Today was the final day of 5 days workshop delivery and tomorrow I head off to India to work with a new client on developing an internal brand and culture strategy connected to 5-star service delivery. That is quite a mouthful and as I write this I realise that I must take some time and just refocus and relax my brain. It has been running on high voltage for the past week and now it seems to have just reverted to robot mode and repeat what it knows. During this workshop, we discussed the habitual mindset and how this can alter one’s perception of change. This week has shown me the importance of time to allow the brain to shut off and recharge as this ‘always on’ not only impacts health it also dulls forward thinking and creativity. I am sure it is much like how Buster felt the one time I saw him chase his tail. He did try for about 5 spins and then realised it was not for him. His active brain saw no sense in it and off he went in search of something to sniff or eat – got to love a beagle. I appreciate that some people find solitude in sameness and in routine and that is what makes us all unique in our own way. However, if I was to speak on my behalf and for others with dyslexia or with ways of thinking that need more autonomy and scope of creativity and change, it is important that we look at employees more as individuals. To be healthy we need to feed the body with the correct level of nutrients and hence the mind is equal in finding the right balance of workload. Over the next few months, I plan to monitor this more with myself between my need for sameness, creativity, exercise, social and me time. What I have truly recognised is just how out of balance I am in these 5 zones. It is like I live in excess in 1 or 2 of them till I drain the bucket and then I move to another and with excess, I drain the other. In order for my creative brain to find the nutrient that it needs to be happy and healthy, I must start to balance the filling and draining of these 5 areas with more conscious and forward-thinking strategy.
Mantra: Be kind to your creative brain
I was back in the training room again today and gave it all to the delegates as if it was for the first time. They are a lovely client. Being a private hospital empathy is naturally ingrained into many of the people as many commented on my commitment to maintaining my energy with each and every workshop. We all are able to pull out a little extra energy and hidden power when needed. Drive is directly connected to the purpose and it is within this that we find that little extra energy. However, overlaying this with Balance, when does one cross the threshold between drive and adrenaline and at what stage does this level become unhealthy? When I allowed myself to turn off in the evening I started to feel quite ill and exhausted. It was if my brain would not stop processing all that needed to be done but in a totally non-productive and unmeaningful way. I am a believer that the energy you give is the energy you receive. However, I want to remind myself again that this must be balanced with the amount of energy you give as some needs to be saved for myself. I keep coming back to one of our sessions where Martin mentioned the damage that the ‘always on’ has on the mind and body as I am now more clear on the impact. Organisations need to ensure that they find the balance with their staff workloads as in many cases the most driven to deliver on the higher purpose might also be at the most risk of burnout and stress-related illness. Even your super hero’s need a sidekick from time to time.
Mantra: Be more conscious of the drive threshold.
After another full day of delivery in the training room, I seemed to have gone into autopilot energy mode. I am mustering it from somewhere and following the last few days, I guess that is from my love of the job, gratitude and higher purpose. This is all great and good and I do believe in all of this however at what point does the body start to push back or break down. My diet has slipped in the fact that I still have been making and bringing my healthy breakfast but not eating until noon. By then it serves as lunch and I drink a few coffees to top up my energy fuel and I push through. I recall in previous sessions with Martin we discussed this ‘always on’ that humans do and feel that currently, I cannot wind down. Hence in our session tonight we explored this further and then in the place of more painful muscle release work or more talking he showed me some great relaxation techniques. It was strange at first as I laid flat and he just rocked various parts of my body and limbs. It was just allowing the body to let go, increase natural blood flow and relax. It really worked and my mind seemed much clearer than it had previous to the session. I wish I could say following that I was fixed but it was one small step forward and the revival I needed to complete some work for my upcoming trip to India at the end of the week. I am sure that the intention was not to give me the strength to pull out a few more hours from the day. It did, however, introduce me to a therapy that is so simple in practice but makes so much sense how it can give benefits. The human mind and body are both complex and fragile and I highly recommend to any organisation that when looking at wellness within their own teams that they reach out to some of these considered alternative therapies. Maybe the rocking might be a stretch too far too fast, so one can always explore opportunities in the way of mindfulness and meditation.
Mantra: Let my energy flow.
I think that I have moved into an interesting learning point within this 50-day challenge where all the will in the world does not allow me to do some of the healthy things that I want to do. The nature of my job means that today and for the next few days I just need to ride the wave and get stuff done. So I looked to the positive and the blessings that I should focus on as the ‘poor me’ self-dialogue only further perpetuates more stress and sense of growing mental fatigue. If left unchallenged these negative thoughts can dominate our perspective. So to find power during this busy time I must consciously remind myself that I love what I do. We have some amazing client work starting that I truly believe changes others’ lives and organisations for the better. It is in this sense of higher purpose that we find additional strength and a better mental state to approach the task that needs to be done. It is also important to remind myself that it is ok to push back if the workloads begin to impact our health. I appreciate that sometimes we do not have the luxury as we all get hit with periods of feast or famine and each of these needs their own management system in place. Each is to find balance and to ensure that wellness has a place in it. That is the theory but to be completely honest I am starting to see some cracks the more my personal energy drains and the more my approach to wellness is effected. My advice to all leaders is to be more conscious of these high-stress periods as if not careful you may just allow yourself to stay in that zone for too long and that is not good for you or those around you.
