I’ve been talking to my professional friends about how they use the outdoors to achieve some much-needed balance in their working lives. My good friend Dave is a busy director of a successful company and has kindly shared his story. I hope it gives you some inspiration to do something similar!
At the start of this New Year, can I let you into my dirty little secret? It is always invigorating… it is invariably stimulating… and quite often it involves getting rather mucky. Sometimes, I even do it with my wife.
Of course you know what it is… don’t you? It is my daily lunchtime walk. That’s right, the humble stroll. The gentle post-lunch constitutional. Call it what you will, it plays a hugely significant part in my life, so much so that I would like to take the time to tell you a little bit about it.
Every lunchtime I make my way from my place of work, which is slap bang in the middle of a busy industrial estate in Scunthorpe, and head to a place called Blue Lagoon. This takes the form of a former steelworks site. A few years back the former steelworks lagoons were drained with the steelworks waste being removed; all with the aim of bringing this site back to nature. The three hectare “pond” that was formed was designed to receive surface water run-off from the industrial estate within which I work and a path was created right the way around it – ideal for walking although rather muddy after a few days of rain.
Once I get to the Blue Lagoon, I strap on my Merrell walking shoes and head off for a half hour walk come rain or shine. Invariably my morning at work will have been hectic; there will have been phone calls, queries, challenges, e-mails and so on, and this half hour walk is my way of re-balancing myself ready for the afternoon. I look forward to this little bit of sanctuary each day. The prospect of hearing birdsong or the rustle of the reedbeds in the wind. Either of these sounds instantly helps to make me aware that there is more to life than work. Of course, your career is vitally important and I would never argue otherwise but it is so dangerous to become defined by it or to find yourself being too engrossed in it. If this happens then it is counter-productive for your mental health but also for the very career that you spend so long agonising over. Life is all about balance, if we can achieve this then every part of your life should benefit and, in my view, engaging with nature is a key part of that balance.
That is how I feel about my half hour slot built into each day and which goes a very small way to helping me with that balance; it is hugely important to me. So, with that in mind, let me stop boring you with how I feel and instead let me tell you some of the cool experiences this little secret of mine has brought me.
First up, I immediately smile about the couple of months back in 2016 which I spent following a Great Crested Grebe couple. I actually watched them perform their famous, poetic and elegant courtship dance. I hurried each day a month or so later to see their little chick getting the hang of swimming. I could not believe that this was taking place less than a mile from where I work!
If that is the highlight, what other memories can I instantly evoke simply by thinking of this place? I can see a Cormorant in the height of summer sat atop the water with its wings outstretched being dried by the midday sun. Then, there are strangely personal thoughts that come flooding back, which probably would not apply to others engaging in the same walk. That can be the beauty of nature, it can mean different things to different people. For instance, in the Spring and Summer the long grasses around the Blue Lagoon dance and rustle in the wind. Without fail this evokes memories in me, reminding me of times spent watching the Open Golf Championships at the great links golf courses of Great Britain. The simple swaying of the grass conjures these uniquely personal and happy memories. Not bad for a half hour walk?!
I could go on but there is no need, if this has even slightly whetted your appetite to take one more walk in nature then my job is done. It doesn’t need to be a distant location, it doesn’t even need to be staggeringly beautiful. Just find a place that works for you and which gives you that little bit of time and space. If you can, then you too can have your own dirty little secret.
Thanks to Dave for taking the time to share his experiences.