Want an instant shot of wellness that might also boost your firm’s bottom line?
Take a walk.
A large and growing body of medical evidence proves the many health benefits – physical, emotional, and mental – of a simple stroll. One of the best effects: we think better when we walk.
“Obviously you won’t become Steve Jobs just by walking,” says Norwegian explorer and philosopher Erling Kagge in his book Walking. “But it’s a good start. What’s interesting is that at Stanford University, in 2015, they started research on it and they confirmed what we know: you become much more creative by walking.”
In a GQ article titled “Why Walking is the Key to Becoming More Productive,” writer Clay Skipper interviews Kagge, who is passionate about slowing down and taking one step at a time.
“[The] book, is, essentially, a defense of moving slowly and thoughtfully in an age obsessed with speed and convenience,” Skipper writes. “His point is not that walking is a nice, mind-clearing activity (though it certainly can be). It’s that removing all friction from your life, and replacing it with the seductive speed of convenience, has pernicious effects.”
Kagge was the first person to conquer the Three Pole Challenge – walking to the North Pole, South Pole and the top of Mt. Everest. He says there are three key benefits to going slow:
- When we rush or move quickly, we stop being present.
- Walking among other people gets us out of our bubble and engaged in the fabric of the community.
- Taking shortcuts – rather than experiencing the whole process – can leave us feeling unfulfilled.
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So What Does This Mean For Me and My Firm?
At this point, you might be saying to yourself: this is all well and good, but what does it have to do with my law practice?
Well, for starters, take a look at the ABA’s Report on Lawyer Well-Being. That study found that a shocking percentage of lawyers spend much of their time working and worrying. The pressure to “make it” as speedily as possible takes a toll.
“The parade of difficulties includes suicide, social alienation, work addiction, sleep deprivation, job dissatisfaction, a diversity crisis, complaints of work-life conflict, incivility, a narrowing of values so that profit predominates, and negative public perception,” according to the report.
Those at the highest risk of crashing and burning? Young lawyers in the first 10 years of practice – especially those in private practice.
“The budding impairment of many of the future generation of lawyers should be alarming to everyone. Too many face less productive, less satisfying, and more troubled career paths.”
The report recommends that law firms establish a wellness program for their lawyers and staff. The program should include ways to assess individual well-being, promote full-spectrum health, and treat problems when they arise.
Adding Walking to Your Firm’s Wellness Plan
Does your firm have a wellness program? If not, you can start slowly by making walking a part of the daily routine. Here are five suggestions for doing that:
- Talk about walking. At your next staff meeting, discuss the health benefits of walking. Ask how often people walk, and when they do it. How many have Fitbits or count their daily steps? Does anyone walk to work? Do they enjoy it, and why?
- Educate your team. In the break room, post an infographic on the medical benefits of walking: it burns calories, helps weight loss, curbs sugar cravings, reduces the risk of some cancers, eases joint pain, and stimulates the immune system.
- Shake things up. On occasion, walk backwards. Sounds strange? Kagge swears by it: “I’ll walk up the stairs backwards. It gets rid of all the noise in your head. I really have to focus on what I’m doing, and I’m not thinking about what just happened and what’s going to happen next up on the list.”
- Provide incentives. Create walking charts to monitor individual progress. Give prizes – a free gym pass, a discount coupon at the sporting goods store – for those who meet their goals.
- Make it fun. Schedule an office walk once a week. Hoof it around the block, or head downtown for a healthy lunch. One rule: no talking about clients and cases on the walk.
A final tip: be patient. As Kagge says about making it to the South Pole: “The secret is to put one foot in front of the other, and to do this enough times.”
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