Mantra: Find time to refocus.
Today started a super busy week with full force. I was up really early as I had some work to finish before taking Buster for his walk and then to the office where Lauren – on top of her endless Bridge duties kindly adds Buster care to the list when needed. We launched the first of two workshops with our new hospital client and this meant I was locked in the training room giving my full attention to the delegates and then a late night finishing what should have happened during the day. The day never stopped and I did not have an opportunity for much me time or a proper lunch. However, I did ensure I had a proper dinner and a fresh healthy stir fry that had been on the list to try. I did start noticing that as my energy drained and my body began only driving on adrenaline, my perspective and internal dialogue went from powerful to starting to be the victim. The poor me – no one understands how hard I work began to surface. So as this voice began to speak more I took the opportunity to have a 10-minute meditation on gratitude and thank the universe for giving me the opportunities I currently have and for the wonderful people in my life that do understand me and do support me. I have mentioned others in the Balance team that are sharing this journey with me and today I send gratitude to Lauren, the heroes that manage our back office and to all those who tirelessly juggle many things at once in support of senior leaders. It is her support that allows me the bandwidth to do what I do. Today was a full one as the week ahead looks to continue to be but when you have the support of a good team that you trust and are able to show humility to them, it takes the pressure off – not just the workload. I see many senior leaders faking their resilience in an attempt to look strong and on top of stuff. But we are all human, and some days weak, and we need the power and skills of others to just find the required strength.
Mantra: share your gratitude
Even though it was nice to have a few days of freedom, it was also great to get Buster back. As much as we may think the grass is greener on the other side we sometimes just need a break from something so that we can balance the difference between an emotional relationship with a connection and that of a habit. We all can fall into a rut where we can disconnect from the joy and higher purpose that most aspects of our life fall under. Buster is a great example as when he is not there I truly miss him, with his funny and extremely loyal ways, but need the break to really see and feel it. In looking through this lens at my Balance challenge I have yet to totally connect with it as a much as I would have thought. My relationship with my own wellness is still somewhat fragmented and there seem to be lots of floating parts with some light roots starting. It has been a constant balancing act between time, priorities, intent and actions. However, what it has done is activated my conscious mindset and I am starting to look at myself and the world around me in a different way. I have introduced some new views on my diet and moderate drinking, dabbled in personal training and started to delve into the connection between my mind and body to uncover some of my barriers to my own success. I keep coming back to the point that the complexity of wellness in the workplace is far bigger a subject than I ever thought. What needs to sit at the heart of any initiative is a dual higher purpose connection. One for the individual and one for the collective. These then should be interwoven into a more supportive and forward-thinking strategic plan that has the support and recourses needed from the senior management team. We also must recognise that we need to allow it time to take root in the hearts, minds and ways of our people. Just saying you want it and finding the balance are two separate things. The first step is recognising that you want change for yourself and then finding a natural progression in the following one’s journey that will lead to the desired version of you.
Mantra: Love the Journey
Wow, I woke up with a bit of a heavy head today as I broke my eating late at night rule after a few beers in the evening. In my mind, it was not extreme and the whole idea behind Balance is that I am also allowed to break away from my focused diet. One of the food groups that I have had very little of in the past few weeks has been gluten as I have not really eaten bread and drank beer. Throughout the years I have done elimination diets and sometimes question if I have a slight intolerance. I am not jumping on the Gluten-free bandwagon, as I am not sure I could ever live without bread on occasion. However, I did feel a bit sluggish this morning and it made me think more carefully about my diet. One is everything in moderation and two, is all about timing. Victoria our Balance Nutritionist did discuss this with me and how the body needs to break this down and hence it impacts on ones ability to sleep properly. So that even though that late night pizza with extra pepperoni and cheese tasted great at the time – my body had to work hard at it while my mind just wanted to relax and ZZZ. Linking this to employee engagement and organisational change is the importance of timing and when is the best opportunity to introduce new layers to the transformation strategy. People need time to adjust to change and if thrust upon them at the wrong time or it too great a quantity they too can suffer their own version of my gluten hangover. We all have a slight intolerance to change but when delivered well and with clear rationale and participation then it can be made less extreme and without the heavy side effects. Back to my late night pizza for a minute as the other factor that needs to be considered was that I had not eaten since lunch so I was extremely hungry and consumed more that I should have. The Mind said more whilst the Body said enough is enough and I cannot take any more. This is the balance between senior leadership’s drive for change and the front line’s ability to manage it in real-time. They both often work on different priorities and timelines and when senior managers delay delay delay and then push push push it can overwhelm and unbalance the team that will be impacted most by the changes.
