Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection

How focusing on my personal health benefits my working life
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Big goals, dreams and new and improved processed that will make our lives easier, more productive and more satisfying. Faster delivery, cost reduction and happy team members. That’s what we want.

We’ve all been there.

Recently, I started to see the parallel between my working and personal life when it comes to making severe and impactful changes. In the end of 2016 I started to go to the gym, and for a good reason; I had problems with my back, numbness in my legs and sometimes even in my arms. I didn’t have any power left in my body to stand for a longer period of time. I was working day in, day out. Not that I was required too, but because I really like my job.

The fact that I spent a significant amount of time on my Xbox probably didn’t help either. The only part of my body that was getting some exercise were my fingers which, apparently, is nowhere near enough. Although the physical suffering was horrible, the biggest and most impactful consequence of my way of life at the time was the lack of sleep it brought me. Which resulted in impatience and being aggravated very easily. Spoiler alert – this does not make you a nicer person.

By that time, it was pretty clear I had to go see a doctor. And of course, he told me what nobody wants to hear. I did not take any breaks from work during the year, and my eating habits were not optimal (putting it subtlety). Yes, I was underweight, and with a 192cm and a weight of 65kg it is not rocket science that many issues will occur daily.

After visiting my doctor, I concluded that I had to change a lot. An awful lot.  I mean, my life was working, working, gaming, and sometimes visit friends. I never took a vacation or break from all of it.

After giving it some thought – and getting overwhelmed a bit – I noticed that this is not that different for our clients when we help them with their change projects. When we want to make a change, we tend to turn that in to a grand and compelling project that pretty soon will feel like something impossible to succeed in. Where to start? What processes do we need to change? What tools do we need? How long will the migration take? When will the first results be visible? The same questions you ask yourself when you want to turn your life around.

To get some sort of a grip, you first need to ask yourself ‘what is it that I (or we, as an organization) really want?’. What drives us? What makes us run? And what is it that makes us continue and pursue this change? How do we make it stick?

You cannot change the world (or your way of working) over night. It takes time, dedication, perseverance and conviction that this change you’re about to make will help you in the long run. It also requires you to change your habits. Which is easier said than done. Habits are called habits for a reason. They got stuck in your routine over time. Changing them takes baby steps. Tiny habits, as BJ Fogg likes to call them. Baby steps and changing your surrounding is what changes behavior in the long run.

For me, these baby steps took me to the grocery store. Buying different food. Starting with small changes that expanded over time. My next stop was the gym. Which, by the way, I had been sponsoring for over 10 years with my subscription that I never used. I did not start going to the gym every day for at least 2 hours. My baby steps included doing some cardio and light weights workouts. After a while, I noticed that I did not gain any weight yet. What was I doing wrong?

I decided to do what I would advise my clients to do when stuck in a change project – go to an expert. Find people who have knowledge that you don’t have. Learn from them. Ask questions. Let them ask you the right questions to find the why. And then let them advice you. Let them help you succeed.

In my case, I went to a dietician after 3 months of pioneering on my own. Turned out I needed to get shakes to increase my calorie intake. Again, I needed to go slowly on this and build it up. After 1 month, we noticed that I needed to eat more than 4000 kcal a day to gain weight. At this point I was eating 4700 kcal a day(!). I realize that to some readers this might sound like the dream – eating that much and not gaining weight – but believe me, it was a real struggle. I also increased my workout frequency from 3 to 5 times a week.

After half a year, things started to change for me and also in my performance at work, personal life and towards my colleagues. My patience increased, my aggravation was tempered, and I had a clearer overview in my work. I was more precise in my work, I saw things brighter, and things that didn’t go well were having less impact. And next to that, I had the patience to listen to my colleagues, and I accepted criticism that I normally had problems with. When problems or challenges occurred, I had the overview and patience to fix it right away, without being stunned and aggravated like I used to be.

After 2 years I am writing this blog, and seeing the value of working on yourself more than ever. You can only start to improve when you are in shape, both physically and mentally. When you feel good physically, you clearly have a good advantage to start working on your mental part. And when the disturbances are removed, you can work on yourself and improve yourself.

You see, this took me quite some time. Change does not happen overnight. It requires proper preparation, planning, activation and enhancement. This is not different for the projects we help our clients with. This is exactly what our PACE methodology is all about. Making changes last and effective in the long run, making teams more productive and satisfied.

Want to know more about PACE? Contact our Change Consultant Evelyn van Kelle.

e.vankelle@silverside.com 
+31 10 2661100

Bonus material

And no, you do not need to go to the gym every day of the week! Since I am competitive minded, not only in sports, but also in work, I have the need to go to the gym. But my advice is for sure, when you are in shape, when you feel fresh, and not fatigued mentally or physically you will have a clear advantage in life, I am pretty sure of it.

And for the people who are going to the gym, and do want to know what my training schedule looks like:

  • Sunday: Chest day, triceps and 15-minute intermediate cardio
  • Monday: Back day, biceps and 15-minute intermediate cardio
  • Tuesday: Shoulder day, and 20-minute intermediate cardio
  • Wednesday: Leg day and 15-minute intermediate cardio
  • Thursday: Chest day, triceps and 15-minute intermediate cardio
  • Friday: Cheat day or having a break day
  • Saturday: Squads, deadlift and biceps and 15-minute intermediate cardio
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