Wheel of Wellness is a personal development tool that allows social impact leaders to assess their wellbeing. We often find ourselves in purpose-driven jobs and communities, and it’s all too easy to burn out. For the long term sustainability and growth of our work, our relationships, and ourselves, it’s important to identify what’s working well, and what we need to improve in order to balance purpose with health and happiness. 

The wheel visual segments wellness into eight categories: physical wellness, environmental connection, financial wellbeing, intellectual inquiry, emotional resilience, professional development, social wellness, and spiritual awareness. Typically, the Wheel of Wellness tool is used to visualize what the holistic wheel could look like in its perfect form. To complete the exercise, you would visualize where you would like to be within each category and consider incremental changes that could bring you closer to that ideal, both in the short- and long-term. However, the unique, and often chaotic, conditions we find ourselves in during a pandemic or global crisis make it more challenging to step back and take stock of how we’re feeling. As such, the tool was modified to focus on our current circumstances. The goal, therefore, is to understand which areas we have intuitively prioritized and identify which areas we could invest in more. 


The Wheel of Wellness has three aims: 

1) Raise awareness around where we stand in relation to each dimension of wellness via a quick  self-audit

2) Identify some modest areas for change

3) Make a measurable, achievable commitment in one or more areas



Who should be involved?

While this exercise can certainly be completed alone, we recommend working with a friend or a partner for accountability purposes. Assess your wellness individually, but set up a time to follow up with your friend or partner.



How long should it take to complete?

This exercise should take you about 30 minutes to complete, though it may be slightly longer when working with a partner. Spend 5-10 minutes completing the wellness audit, and then 15-20 processing and reflecting on the activity through journaling, discussion with a partner, or any other methods that work best for you.



Completing Your Wellness Audit:

The wheel segments wellness into eight categories, each of which should be considered individually. Using the guiding questions below, consider how satisfied you have felt in each area of your life during the past two to four weeks. Provide a score for each category on a scale from 1-10, with ten being the highest score, and mark the score directly on the wheel with a dot in the appropriate ring. 

Physical Wellness

Recognizing the need for physical movement, sleep, and nutrition.

  • Can you identify a time in the last week when you ate healthy and nourishing foods?
  • Do you move your body regularly?
  • Do you take time to prepare and/or participate in meals at home for yourself or others? 
  • Do you get enough sleep to support your health?
  • Do you wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, and do you avoid touching your face?

Environmental Connection

Environments conducive to work, home, safety, and health. Access to nature.

  • Can you identify a time in the last week when you connected to nature, whether indoors or outdoors? 
  • Is there a space – physical or digital – where you feel safe and at home?
  • Is there a space in or near your home that is conducive to reflection?
  • Does your workspace support a positive relationship to work?

Financial Wellbeing

Ability to meet basic needs and experience gratitude for current wealth, material or otherwise. 

  • Do you maintain a budget or your own way of managing your finances?
  • Do you feel prepared for expenses, including short-term, long-term, and unexpected expenses?
  • In the last week, have you found opportunities to notice and appreciate the abundance (material or immaterial) in your life?
  • Are you aware of existing opportunities for additional sources of financial support or income?

Creative and Intellectual Inquiry

Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills.

  • In the last week, have you taken time to build self-learning in your life?    
  • Do you take time to read books or articles that are not related to your work, area of research or study, or the news?
  • Do you question information you receive through various sources?
  • Do you take time to explore new hobbies or deepen existing hobbies?
  • In the last week have you found time for play, humor, or creative expression?
  • Do you engage the other members of your household in intellectual or creative pursuits?
  • Do you intentionally take time away from screens and the news?

Emotional Resilience

Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships.

  • Do you consider yourself to be positive (most of the time)?
  • Do you have a strategy for when you get stressed?
  • Do you view challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles?
  • Do you have strategies or time for release, and to reflect on your emotional well-being?
  • Do you take responsibility for your own behavior?

Professional Development

Personal satisfaction and enrichment derived from one’s work.

  • Do you find joy and meaning in your work?
  • Do you feel confident in your ability to manage your professional time and competing priorities?
  • Do you take time to invest in professional development in your field?
  • Do you take time to connect with and appreciate team members?
  • Do you take time to celebrate professional wins?

Social Wellness

Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system.

  • Do you connect well with others and foster healthy friendships?
  • Do you have a strong system of close family, friends, and neighbors/housemates?
  • Can you communicate your feelings effectively?
  • Do you like yourself as a person?
  • Can you identify people you could go to if you needed support?
  • Are you someone who provides support and care to others?

Spiritual Awareness / Empathy

Expanding our sense of purpose and meaning in life.

  • Do you have a tradition, practice, or ideas that connect you with a sense of a larger purpose and meaning?
  • Do you create space in your life to explore the deeper questions that life offers?
  • Do you take time to experience new things?
  • In the last week have you found opportunities to extend compassion to others?
  • In the last week have you found opportunities to extend compassion to yourself?
  • Do you invest time and energy in cultivating connection with the world and others?


Next Steps:

Once you have scored every category, connect the dots and circle your three lowest scored categories. Because it can be difficult and unrealistic to make too many changes to your life in a short time span, you should select one of those three categories to work on improving first. It does not need to be the lowest ranked category, but rather the one you feel most prepared, or most excited, to tackle. 

Through individual reflection, or discussion with a friend or partner, consider strategies or actions that you could undertake to improve this area of your life by 1%. What can you do to create opportunities to improve in this area that take one minute? Ten minutes? That you could do 1-3 times a week?

If your goal was to improve emotional resilience, for instance, you might consider what an improvement in this category could look like. In other words, what would your life look like if this category were a 7? Would you be less stressed or have fewer negative thoughts? Considering the ideal circumstances may lead you to a better understanding of the steps needed to get there. 

During your reflection, you might also think about why this category scored so low and why you want to improve it. What is holding you back that is within your control? You can then think of strategies for overcoming these obstacles. It is important to remember that while these are personal goals, others in your life may be able to help you achieve these goals. 



In these challenging times, self-care is more important than ever. How can we, as social impact practitioners, be expected to support our communities and organizations when we are struggling to recenter ourselves? Utilizing the Wheel of Wellness to conduct a personal wellness audit can be the first step in creating a routine for social impact practitioners that can be equally impactful in one’s personal life and professional career. 

It is important to keep in mind that this framework is about making small, gradual changes that add up to a significant improvement in one’s wellness. Especially during times of crisis, one recommendation might be to focus immediately on dimensions where you have more control over the outcome before moving onto areas that will need more long-term attention. 


Additional Resources:

The Wheel of Wellbeing resources page offers guidance on making improvements in each of the wellness categories. 

WOOP is a science-based mental strategy that people can use to find and fulfill their wishes, set preferences, and change their habits. 

Applications opening soon: CSIS Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy


We recorded a workshop that may help you complete and use the Wheel of Wellness tool. To view it, click here


Based on the instruction of: Ariel Schwartz (CSIS Managing Director); Anna Dausman (CSIS Program Manager); Kaveh Sadeghian (CSIS Creative Director); Allison Russell (CSIS Postdoctoral Fellow) during the webinar Routine Reset for Social Impact Practitioners on April 9, 2020. 

With contributions by CSIS team members: Ariel Schwartz, Eliza Halpin, and Vaughn Sayers.