Mantra: Be kind to my body.
Today I took Buster to Doggie Day Care for the next two days in order to have some ME time. As mentioned in previous blogs, it has been quite the juggling act keeping so many plates spinning and I just needed some free-spirit time. When I am working with client groups I often talk about time management and I do not know how single parents manage to balance a job and children. I struggle keeping on top of Buster’s needs and he is very low maintenance in comparison. This freedom also gave me the opportunity to do one of my favourite things with another great friend – go to the cinema. If I am being totally honest, Buster really does not stop me from doing this as he is very independent and can be left on his own for an evening. I have been doing some work with a client on Limiting Beliefs and the perceived barriers to our success. Looking in the mirror I saw myself and Buster looking back at me. It became apparent just how much I have been using him to reinforce my belief that I cannot do certain things, when in reality, it is my state of mind that has been somewhat depressed and a bit of my spirit that has been broken down. So my answer to things is to blame work, Buster and any other external commitment for my need to just hide away and rest. Instead of facing my deeper limiting belief in that I do not have the strength to push myself further. It is like when I drag myself to my personal training sessions because I have to. Then like magic, Tom makes me happy and pushes me a bit further than I would have myself. In this challenge, I get a renewed sense of revived energy. By removing my ‘Buster limiting belief barrier’ I have no excuse and get the same revived energy doing something that I love with friends that I adore. The shifting of energy means that Buster and others get a better version of me without the subconscious blame or regret. Hence today I hit a double parallel in that some organisations must support their employee better with more empathy for their personal backstories. Also, we all need a little reality check with our limiting beliefs and the perceived challenges that are holding us back. These barriers, if not recognised, only pull us back from being the happier and healthier versions of ourselves. These should be seen as opportunities to grow from and areas that, with the support of others, we can overcome and better manage.
Mantra: I can do more things for me!
Today I really focused on the power of others and the joy and inspiration that they can bring to our lives. I really discovered something today that I had not really built into my own wellness plan as I have been so focused on managing all the other stuff into an already packed diary. Between reading up on nutrition, Personal Training, Mind and Body sessions with Martin, this Blog, coupled with preparing to launch two new client projects in London and India, and I cannot forget Buster and his walk time – I have not had much time to just spend with friends. I went to house-sit for a very close friend and decided to go a day early so we could spend quality time together. It was just what the doctor ordered and we spent the night talking, putting the world to right, whilst jumping randomly between subjects ranging from behavioural science, people, politics and personal stuff (not to be shared here). The night was filled with great food, laughing, debating and music. I never even had the desire to turn on the TV, which tends to be one of my habits to pass time away. Hence tonight added another layer to my wellness challenge as it became clear just how much I have slipped into so many unwell habits. As the house of cards falls and we become unkind to our mind, body and spirit, we miss wonderful opportunities to share nights filled with positivity and good energy. However, it does start with us and the power that we have to bring light or darkness to cherished friend-moments like this. I can now see more clearly the number of times that I have used these precious times to use my friends as a sounding board for all that was going wrong at that time. This negative spiral and endless dialogue only further perpetuated the negative and offered no real solution apart from reconfirming to my subconscious that I was the victim of some grave injustice (sounds better in a dramatic voice with some violins playing in the background!). Hence, it is important that organisations reach out regularly to hear the employees’ voice and action what can be done, then clearly communicate with reason why other things may be the way they are. However, leaders need to be more firm and vocal about the negative life draining voices that offer no benefit other than self-perpetuate their own negative feeling.
Mantra: Cherish the light of others
Wow! Life is a rollercoaster. Just when I think that I cracked one part of this challenge, I rotate back into this circular pattern of mixed priorities. I woke in the morning and focused heavily on my four ‘value words’ that I wrote down in my session with Martin. I promised myself that I would get motivated and go full steam ahead and ensure my fitness session would fit into the day. Then there was a priority shift and I could not make the 2 pm session as I needed to make a client call. Once again, this challenge is taking such a different direction to that of my dream state. I thought that I would just get better and stronger with each passing day. Instead, I am making conscious connections and learning more about myself, my environment, poor habits, stressors and the many things that are impacting on my un-wellness. What I have discovered is the interconnectivity between my mind, body and spirit is stronger than I have ever imagined and we must focus on all three to achieve a more desirable outcome. It is much like the way many organisations approach employee development in a scattergun approach. There is no real joined-up strategy at the deeper core and hence it is parallel to what I have been doing with my own wellness, lots and lots of band-aid fixes. If an organisation does not establish the deeper connection of its core and root of the culture and its people to the vision, values and higher purpose, then it can easily become unravelled at the first sign of challenge. Much like what I have been doing for many years.
Mantra: Find calm in the journey