By Harry Webne-Behrman
The following is an excerpt from What Matters at Work, my recently published book for emerging, facilitative leaders who want to align their actions and those of their organizations with the things they truly value.
Everything we do in Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration and Journey Beyond increases and improves our awareness of ourselves, the people in our groups, and the larger context in which we operate — “Taking Healthy Steps” helps us be keenly aware of the ways we may take such journeys.
Our society tends to reward and reinforce “busy-ness”. We somehow think ourselves inadequate if our reply to others asking, “So, how are you doing?” is anything less than, “Wow…things are really busy for me these days!” It’s a badge of honor, a source of pride, and a core element of professional and personal identity to be flitting from place to place, multitasking, and then “playing hard” to the degree time allows it. Of course, we may simply continue to be swamped with chauffeuring kids, attending more meetings, or otherwise filling our proverbial plates: We are BUSY, and there seems to be little incentive to change.
In his thought-provoking book, Essentialism (2014), author Greg McKeown invites us to focus solely on those things that really matter. He offers several approaches summarized in three core practices: ● Do Less, But Better ● Be Committed to the Rigorous Pursuit of Less ● Focus on the Essential.
The practice that we wish to reinforce now is to Take Healthy Steps. This relates to focusing on the Essential, but it also means noticing that as we go from place to place, we take our Intention with us and incorporate a sense of Beauty and Appreciation, as well.
I make an effort to take at least 10,000 steps each day, as this is one way I bring my intention to stay fit and upright into my routine. But I do more than merely walk from place to place: I try to bring “spring” in my step, noticing my energy level and state of being, perhaps singing to myself for part of the journey. I try to notice the world around me, the sun, trees, and people, and appreciate that by walking about I am able to notice very different things than when I drive.
I have also noticed over the years that, as I walk the areas where I work or live, I meet people I know; this is a great opportunity to connect regarding a project or an idea, or simply to be with friends and colleagues. This awareness has resulted in generally trying to leave an extra few minutes for that walk, so I don’t resent meeting people I want to see. If no such encounter occurs, it allows me the time to notice my environment a bit more completely and refocus my attention on the meeting about to occur before I enter the space where it will happen. As we discuss elsewhere, relationships are the fundamental building blocks of Community; such encounters are actually “work” that is productive, if kept in proper proportion to the other purposes at hand.
My partner, Lisa, is a voracious walker and has been for many years. Every year for her birthday, she selects a hike and thinks through some of the key milestones along the route. She dedicates this anniversary of her birth as a day of reflection and renewal, both in intellectual terms and in physical terms. Together, we also chart out regular hikes, and consider such events to be excellent ways to both connect together and to have conversations about dilemmas in our work and our family. All along the way, we try to stride in a manner consistent with our broader intentions.
As a result, I often have time for Connection (when walking with Lisa), Reflection (alone), and Synthesis (to/from meetings). Each aspect matters, and it dawns on me that we don’t often allow such a routine to offer us these important ingredients. My ‘quality of life’ tends to be better when all three ingredients feed one another on a given day. If I Connect with people, especially those important in my life, I tend to be stimulated, energized, and purposeful. Whether I am in Working or Relational mode, I get nourished by interesting conversation about worthy topics. It takes time, and it doesn’t happen in the rushed formalities of e-mail encounters.
Lastly, Synthesis allows the opportunity to make sense of all we experience, sort out the nuggets of life lessons, and determine what is worth acting upon and how best to do so. Synthesis helps us sort the “Urgency/Importance” matrix and find the meaningful currents in our work – otherwise, we are likely to respond without taking proper stock of the best pathways before us.
Application: Healthy Steps: To notice the way we use our transitions at various times of day, and reflect on ways they might be channeled in service to our Intentions.
Step 1: Take a few moments to reflect on how we spend our time walking (or otherwise traveling) from place to place. In doing so, try to notice your pace, energy, and mindset as you walk: ● Am I rushing to this next meeting? What tension am I bringing to the meeting because of it? ● Do I have an unresolved “bother” that I am now noticing as I walk, as it shows up in my tension and attitude? Do I have a way to put it aside so I can focus with full and best intentions and be present in my next interactions? ● Am I distracted by the beauty of the walk, taking me in a new, unanticipated direction that I actually appreciate more than my intended destination? What does that mean?
Step 2: These are all useful things to notice: Consider other ways to demonstrate and practice “taking healthy steps” in this Journey, including non-physical ways so that this is a more inclusive and accessible practice. By slowing down, I tend to notice more. By listening, I tend to understand the Needs of others better. By taking time, I get to Meaningful Outcomes faster.