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 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.
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.
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
Last night I had a great session with Martin. This time he worked on my mind and we spent most of the session talking. Well, most of it was me talking and him listen to gain insight with every word and where on the timeline it sat. As much as I can do this with my clients with respect to brand and culture, I must say that it was very liberating to just get loads of weight off my mind and not my body. One of the things that I often say is when a business is stuck we need to just tear it down and pull out all the dysfunctional thoughts and then rebuild it. Just get the senior management team in the room to talk only truths and clear the air and any misconceptions that have built up over time – almost demobilising the further growth and health of the company culture. The parallel that I draw from this is that the past narratives that I have been holding on to in my head are like my leaders and they are all at odds. I have been holding on to so many past disappointments and hurts that it is really holding me back and truly stopping the authentic me from moving forward. I think that I have spent so long as a consultant and being on stage that I can turn it on when needed. Therefore I can easily wear a brave face, just get on with it and do what needs to be done to survive. And in those words I started to see the penny drop – just how genuine have I really been to myself and hence have been stuck in survive and not thrive. Bridge was built on the strapline of “turning value words into actions’. It was when Martin asked me what my personal true core values were and I instantly wrote down 4 words I realised just how disconnected I have become from my inner being and true passion.
Mantra: Live my values
Today very much flew by and reminded me of the variety that we can have on a Monday. We are starting to get busy and a few projects are all backing up so I know this is the calm before the storm. I managed to get lots done and this was most likely a by-product of a very mindful and restful Sunday. I am still not getting any closer to the swimming pool and this is something that I really must focus on. I am still intrigued just as to why I seem to go through so many peaks and troughs with respect to my exercise. As when I go I do enjoy it and feel the benefit of whatever I do. I am still trying to untangle the mess of wiring between mind, body and spirit and they clearly are not lining up. I hear myself using the excuse of work and how this just unconsciously takes priority but I know there is something deeper at play as I would find time for a less healthy past time like a bottle of wine and watching my guilty pleasure TV show, Judge Judy. Hence what I have really focussed on is just how one prioritises better health in a world that seems so easy to slip off the radar and eat what you want – when you want – and watch endless Netflix and social media stalking. There are just so many distractions that I know will not benefit my health challenge – but like moths to the flame I find myself attracted to it all. I believe that this is one area that companies need to reevaluate and that is to give employees more options for downtime. It does not have to be expensive gyms and only organic food however more consideration should be given to employee breaks as much as to their working hours.
Mantra: Look to the future.
I had a really great start to the day and filmed some bits for our Balance project and this is always fun, one day I will watch the blooper real. Working with Phil on this aspect of the project reminded me of what a great team we have put together for Balance. Each individual is a specialist in their own area and each one contributes equally to that of the overall success of the 50-day challenge. It also brought light to the fact that we must take direction from others that know and be humble enough to allow yourself to trust in the process. Looking at organisational culture it’s always important to remember that the team that supports the organisation must approach this from equal standing. Everyone is a specialist in their own right and each lends to the greater good and overall perspective. A company needs a form of hierarchy whether that be departments or management in order that it can function within its structure. However, when we look at a company culture it must be equal if it is to be healthy and well balanced. Each one of us brings something special to the party and I think more organisations should focus on delivering this message to their teams –we are all in it together!! This would allow for a much better-balanced approach and supportive team and bring relationships much more to the forefront. Today was also my second body session with Martin and once again it has left me feeling much more open and again somewhat a little confused and I am not quite sure why. However, I do feel like that I am walking a little taller and have just a little more spring in my step. I guess I just need to let go a little more, and in my own words – trust the process. As he goes through various touch points in my body and releases them the pain can be almost unmanageable but once I begin to let go I can really notice that the pain is less about what he is doing and more about what I have been holding on to. Following his advice, I took some extra time just to myself to reflect not only on the session but on my intention for my own well-being going forward. I am always quick to give advice to others however now it is time I take some and time for me to practice what I preach. I must learn to better appreciate all the positive gifts that I have been given and with a pure intent learn that it is ok to be more kind to myself.
