Walk the Talk

Posted: 7th March 2011

My office is about 2 miles from where I live. I have two routes I can walk and I tend to switch between them depending on my mood and the time I have available. The first route is the most direct but takes me straight through the main road into Colwyn Bay. It’s not the most serene option and I also have to walk up and over the hill by Eirias Park. The second route takes me onto the promenade where I can have a flat and almost totally uninterrupted walk by the sea. This route is more picturesque but slightly longer and of course if the heavens open suddenly, I can’t dive into a shop doorway or hop on a number 12 bus like I can going the other way.

Choosing which route to take has become almost a daily decision of late. With the weather being reasonable and my motivation levels high, I have been walking to work and back between 3 and 4 times per week since the New Year. The benefits have been staggering! Not only have a lost a few stubborn lbs, I feel more alert and productive and the walking itself seems to trigger a creative process. I now have an hour and a half of problem-solving, creative time each day and I’m making new connections and developing new processes as I walk.

By far the biggest thing for me though, is being authentic. I’m in the business of supporting people to achieve better health and wellbeing through changing their behaviour. By walking to work and back regularly, I have had first hand experience of establishing that as a new habit. I have met too many people working in health and fitness who are far from fit themselves. I have met people working in obesity who are obese themselves. I know far too many health professionals who binge drink on a regular basis, some who smoke. I have attended far too many meetings where there is a “them and us” approach. Uttering of what we need to do to make them more aware... and more likely to change their behaviour... and so on. A fellow keynote speaker at an event I spoke at last month described how the Department of Health in London used to have the best-tasting doughnuts on the table at their meetings.

I believe that if we are to have the most persuasive and positive impact on the people we are trying to influence towards healthy choices, we have to be taking steps to make those changes for ourselves. If you owned a technology company and spent your days persuading people that yours were the best products in the world, a customer would be very surprised to discover if you had a home or office full of your competitor’s products. Their influence on your purchasing decision would be reduced to zero. Imagine buying a new car from a dealership and then seeing the salesman driving around in a rival make. You’d feel a bit misled and it’s the same for those working in health improvement. Your power to enthuse real behaviour change in people is down to your authenticity.

If you genuinely believe in the messages and support you are providing then it should come naturally. If it’s just a job and you really don’t believe in what you are saying, then move over and find something else to do. And just to make sure you keep remembering what it feel like to break and create new habits and behaviours, keep setting and refreshing your own lifestyle goals so you can be authentic in your work with others.


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