I might know who is your worst enemy

 

“For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight.” (Jonathan Livingston Seagull).

This is the story of Jonathan, a seagull different from all the birds in his flock. He is so passionate about flying that he dedicates all his time to flying training, to find strategies to fly faster and faster. His speed improves in time from 90 miles an hour to 200 miles per hour, the fastest a gull has ever flown! Celebrating his 200 miles/hour achievement, he speeds up flying through his own flock. Nobody in the flock got hurt. But after Jonathan shares the incredible flying knowledge he has gained with his species, he was called before the Gull Council and was banished from the flock under the accusation of “reckless irresponsibility when flying”.

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There is a little Jonathan in each of us. Maybe you wanted to become an astronaut, a painter, a filmmaker, a writer, and someone told you are not good enough to do it, or that you won’t have any money to pay for your rent if you pursue that woo-woo idea you cared so much about. Maybe you were keen on quitting your job to do something closer to your heart, to follow your purpose and you gave up because your family did not support you. At least once in a lifetime, each of us has given up on something – a passion, an idea, a dream, a wish because of the social pressure and expectations. You might have blamed it on the ‘Council of the flock’. But actually, I think it was you.

I believe you are your worst enemy. Although I am not denying the social pressure and what a difference can make a supportive social system or family, I believe you are often the harshest critic of yourself. You allow speaking to yourself in ways you would never speak to others. You look into the mirror and you say to yourself words you would never dare to say to your closest friend. You put blame, pressure, junk food, sleepless nights, overtime onto yourself like you would do to no other. And then you still want to fly higher and higher towards your dream?

Now that you know who is your worst enemy, you have the chance to stop whatever harm you notice you do to yourself.

Notice your self-talk. And if it’s junk, just change it, making it encouraging, friendly and loving. Before that job interview, before that meeting, before an important date, just say what you would say to your best friend. You can do it, you’ve got this.

Notice the actions you take towards yourself. What media has taught us is self-care – going for a massage, to the hairdresser, buying an expensive anti-wrinkle or taking a bubble bath – might be just what money can buy for a superficial self-care (questioning the ads I see now!) Go for depth self-care, like talking enough sleep, going for a run or for any type of exercise you enjoy, giving your body nutritious food, giving your brain some helpful learning, getting out for some free fresh air, taking breaks at work, write encouraging words on post-it and stick them all around your house, spend some time in silence (is cost $0!).

You know, the exclusion of Jonathan from the flock is not the end of the story. It is actually just the beginning of it. He does not criticise himself for aiming to fly faster. He is not blaming himself for being different, hence wrong. He goes and meets a group of more advanced gulls who, just like him, fly for the joy of it, not just for eating.

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