Mantra: Thank you for my gifts
Today was a little bit of a slow day and something that I needed to own. Of course, we need to have some downtime time however what I have started to recognise in myself is just how destructive I have been to all three of my zones of mind, body and spirit. When left unmanaged I was not nourishing them appropriately and then one would have a knock on effect to the other, the balance between them lost. Falling back into my poor diet habits of just not to eating clearly sent my body into shock as it was enjoying its new diet. This is surprising as I have been feeling great after eating breakfast and a healthy lunch and a balanced dinner and today I did not eat until early evening(if that is what you’d call it), as I consumed two pieces of toast with cheese just before bed. Having explored my diet with Victoria this was one bad habit that I fell back on and the result was clearly not great for my motivation or my sleep. However, this time was slightly different as I chose to consciously feel the effects on my body and mind and I could see a negative correlation. This has been a pattern that I have been doing over the last couple of years blind to the real impact that it was causing. In my first consultation with Victoria, we discussed the importance of nourishment and what the right food brings to the bodies and the impact it has on our wellness. From my perspective, I often fall into bad habits just at the brink of introducing a new one that would benefit me. The question I have been challenged with is – why? I have worked on several organisational transformation programmes and found the answer in the people and businesses that I have worked with over the years and those of which have been challenged by change. Even though the current environment is not benefiting us, it offers comfort in the fact that we know what we know and we know what we get. So often we will either stay in or return to this behaviour as we draw comfort from it. In many cases, we will extend our reach just far enough to get to the edge of our comfort zone and then return home. As a species, I guess this is something we have been doing since our hunter and gatherer days and the early formation of cultures and communities. This cycle just repeats itself whether it be a single individual or a company – reinforcing my point that businesses behave like humans because they are driven by humans. My advice to organisations that want to embark on any transformation is to ensure that you choose the leaders to manage the change carefully as it takes an inspirational leader that is not challenged by risk and has the resilience and open mind to drive it through to the end and beyond.
Mantra: Feed my spirit with the foods I eat.
This week I’ve been really focusing on cleansing looking at toxins from the food that feeds my body, the self-talk that fills my head and to the relationships that I surround myself with. I have to say I really felt some toxins flowing through my body today following my session with Martin. This was two-fold as I believe that I let go of so much pent up stress and built-up negative energy during the session. I also then decided to go out and have a few drinks with some friends as this socialising is a very healthy thing to do but I think that the alcohol hit me harder today than normal. I only had two drinks and this is very much in support of a balanced approach to well-being however it is all about timing. Following any massage I have had in the past, I have always been told not to drink alcohol post the experience due to the fact that it can have some adverse effects. Well if a massage was a 5/10 on the Richter scale I would think the session with Martin would definitely be hitting an 8 or 9 in terms for releasing and opening up my body’s energy flow. Hence today I suffered the effects of a killer hangover coupled with the regret of – why did I do that, as I knew better. However, it’s very important for me to recognise that this is a 50-day challenge and it’s all about learning and experiencing new things and setting better and more appropriate limits and rules for myself in support of my own wellbeing. What these early days are showing me is that it is not about getting better and stronger every day as these early days are more about better understanding myself and what is currently working and not in my daily routine. It is all about resetting realistic expectations and guidelines. Also in my search to discover what balance really means to me and others, it reminds me that none of us are infallible. Striving for perfection only adds more stress as the fear of failure can impact on our effort and desire for success. Looking back at the 2017 Human Living Brand project, where I took on a dramatic transformation, the rules were very clear and for 30-days I followed them and I found it quite easy to follow because they were a no break clause. However that was not real life as it was not sustainable. Hence my advice to any organisation or leader that is involved in change or transformation is to slow it down, make it manageable and allow people the time to absorb the difference before moving on. It is also to listen to your people and check in regularly to better understand how they feel and the impact that change has on their wellbeing.
Mantra: Check in on myself and be honest about my feelings