Nurturing a Culture of Health – In Yourself. In Your Team.
I recently came across some research published September 2013 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine that links a company’s market performance with nurturing a “Culture of Health”. Companies that invest in the safety of their employees have better performance. I love this idea. It makes complete sense to me. Here’s why.
I recall from growing up playing softball, a team sport, that when the team was healthy, focused, positive and unified, we won. When we had fun, we won. When we had low energy, we lost. When we were negative, we lost. When we fought with each other, we lost. (Interestingly, if we fought with another team sometimes we’d win and sometimes we’d lose, but I’ll save that for another time.)
Sometimes, I would sit in the dugout and feel myself getting heavy and down, or overwhelmed, and then I would remember that every time I felt that way, we would lose – and I didn’t want to lose. I liked winning. I liked cheering and laughing with my friends and high-fiving after the game. I liked being surrounded by a group of people feeling all elated and successful, dancing and smiling. So what did I do? I would make the decision to lift up my energy and spread it around by cheering the rest of the team on.
If this lifted energy began to spread, we would begin to do better. With each base hit, skillful play and run scored, our collective hope, belief, faith – whatever you want to call it – would be raised even more. If my efforts kept hitting walls – slouched shoulders, pursed lips, blank faces or rolling eyes – well, then I knew that perhaps I had hit a wall that was going to be difficult to break down.
It’s the loser wall – the wall that exists when we aren’t connecting with the people on our team or when we don’t have a shared goal that we are all driving toward together. It’s the wall that’s there when we don’t feel heard, supported or in charge of our own destiny. Yet, though we’ve hit this wall, we are hanging around waiting for something else to shift our destiny for us. It’s that heavy and impenetrable.
How much we control our destiny and how much of life controls us is something that can shift around in our mind. Sometimes people believe they are 100% in the driver’s seat, and other times people believe the world happens to them. Most people probably have the sense to understand that it’s somewhere in the middle, but both beliefs have their advantages and disadvantages.
For example, there is something magical about feeling that divine intervention has occurred, that something amazing happened and we had nothing to do with it – like being given a gift. There is also something quite satisfying to the individual ego when we believe we have gotten where we are through our own hard work and merit. Both methods help us feel like we are expanding and growing, transcending paradigms. The key is how to feel both of these things so that we have the right amounts of will and grace involved. As Carl Sagan said, “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.”
I like to think that we dance with the world, rather than get controlled by it or have it be our slave. We can focus on what we think, feel and do - and we can wait and watch to see how the environment responds. We can be strong and patient, yet nimble and focused. We can use our hearts and our minds in this dance.
We need clarity in our minds to do this, and we need healthy bodies so our minds are not distracted by the pain or discomfort of our bodies. Don’t let pain take you off the path. Heal things bravely and quickly. If you watched former Red Sox player Curt Schilling in the 2004 World Series help lift the team to victory, despite an ankle injury so acute that it would leave his sock completely bloodied by the end of the game, you understand the value of transcending pain for something higher. You know deep within that it’s possible.
So, finally, we need people around us who lift us up when we’re down, and we need to remember to lift those people up around us when our team is losing the game – when the shoulders are slouched, lips are pursed, faces are blank or the eyes are rolling. Because it’s just better when we’re all performing our best together. It just is.
Read more about the research here: The Link Between Workforce Health and Safety and the Health of the Bottom Line: Tracking Market Performance of Companies That Nurture a “Culture of Health”