A few weeks ago I sat down with my former business partner, Nina Peterson, to discuss what it means for her to lead wellbeing. Our conversation made me smile. Not only was it great to hear her voice, she shared how she’s striving to demonstrate and promote wellbeing through her role as Director of People & Culture at Door-to-Door Organics, a Colorado-based company that brings organic produce and select groceries to consumers’ doorsteps across the country.
Her journey has been amazing. After years as a hard-core advocate for all things “wellness” and “green”, Nina spoke about a new question that is shaping her ethos about life and leadership: Are we moving in the direction of health?
Some might say this question is a cop-out, a way to hedge on a making a full-blown commitment to advancing wellbeing. But after many years of working together, I know Nina; copping out isn’t part of her DNA. I believe inherent within her question is a profound wisdom about how people – individually and collectively – make a change.
Whether exercising or eating with health in mind or building a less reactive leadership team and more engaged employees, rarely do we create a new habit like an on/off switch; instead, we move toward our wellness aspirations over time. The act of our gradual “moving toward” is exactly what we humans need to integrate new behaviors, perspectives, skills, and relationships into a better way of living and working.
Nina recently witnessed this dynamic in force when she sat with an employee and his girlfriend at a party at work. The girlfriend revealed, “When Matt first started working at Door-To-Door, he never even ate vegetables! He didn’t know what to do with them! But little by little, he’s eating them more just by working there.” You could criticize Matt for his veggie-scarce diet. But instead of measuring him against the isn’t-it-obvious-that-5-veggies-a-day-are-good-for-you standards, Nina recognized a deeper, more wellness-inspiring truth: Matt is moving in the direction of health. And for him and his company, that kind of movement is good.
Perhaps even more powerful than the question “Are we moving in the direction of health?” is the spirit behind it: the attitude of listening for headway rather than judging against measures of wellbeing that often seem too far afield for the individual or organization pursuing them. For my own life and leadership role, I re-crafted Nina’s question as my guide and now ask myself, “Is this behavior moving me and my company in the direction of health?” If the answer is no, then what can I shift to move toward wellbeing instead of away from it? And if the answer is “yes,” then onward! Baby step by baby step, all our efforts help contribute to the wellbeing revolution.
How are you moving toward health in your own life and workplace? I’d really like to know.
– Other Great Questions for Turning Your Insights into Valuable Action
– Making Peace a Habit in Life and Work
– The Secret Leadership Fuel of Another Wellbeing Leader, UBS Senior Vice President Scott Pann
Join the discussion 4 Comments
I agree 100%. It can be tough to stand one self next to the tall ruler of “perfect” well-being and forcing oneself to live that “monk” lifestyle where you must deny yourself all the pleasures of life to be “healthy.” I take away two things from this blog:
1. It is amazing the subtle power of our environment. Working for an organic veggie company, Matt found himself swayed to be more like his peers. He felt compelled to follow the herd and for the better of himself to do so. Before working for Door-to-Door Organics, no amount of logic or value proposition was enough to convince Matt that he should eat “5-a-Day.” Now just by being surrounded by others with a different mindset, with perhaps little logic, his behaviors have shifted along the arc of well-being. And the best part, I bet Matt doesn’t regret his change nor finds it tough to execute on a daily basis.
2. Our environment can play a much larger and stronger role in supporting our well-being. We often assume our choices that we make every day are our own, but of the 1000 or so choices (active and unconscious) we make, we are constantly biased or swayed by our past experiences, emotions, and the sights, images, smells, textures of what surrounds us. No better example is Cinnabon. If you ever come close to one of the fabulous, decadent stores, you know immediately what I am trying to describe. The smell and aroma of sweetness is intoxicating and by even reading this you probably are craving one. This is by design.
Now, imagine an environment where well-being behaviors are as intoxicating, infectious, viral; where one becomes compelled to take the stairs, do random acts of stretching, take well-being breaks to meditate, consume more fruits and veggies. The intention is in the design, but not in the daily routines. This makes well-being fun, social, and a choice that is easier to make.
Living well is not about being perfect, it’s about making better choices. We can make those choices easier to execute by helping ourselves in the design of our environment.
You said it all much better than I did, Rich! And I love your comment about imagining an environment where wellbeing behaviors becoming intoxicating … where those behaviors becoming the most attractive path. Thanks!
I love how you use a question to lead the way; am I moving toward well being or not? and that you validate the incremental steps of ‘moving toward well being’. I’m trying to put my finger on the right questions to ask the people I work with. The problem for almost everyone is chronic subclinical dehydration. The fix is easy – drink an adequate amount of pure high quality water daily, avoid dehydrating foods and drinks. But getting there – convincing people that changing their drinking water will change their lives – that is a hurdle. There are so many other things to drink which are not optimally hydrating (to include most bottled waters and tap water) and the result is far from health. I’ve learned that criticizing doesn’t work (a quick way for me to lose interest in ANYTHING someone is telling me!), that encouraging small changes helps, that recognizing and pointing out progress helps. But I still feel a long way from effecting the changes that will bring about the health that is possible. Getting people to see the ‘big health picture’ and that clean, pure water is foundational to that picture is very challenging when people are conditioned to drinking and eating habits and beliefs that don’t serve their health! So a great starting point is asking that question; ‘am I moving toward well being’? I’m still trying to work out what the ‘follow through’ is for inspiring people to take that journey. Miss you Rene! Cat http://www.keepitkangen.com
Good to hear what you’re thinking about, Cat. Like you, when I’m being criticized or told to do something, I’m less apt to do it! I imagine that many of your clients are the same. So one thought is to use a different approach by asking them: What is your vision of a well life? Helping them see their actions in the context of a larger wellness vision they hold personally is a way to help them tap into their inner motivation to change their behaviors for the better. And you may find out that, even though they complain about health or other life concerns (i.e. not enough energy, etc.), they don’t have a vision of being any healthier, nor are they ready to create one at this time in their life. Good for you to know. And if they DO have a vision of wellness that they’d like to move toward, then another useful question is: Are you ready, willing and able to make the changes needed to get there? Each piece of this question – readiness, willingness, ability – can open up wonderful paths of conversation between you and your clients in support of their wellbeing. Hope these ideas help!