Finding Your Fire: The Relationship Between Well-being and Performance

2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges – all of which have challenged our overall well-being and performance. Meanwhile, predictions for 2021 have not conveyed the usual sense of optimism that often accompanies the hanging of a new calendar; we still have a tough road ahead. Some days, it’s all we can do to get out of bed, and checking the mail is a real achievement. But our need and desire to perform has not become less important in the face of overwhelming stressors. If anything, the need to perform has become critical not only for driving results but for experiencing a sense of fulfillment and purpose in trying times.

So how does one “find your fire” – the intrinsic motivation to perform – in the face of multiple, overwhelming stressors? The answer is simple, if not easy. Furthermore, igniting the will to succeed is critically important to people, teams and companies who have good work to do regardless of what the world throws at us.

In short, we have to be well to do well. If 2020 has cast any truth in sharp relief, it is the fact that fundamental, holistic well-being is the power source for human performance. But how do we get from here to there?

Here are the highlights:

  • Understand “role strain” and how thinking about “employee performance” in isolation is not a sustainable approach to well-being or performance.
  • Recognize the difference between holistic well-being approaches and well-intentioned “interventions” focused on narrow slices of the well-being equation.
  • Empower managers as frontline catalysts for positive change.
  • The need for foundational, holistic well-being strategies is urgent; the time for elevating wellness to the highest level of organizational strategy and execution is now.

The Big Picture

This article, Finding Your Fire, is the final installment in a three-part Human Performance series about improving employee mental health and boosting resilience during the pandemic era. The three articles in the series are:

  1. Recovering from Crisis Fatigue
  2. 5 Tips to Embrace Uncertainty
  3. Finding Your Fire (fill out the form below to gain full access to this article)

Crisis Fatigue

In “Recovering from Crisis Fatigue,” we highlight the multiple stages that we pass through on our way to recovery from events that are perceived as existential threats. “Generally speaking, the three stages of crisis fatigue may be described as emergency, regression and recovery.” Many companies and individuals are currently stuck in emergency or regression phases and need help charting a clear course to recovery.


In “5 Tips to Embrace Uncertainty,” we explore the role of resilience in accelerating recovery and as the cornerstone of effective change management. Sweeping changes in the way companies operate (and to the employee experience) are an inevitable response to the multiple crises we have faced throughout 2020. But in order to boost resilience across the entire workforce, companies must approach the implementation of holistic well-being with the same vigor and discipline they would traditional change management initiatives like major reorganizations, shifts in business models or international expansions. As a model for effective change management, we turned to Harvard Business School for advice.

Human Performance

In this final installment, we focus on the connection between well-being and human performance. We are careful to distinguish human performance from employee performance because the science is conclusive that only holistic approaches to well-being that address all aspects of the human experience can both ignite productivity and sustain it across the multiple social roles we fulfill.

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