Compared to what?



Having a bird’s eye view across sectors, regions, disciplines and levels of management in my work is amazing. Over the years I have grown to appreciate the passion, commitment and dedication that people show regardless of which sector they work in. It turns out that no sector has a monopoly on passion or commitment. It is also evident that no sector has managed to crack the ever-elusive goal of work life balance. In fact, it is becoming clear that despite all this passion, people’s energy reserves are running at an all-time low. As such and without being an alarmist, this blog is diverting from the accepted approach of talking about what we do and is going to look at how we do it.


Regardless of the dedication and our ability to work ‘smarter’, without looking more deeply at how we look after ourselves, we end up running on a wet marble floor, it looks fancy at the start but eventually you’ll slip and fall.


But how do we grab hold of something that can be so personally confronting and a minefield of strict regimes, New Year resolutions and battles of will? It makes little sense that self care can be turned into a battle or dogma, after all its self-care. Yet for some reason we can replace beating ourselves up with work, with beating ourselves up about our diet or lifestyle choices.


Self care, isn't a chore, it's a daily choice, NOT making the choice to self care is what turns life into a chore. It becomes a leak in the boat, that make it run slower and less able to move through the water. If we can see we have a hole in our boat, we have choices, fix it, patch over it or buy a bigger bilge pump and wonder why we are wasting so much fuel and money on pumps.


For some reason, most of us do the last two. In fact we have gotten so good at patching over things or spending money on 'bilge pumps' our view of what is normal has shifted over time.


For example, it is now ‘normal’ to have work emails ping into the home through smart phones, to the point that we never really turn off. It is now ‘normal’ to walk around with a take away coffee cup, in fact not only normal, it is a social ritual. This was not the norm 10 years ago so how does it become normal?


The reason these things become ‘normal’ is that we are very clever at finding ways to cope with the next level of stress/distress being presented. We are incredibly skilled at offsetting stress and pressure with supplementary fuels like sugar, alcohol, caffeine, over or under exercising, getting lost in movies/books/TV/ computers or creating energy through emotional drama.


This approach is the equivalent of patching over the issue or buying a bigger bilge pump. We ending up spending lots of time and money on these things but they never actually plug the whole. In fact, sometimes they add more holes to the bottom of the boat.


What gets tricky is working out if what we are doing if supporting us or masking the issue. Try this exercise, choose one of the supplements you use and imagine if you only used that one all of the time, in fact what if you increased the ‘dose’ to make up for not using the others. How long before your body said ‘something’s not working here’? Would your body still say having that supplement is a good thing?


We seem to have an innate ability to know how much of each supplement to use so as to not trigger a response from our body that might suggest that chosen supplement is not the best for us. Indeed we are resilient and smart we are able to hide a deeper question -


“Is how I live/work really normal or is it just something we have gotten used to?”


The simplest cross chek we use, is to look around and see how others are doing. If most people have an energy drop in the afternoon, it must be normal, if most people use supplementary fuels, it must be normal. But by using this approach, we can all incrementally keep dropping our vitality and increasing our suppliments.


What is societies current sense of normal achieving in terms of vitality and well-being?


Since 1980, there has been a fourfold increase in the number of people with diabetes[1]. In fact lifestyle diseases are now the number one cause of death globally[2]. When the number one cause of death gloabbly are preventable lifestyle choices, surely the question needs to be asked, how has this become normal?


It seems that we are becoming so good at ‘coping’ that we are masking a broader decline in our well-being.


Maybe we need to reset the benchmark for vitality?

  • Is it possible to consider getting everything done in a day/week and not rely on caffeine, alcohol or refined sugars etc.? Is it possible to get to the end of the day/week and not want to hide away in a book, screen, bottle of wine or sporting contest?

  • Is there a normal level of vitality that we had as children but have long forgotten?

This is not about suggesting a life of abstinence, but rather an honesty about why and how we choose to do what we do. Because without this honesty we progressively and ever so incrementally spiral down into 'new normals' without really clocking the overall change. We can then find ourselves justifying, defending or being critical of any suggestion that life was anything but normal.


In recent years, there has been a wonderful mental health campaign called R U Ok day, where people are encouraged to show they care enough to ask people they know if they are okay.


So for this month, take a moment and ask yourself,

  • Is your current vitality ‘normal’ or something you have gotten used to?

  • Are you ‘solutions’ and something makes you feel better or do they contribute to a self sustianing vitality?

​If you feel better ask yourself “better compared to what?”