About what’s important in life – wisdom from a senior

“To survive, to keep on living is the most important thing in this world,”

said with low voice Peter, a 71 year old bush walker, driving his car to Eureka Camp on a Friday afternoon. Babak and I were going with Peter for the weekend to do some group bush walks at Yarra Junction. We did not have a car, Peter was kind to give us a lift there, where we were meeting the other bush walkers.

After some small chat about where are we originally from, about Uber and its costs, about the high way, cars and fuel, about the enjoyment of work, Peter said he was at a moment in his life when he was taking some time to plan the next 20 years of his life.

“I need to focus on what is important at my age”, mentioned Peter.

We wanted to hear more. We asked Peter what was it he appreciated in life, looking at it through eyes with more than 70 years of experience in seeing the world.

“Health is the most important thing.”

Then he paused. There is no fun in growing old. Whatever issue we used to have – stubborn or bad knees, cold limbs with bad blood circulation or sudden change of moods – they all grow stronger with age, while our body gets weaker and weaker. “Use it, or lose it” becomes more relevant than ever. Peter was prioritising going to gym at least 3-4 times a week and taking time for bush walks on the weekend. Giving our body the food it needs to be properly nourished and the exercise it needs to say active and fit is the absolute minimum we can do to stay healthy. And this is not really just for seniors. It applies to every single one of us.

“Having good relationships, dear people around you is the way to enjoy your health. Sometimes I think it is even more important than health.”

There was sadness in Peter’s voice when saying this. He has never been married. But this does not mean he could not enjoy the company of the bush walkers, of his friends for Christmas, Easter, or just for the weekend or an afternoon at the next door cafe. When it comes to our happiness, relationships are crucial (I wrote a LinkedIn article about it here a while ago). We might be tempted to prioritise money over relationships, career over spending time with our dear ones, saving up rather than going away for the weekend to visit a family member. Money will not support you with kind words and hot chocolate when you are down and feeling meaningless. Your career will not hold your hand when you are sick either.

“I want to write and publish three novels I have had in my head the last 20 years. And I want to write these novels for the joy of it.”

Peter didn’t like fame, so he wanted to publish under a pseudonym. “When you are famous, you don’t know anymore who is your friend and who is not.” Maybe it is writing that we do just for the joy of it. Maybe it is music, art, gardening, reading, walking, cooking. Whatever it is you always wanted to do, just go and do it now, while you have the time.

We’ve got to Eureka Camp a little wiser than we left Melbourne, grateful to Peter for sharing with us. After all, what seem to be important in life at 70s is highly relevant in our 30s, 40s, or whatever…

Cultivating new habits for our wellbeing at work

The one thing you can control is how you treat yourself. And that one thing can change everything. (Leeana Tankersley).

Your lower back sinks in pain. Today you may not have the usual head tension (could it be because is Friday!), but you are feeling exhausted. There is no energy left in your body to go out for the evening. You cannot focus much on your friends’ conversation anyway. The plan is to spend your weekend to sleep, forget about tasks, and recover from another stressful week at work.

This is not really living, it is dying at work. We know that. Why do we keep on doing it?

There are so many articles out there where you can read about some healthy habits at work: drinking enough water, taking regular breaks, standing up and walking from time to time, going out for your lunch break for a short walk. We read about these habits of better dosing our energy and effort at work. They enter through one ear, go out through the other, leaving us exhausted, into the same killing working routine.

This article gives 3 suggestions on how to integrate these healthy habits into your daily routine at work. I wish I learnt them sooner.

First of all, let’s face this, our deepest foundation for change: humans are creatures of habits. If you work out a day or two, it does not mean you have created a habit. I do not know exactly how many days it takes for the habit to be formed, opinions are very different: some say 21 days, other 32, some opinions are pointing to 66. Anyway, we’ve got the point. We need to prepare to stand up for ourselves for quite a few days to create and cultivate the new habit.

  1. Calendar reminders

At work, we have calendar reminders for all our deadlines and meetings. For meeting up with ourselves, let’s put a calendar reminder as well: notification for refilling your glass of water every hour, for standing up and walk for a couple of minutes, for going out for a walk, for our lunch break, four meditation time. Put these up, or you will forget about it. If you have a to do list, you want to have your new habits there as well. If you have weekly goals, or quarterly KIPs, your health goals and personal KPIs should also be in there, to keep yourself responsible. If you do not take care of yourself, nobody will.

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  1. Bundle new habits and old habits together into a ritual

We all have our little routine at work: we take a coffee when we arrive, we eat breakfast when checking our email, we have the stand up meetings, we send daily status reports. It will help cultivating new habits if you link them to something you already do and it already has roots in your behaviour. We drink a glass of water with the morning coffee. After the status report, we stand up and walk around the office for 3-5 minutes. After lunch, we go out for a short walk. Make sure the new ritual is captured in your calendar, just to double check on yourself. 🙂

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  1. Make deals with your colleagues

When I was working in customer support, picking up tickets and calls from customers, it was hard to plan my day, plan my routine, because things would always come up. Then I learnt that when I needed to do something important, I could tell Nicki, my manager, and she would cover me while I was doing the important thing I had on my list.

We can announce our colleagues when we plan to take a 15 minute break to go out for a short walk, invite them to our calendar event and count on them to pick up any urgent tasks coming up in our absence. Moreover, this will also be an invite and reminder for your colleagues to look after their mental and physical health at work. Maybe next time, they will send you a calendar invite for you to cover them when they do their daily walk.

You fully count on yourself to look after yourself. You may get support from your employer, your HR Manager, your Wellbeing Officer or your boss to work on your wellbeing at work. But in the end, it is up to you. And these small healthy habits can change everything the way you feel at work. You know the say:

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”  Lou Holtz

 

The size of Yoga

Have you ever tried to google Yoga in images?

As soon as you press “Enter” a full gallery with flexible slim bodies opens. You get to see abdomens that have probably grew up in a gym where they have never sold any chocolate bars (not even the low fat energizer!). You get to see smooth bottoms, finely shaped as if God spent one full day on their perfect creation. There are flexible bodies contortioned in easier or more difficult postures. You can only twist a bit your head to figure out how to look at the picture from the right angle…then you say “wow!” and move on to the next result of the Google search. There are mostly feminine bodies or female’s parts of bodies, or shadows of fit women in the sunset. Rarely, you get to see a male body or a dog body, but they could still fit into an S t-shirt.

The pictures you see on Google may encourage you to believe Yoga is meant for very fit flexible women and nobody else. Or you will become one if you “yoga” enough every day.

But Yoga is not an S-size no matter what Google says. It’s not about beautiful slim bodies which draw people’s attention. Actually, is not about getting any attention at all. At least not from the outside, and not somebody else’s attention. Yoga is not meant only for small size bodies. It is meant for your body just as it is: chubby, skinny, curved, stiff, roundish, pear-shape, apple-shape or whatever fruit shape the expert may say you have there. You may not be able to do the full bridge or the head standing or you may not touch the ground with your heels in downward-facing-dog. But you can be a yogi with the body you have, with any body you have. And be a dedicated one. Because it is not the body in itself that makes you a yogi. It is the meditation. Bodies can mediate even if they are wearing XXXL size to cover them. Yoga is not a size.