“In these unusual and trying times, it is perhaps more important than ever to remember the profound benefits of movement. Making a concerted effort to live a life that includes physical activity is challenging, but the rewards of doing so unlocks a multitude of benefits that can help individuals and communities live healthier, happier lives.” —Josh McCarter, CEO, Mindbody
As we touched on in an earlier Wellness Moonshot, movement is a biological drive as necessary as sleep or food, a natural medicine to stave off illness and disease and a vital source of empowerment for individuals and groups. As a wellness leader, you likely already know the science and strategies for using physical activity to elevate your daily life, family health, and the communities and organizations you serve. When we move, a host of mental, physical, emotional and social benefits arise, which helps us feel more energized, engaged, effective and alive.
Still, when it comes to leading wellness, it’s worth exploring an entirely different way to think about what it means to move.
Movement Channels Your Intention
Think of movement as an action that channels your intention. This action may be in response to a problem that’s cropped up (like that time you took a firm stand when your teenager missed his curfew). Or your action could be a behavior you initiated proactively (like when you reached out to a coworker simply to check on her wellbeing). Regardless, there is an intimate connection between your action and the intention behind it.
In a year where uncertainty and heightened anxiety have become the norm, the question is: What intentions are driving the moves you make?
Are they a reaction to stress or current events or a thoughtful approach to a challenge? To let wellbeing guide your journey of wellness leadership, it is essential to become more aware of your own motivations.
Which of These Moves Fits You?
Groundbreaking global research shows that 70 to 80 percent of leaders lead reactively. This means, as leaders, we knowingly and unknowingly take actions that ultimately bolster our identity, defend our ego, and keep us safe, rather than challenge, adapt and grow as individuals. And we frequently move from our inner biases, rather than question if our biases are accurate and up-to-date.
German psychoanalyst Dr. Karen Horney would say our reactivity is a response to a basic anxiety we feel about our lives and relationships. (And in 2020, we may be feeling that anxiety more than ever!)
She highlights three coping strategies we use to minimize this inner stress and protect our ways of being:
- WE MOVE TOWARD PEOPLE. Moving toward people often stems from the belief that if we give people what they want and comply with their wishes, they will give us the love, affection and approval we crave. Yet, when we cater to a micro-managing boss to gain their appreciation (which rarely happens) or we allow ourselves to become the butt of a joke just to fit in, it’s easy to see how this move erodes our effectiveness and wellbeing.
- WE MOVE AGAINST PEOPLE. Moving against people is based on the belief that the world is full of folks who only look out for themselves; thus, we must take advantage of them before they take advantage of us. This strategy plays out vividly, for instance, when people are exploited or marginalized for another group’s benefit or when a leader accumulates wealth at the expense of his workers. But this strategy can also appear in elusive ways, for example, any time we use willpower over others to satisfy our need for prestige, achievement or admiration.
- WE MOVE AWAY FROM PEOPLE. Moving away from people is about withdrawing or detaching ourselves from others to prevent being hurt. Ever. And when we retreat into ourselves at home or at work, we often do feel a greater sense of self-sufficiency and independence—yet we lose out on having the shared experiences and sense of connection, which are so vital to wellbeing.
Does one of these moves feel familiar to you? Don’t worry! The desire to defend our own beliefs (and convince others we’re right) is only human. Yet, if we are to be effective wellness leaders, it’s up to us to be aware of the intentions driving us and upgrade our thinking to wellbeing.
Make Your Move from Wellbeing
For all of our shortcomings and idiosyncrasies, each of us has the capacity to evolve. Experiment with these strategies to move from a foundation of wellbeing:
Embrace another possibility.
All three moves above are erected on a clear belief: Life is a zero-sum game. There isn’t enough for everyone, so some people win while others lose. We believe it’s time to question this scarcity mentality altogether. Zero-sum thinking doesn’t work for the majority of wellbeing challenges we face—whether dealing with our climate crisis and developing inclusive societies or building vibrant teams at work and healthy families at home. As wellness leaders, let’s ask: How can we design organizations and communities that increase value and vitality for everyone?
Check your intention.
Next time you’re faced with a big decision, pause first to get in touch with your real motivation. Are you interested in being right or being effective? Now, do one of these breathing practices to connect with your sense of inner balance and wellbeing. Then ask: What intention do you most want to channel through the next move you make?
Allow nature to change your mind.
When you find yourself stuck in zero-sum thinking (and, believe me, we all get stuck there), take a walk outside. Fully receiving the ocean or trees in all of their wisdom and beauty has a way of experientially teaching us about abundance. (Check out these 10 ways to foster an abundance mindset, too.)
Tap into your Wellness Moonshot.
On your own or with your family or team, ask: What intention is driving us to make wellness a priority? Reconnect with the inspired vision, the higher purpose and the sense of gratitude that set you on this wellness journey in the first place.
Let Us Know How It’s Going!
This month we’re fortunate to have two days of the full moon, October 1 and 31! Share where you are on your wellness leadership journey with #wellnessmoonshot, and we’ll spread your inspiration to the growing network of wellness leaders worldwide.
Think of each month’s Wellness Moonshot as a guide or “lesson plan” to empower wellness. Plus, invite others to join The Wellness Moonshot! Our next step in this wellness leadership journey highlights how you can nurture wellness at work, at home, and in your community through your role as mentor and coach.
- Take the “Are You a Wellness Leader?” quiz to see where you can grow.
- Find authoritative studies on the benefits of exercise at Wellness Evidence.
- Explore GWI’s Wellness at Work, Mental Wellness and Yoga Therapy Initiatives.
- Learn about the global economy of physical activity in GWI’s Move to Be Well report.
- Read the Wellness Q&A Series to see how various industries and businesses are renewing their efforts post-COVID.
- Consider using your movements to support World Mental Health Day and World Wellness Weekend.