In last week’s article Roy White reminded us to get moving. For many of us, the easiest thing to do is to merely put one foot in front of the other. Without a doubt walking is amongst the simplest and most special things we can do for our own well being.
In creating organisations worth working for, here is what we have discovered about this simple act:
Solo walk: Encouraging people to just go for a walk, whether that is on a break during a workshop, integrated into learning, or just as a commitment to their ongoing health and creativity – helps them refresh, reflect and re-energise. You will know it yourself. As you let your mind wonder as you wander, you can work through things and generate new neural pathways and creative ideas.
Mindful walking: Introducing mindful walking is a natural step for many leaders who are curious about mindfulness and meditation. This is where we literally slow down, and bring attention to our walk, slowly and purposefully feeling each footfall... being fully present in every step, with every breath, in tune with the sensations within us and around us. The peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, talks of kissing the ground with our feet. We can try that wherever we are.
Walk ‘n’ Talk: In our experience delivering leadership programmes, when leaders ‘walk and talk’, it can transform their learning. They get out of the comfort of their chairs and move and connect with each other. One of the special moments in our executive leadership programmes, is when we invite leaders to pair up and talk about how they can improve their well being, as they walk to the mountain hut for the night. There is something profound about people walking side by side and how they drop into a different conversation. It liberates them to listen more deeply, and the rhythm of their walk helps their bond.
Walking meetings: Back in 2013, in her Harvard Business Review Article “Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation” Nilofer Merchant wrote about replacing her office meetings with walking ones. It doesn’t have to be a sweaty hike; an amble around the block, to a nearby park can be a gentle and equally satisfactory alternative.
Collective ‘ramble’: Companies can be extravagant in team building and networking events, but they need not be. One of the most memorable times I spent as a participant, was when our group went for a day ‘ramble’ in the countryside; soaking up the scenery, stopping to take a breather, regrouping every so often then moving on, intuitively forming another subset and conversation, there was a naturalness to our chat. The serenity and expansiveness of our surrounds encouraged openness in our conversations, which a conference room atmosphere wouldn’t have done in the same way.
Coaching conversation: As coaches, we are also aware of the value of incorporating a walk into the coaching conversation. Particularly if the coachee is talking about exploring ways to achieve a work-life balance, manage stress or be more creative, having the conversation whilst walking, helps them go from talking about it to actually experiencing it.
Side by side stroll: Who hasn’t been liberated by walking side by side, when having one of those tricky or sensitive conversations? A step change can occur, when we literally walk and face in the same direction, side by side, to discuss our differences. We can feel more comfortable to say what we wouldn’t say face to face.
Any of this walking is enhanced the more natural the environment you are in. As the Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher John Muir observed “in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”. Roy mentioned there are numerous studies which show the therapeutic effects of walking in nature. Privately, he calls them the ‘no-shit Sherlock’ – those that are blindingly obvious. By going out and experiencing it, we can feel the benefits for ourselves.
The Navaho say “walk in beauty, wherever you are”. This is not just about being in the beauty of nature, or physical beauty, but to be in harmony with yourself in whatever circumstance. To feel in peace, about how your life is unfolding moment by moment. You can do that, even if you are walking around an ugly business park.
What is it that you’ve done recently for your well being? Share with us in the comment box below.
Penelope Mavor is a Senior Consultant at Impact’s Italy office.