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Body, spirit and mind

December 30, 2010

When you think “financial services executive” (I’m one of those) I am sure you think greying fat guy, chomping on a cigar, drinking a martini and wearing a three piece suit; your prototypical cliched, snorfing at the pig trough kind of guy. Well, I hate to tell you, other than some grey, okay a fair bit of grey coming in by the day and a little excess weight (but not a lot and quickly coming under control), I’m not that guy. Well, other than being a guy I guess.

My job, like many, has tremendous demands and significant pressure. It doesn’t just require me to stay on top of industry, leadership, finance and other issues, it also requires me to stay in good physical, mental and spiritual shape. I can’t imagine trying to do my job without an active wellness plan and I encourage others to do the same.

What is a wellness plan? It’s a plan to, ah, address, you know, wellness? A wellness plan addresses in a concrete way how you will keep yourself in physical shape, how you will fine tune your mental capacity and how you will restore your spirit.

A physical fitness plan is key partly because my job won’t provide many opportunities to stay in shape. I don’t have a physically demanding job, unless lifting 100 page documents counts. Furthermore, some of what comes with the job, such as travel, are counter-productive to staying in shape. Being in good shape helps address the stress of the role and keeps me focused and sharper. So what does my physical wellness plan look like? I try to formally work out four times a week for starters. Thirty to fifty minutes of cardio plus some weight training. Every now and then I will do a few stretches, push-ups, sit-ups and assorted lunges. In the summer I golf. In the winter, not so much! We do have a beagle and we take her for short walks but a balky back (the dogs, not ours) keeps us from walking her more. When I can, I take the stairs. I also watch what I eat with a focus on fruits, vegetables and proteins. Okay, I lied about that last part. I am supposed to eat a lot of that but funny enough, whenever I reach for a carrot somehow it ends up being a potato chip. I try and watch my sodium and carbs, try very hard not to eat sweets (but fail at times) and do everything I can to avoid buffets (when I am travelling there are a lot of buffets!). I also take Omega 3 supplements every day. The Omega 3’s are really great. They are the size of a Smart Car and when you burp you get a nice fishy aftertaste. It’s wonderful trying to be healthy.

My mental wellness plan is focused on sharpening my mental acuity and keeping negative energy from pervading my life. At the core of that plan are reading, knowledge management techniques (such as speed reading) and games and puzzles. Blogging counts in that too! Reading is a critical part of my role and I find myself reading a lot about personal finance, leadership, marketing, workplace collaboration, business strategy and so forth. My personal reading favours satire, personal empowerment, sports and history and biographies. I love to do Suduko, brain teasers, puzzles and other games including spending time with my daughter bashing zombie brains on Left For Dead. What? An executive doing normal stuff like playing video games? Yeah, we do that kind of stuff. It’s not all sitting around meeting tables drinking cognac. In fact I’ve never sat around a meeting table drinking cognac.

Keeping the negative energy out of my life is a little tougher. It involves some very difficult choices, at least at first. We all have people in our lives who just suck the life energy out of you. They are figurative vampires. I do everything I can to make as little room for them in my life as possible. I don’t want to hear their whining, carping and pissing and moaning. They find the negative in everything and the positive in nothing. They are wasting the precious gift of life and trying to steal from mine. They don’t know how to lift themselves out of the morass they find themselves in so they do everything they can to bring you down with them. Beyond that, part of removing negative energy is building positive energy. In my life that means working hard to build positive relationships in my life with my spouse, my daughter, my family, my friends and my co-workers. It’s not always easy but it is always worthwhile.

My spiritual plan is all about centring myself. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself and let yourself believe you are responsible for how and where you have landed in life. Too easy. A sense of entitlement can easily creep in to your life if you let it. I love sports but the one thing that drives me nuts about sports is listening to athletes talk about the lack of respect they feel they get. This usually comes out when they are negotiating for a new contract. You know; the ones that pay them millions of dollars a year. I don’t begrudge someone the opportunity to earn millions of dollars a year but you think they could be a little more grateful and humble. But I understand how people can quickly lose perspective. When you reach a certain level of “success” (in quotation marks because success in this sense is a specific external measure of achievement that many people may equate with success), you can become surrounded by people who are all too willing to support an exaggerated sense of yourself. You can also easily lose perspective. You forget what it is like not to earn a million dollars a year (no, I don’t earn a million dollars a year! It’s just an example), so when someone else starts earning more you think “hey, why are they getting more” as opposed to “hey, this is an insane amount of money they are paying me and I am grateful for the opportunity”. So I work hard to keep myself centred. Which really isn’t that hard because I fall down enough I gain daily reminders that I’m not all that hot. Besides, I have an exceptional support system at home – my wife and daughter. When I became SVP my wife turned to my daughter during dinner and said “Do you know what SVP stands for? Sarcastic vindictive prick”. And then they both laughed and laughed and laughed. And laughed. And laughed. And I did too. It was the perfect response at the perfect time. I loved that moment.

What I don’t do is take it all for granted. I’ve been given a wonderful life and an incredible opportunity, for myself, for my family, for my friends, for my community. I need to be in good shape, if not great shape, to keep delivering the value I know I can deliver. The moment I don’t take time to exercise my body, my mind and my spirit is the moment I have wasted the gift. I can’t do that. I won’t do that.

So back to the treadmill it is. Hold the potato chips and grab a fistful of carrots and celery. We’re going to sharpen the body, the mind and the spirit like never before.

  1. I am so happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best doc.

  2. First of all, great looking site you have here and great post too. I would like to keep up with your posts but having problem subscribing to your rss.

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