A few years ago I decided to change my life. I remember the moment well. I was in the living room with my computer on my lap and my phone by my side. Rachel, then only 8 years old was sitting next to me with her computer on her lap, similar to the picture on the right. I was a workaholic. Back in those days, it was quite admirable to work 70 hours a week. I was proud of what I had achieved and work was an addiction for me. If my phone buzzed or rang then I had to answer it, even at 9 pm at night. I have no idea why I was so obsessed. I am not really materialistic, although I do spend way too much on gadgets, so money was not really the motivation. I think I was just hungry to prove that I was successful.
That evening I remember turning to Rachel to ask her something and she put her had in the air, with her palm facing me and the words that came out of her mouth shocked me. “Not now mummy, can't you see I'm working?”. I realised how often I must have said those words to her over the past 10 years of her young life. From that moment on, I decided that my family was far more important than any temp job that I had to fill.
How to change a habit
I like my challenges, and I realised that if I wanted to be a better parent then I needed to address my work addiction. Challenge “new mum” was launched in 2009. Just making the decision to change your life is not enough. It's a good start but you have heard the old saying
A dream is just a dream until you take action
I needed help, and I needed to take action fast. There were a few tools that helped me along the way.
#1 – An app called Coach.me
The first tool was an application called Lift (it is now called coach.me). It is an application that helps you develop new habits and I worked with this app every day for over 12 months. I developed all sorts of habits, from my morning walk to inbox zero, to being home by 6.30pm every night, to flossing my teeth every day.
#2 – A book by Andy Traud, called “Early to Rise”
I also decided to change my working hours. Rather than waking up at 7 am and working until midnight, I made the decision that I would rise at 4 am and go to bed at 8.30pm. To help me understand the benefits of getting up early, I took the 30-day challenge as written in Andy Traub's book called Early to Rise. This was nearly ten years ago, so there are probably much better books out there to read nowadays, but it was a good kickstart for me.
#3 – Another book called “The Chimp Paradox”
After the 30 day “getting up early challenge”, I found myself slowly falling into my old habits. My alarm would buzz at 4.30am and I would say to myself “just five more mins”. Before I knew it, I was back to a 7 am
start and going to bed at midnight. I knew all the benefits of getting up early but when you are snuggled up in your warm duvet, that little voice in your head talks you into staying there for as long as you can. To conquer this I read another book that has changed my life. The Chimp Paradox, A Mind Management book to help you achieve success, confidence and happiness by Dr Steve Peters. I now understood that it was my inner chimp that was keeping me in bed each morning. Once I got my head around this internal fight that I was having with myself life became a dream.
One part of my morning routine was to go for an early morning walk. Now that I knew how to fight the chimp in my head, getting outside and resisting my emails was certainly getting easier. After six months or so, I found that I would be grumpy and tired if I had not walked for at least 30 mins during the day.
Walking is therapy. Walking is fantastic for refreshing the soul. Walking is free!
There are huge benefits for walking. I won't quote the obvious benefits such as losing weight, getting fitter etc, but there are some other benefits that you may not have known about.
#1 – Fights cancer
25 min intervals of walking every day can reduce cancer risk and is also helpful for those undergoing chemotherapy.
#2 – Reduces Risk of Diabetes
30 mins of regular walking can help reduce blood sugar, prevent insulin resistance and diabetes.
#3 – Prevents Dementia
20 min walk each day can prevent loss of memory and cognitive functions and also helps with building confidence.
#4 – Delays ageing! (a great reason to get outside!)
30 min regular walking can stall ageing symptoms, which in turn will keep you young and happy.
#5 – Reduces stress
40 minutes of intermittent walking can reduce stress by the production of the stress hormone, cortisol.
#6 – Uplifts your mood
15 minutes walking when you are feeling low can uplift your mood magically and prevent depression and anxiety disorders.
#7 – Improves Memory
30 minutes of interval walking can prevent the shrinking of the hippocampus and thereby help improve memory.
#8 – Increase Productivity
50 minutes walking can help improve agility, reflex, energy levels and increase productivity.
#9 – Increases Creativity
A 60-minute walk can help you strategically and sort your thoughts by relaxing your nerves and brain. This leaves room for your creative juices to flow. (I get my best ideas when I am out for a walk).
#10 – Builds Social Support
Walk for a social cause and in turn build new friends and a new social support system. People that walk are very like-minded and you tend to share your thoughts and issues with your walking piers. It is great for the soul. Sharing is caring!
My daughter is now my best friend
I can honestly say that I now have a very special relationship with Rachel. She is currently taking her GCSE's and I am so proud of her. She has grown into a mature person and a great listener and she is my best friend. We share many things together and I am so lucky that my daughter also shares my love for the outdoors. It scares me to think that I may never have found that special relationship if I had not opened my eyes to the fact that I was addicted to my work. Making the decision to change my life for the better, and then acting on that decision helped me build a unique relationship with Rachel that I will value for the rest of my life.
I am now on a mission to change as many workaholics and also teenagers lives as possible and to get them into the outdoors. Perhaps it is joining friends for a walk once a week, or even walking around your local parkrun event on a Saturday morning. What is stopping you getting into the outdoors and taking a hike?