Sue Pressman, ACA’s 69th president

Carl O. McDaniels (1930-2019), one of the leading career development pioneers of the second half of the 20th century and early part of the 21st century, started his work as a professional counselor with life span career development and one’s work life as his main scholarly focus. I proudly called him professor and mentor, given the impact he had on me and the field of career and vocational counseling.

In his life span approach to career development, it seemed increasingly clear to him over the years that one’s leisure activities play a major role alongside of work. This focus is even more important at different periods of career development, including one’s first job, the experience of job loss and a variety of career transitions — graduation, family losses, military service, retirement, etc. Hence, more than 30 years ago, McDaniels proposed the formula Career = Work + Leisure (summarized as C=W+L).

In thinking about work and leisure amid the present-day realities of the pandemic, I believe that rarely have we been so challenged with regard to our life satisfaction and mental well-being. As we look toward planning the next phase of our lives in a post-pandemic world, it seems to me it will be important to take a holistic approach that considers the emotional, social, physical, economic and spiritual values of one’s life, coupled with work and leisure activities. In doing so, a convergence or intersectionality occurs.

At a recent international conference based in India, I had the opportunity to coin and introduce a new formula that expands on McDaniels’ original work. This new formula recognizes the intersectionality of mental health, work and leisure to create what I am calling the Life & Career Happiness formula:

Mental Health + Work + Leisure = Life & Career Happiness (summarized as MH+W+L=LCH).

What we are really striving for throughout life is a healthy balance among these three modern-day elements. To that end, we must understand the relevance of this formula to the work of professional counselors. In a sense, this formula creates a scale that, when tipped or unbalanced, can become a significant starting point to the counselor-client relationship. It provides a framework to help clients assess or reassess what is happening in their lives so that rebalancing becomes the continuous self-management goal that leads to life and career happiness.

Let’s back up and define the three elements of the formula. In a modern world, and certainly a post-pandemic world, social and emotional health will include the creation of wellness environments and mindfulness to incorporate time for reflection, walks, yoga, art, music, and relationships with friends and family — the things that make up self-care. We will also need to help clients identify new interests and support their efforts to cultivate new skills in order to adapt in the ever-changing and fast-paced workplace. And, finally, there are leisure activities — those hobbies such as gardening, sewing, cooking, golfing, bowling or reading that help reduce stress and bring enjoyment. These activities nourish the mind and soul.

“Pressman’s expanded model elevates and deepens McDaniels’ original theory to include mental health, which generates a more comprehensive balance of wellness in all aspects of life. It promotes a mindful and healthy way of being rather than just a way of doing. It taps into one’s creativity and abilities to achieve life and career happiness.” — Judy Daniels, University of Hawaii