staying strong hero

The reaction to my Starting Strong blog was amazing, so I just wanted to share some ways we’ve found to do just that since the first of the year. It’s now taken on something of a life of its own internally and I wanted to salute my amazing team and pass some tips on! And while there may be nothing new here, there are some really important themes.

The first thing we all seem to have in common is finding our Moments of Joy: from dawn walks to taking your morning coffee outdoors, to knitting, baking, jigsaws or Lego (with or without children!) – even bird- and plane-spotting – most of us have found key times to just come into the present and be IN a simple activity mindfully; letting go for a while of everything else. If you haven’t found yours yet I’d really encourage this.

(As an aside, the time-lapse image accompanying this article was taken by our very talented Graphic Artist Andy while doing some bird-spotting last weekend!)

Some people are gardening (indoors and out) too, which is not only mindful but leads into the second theme of Growth: from revisiting old favourite hobbies to inspiring books, volunteering, or discovering homebrew. We can also all grow our relationships: there is a strange liberation in knowing that you can just as easily have a virtual drink with your current neighbour or with one from 10 years ago who now lives in another country. We always could take a virtual tour of the White House with a friend, but now we have less liberty we’re really doing it. One team member ordered elaborate matching cakes with friends so they could have Zoom afternoon teas together.

All of these promote not just some growth and connection but the simple act of being present, bringing your mind to a single focus on something you can control and dropping all the swirling thoughts and worries, which is so important for all of us.

I talked last time about the value of the Covey model, and letting go of things you can’t control, but voluntarily letting go of things you can control has come up a few times: some of the team advocated less self-punishment by letting go of Dry January or that diet goal, leaving your phone behind when you walk, taking periods away from reading any news, limiting time on social media or a day completely off it.

An obvious area of control is exercise and wellness: so vital at the moment of course for many reasons. I force myself out for 5k runs most days – getting out of bed in the dark is never easy but I unfailingly return smiling and energised. I feel less stressed and often come up with good ideas. Publicly setting a 100km goal for the month and sharing runs via an app with my daughter in London, really help keep me going and now I even learn things, since I switched my soundtrack from pounding music to podcasts. Lots of my team have discovered the same benefits from long walks or bike rides, and a few are into cold showers or winter river swimming… getting outdoors is universally good and we can all do it with a bit of discipline (or if that fails, get a dog!).

So now, as well as planning 1:1 outdoor walks with team members, online events like Inspiration sessions and Friday afternoon drinks we also have our ongoing ‘joy and wellness’ Slack channel which hosts everything from happy news, favourite playlists and recipes to dawn photos, dog dress-ups, fitness tips and silly political memes.

As I write this, it’s -3C outside and dark but I have my running shoes on, and I can’t wait to get out there … I’m sure much of this isn’t original thinking but I hope it fires a couple of new ideas for you. Stay Strong.