Opinions

Do as I say – not as I do?!

Written by: Nicola Hanssen, General Manager, Roar - Connections for Life

Published: 13/03/2017

Nicola's time spent leading a health and wellbeing promoting organisation led her to think more closely about her own self management.

Leading a health and wellbeing promoting organisation can really make you think about your own self management and that of others working to change the health behaviours of others.

It’s been 2 years since we launched Roar’s One Legged Wobble Challenge – which we have now renamed the #Balance Challenge.  I came up with the idea on the back of the ‘water bucket challenge’.  The aim wasn’t to raise money but to raise awareness of the importance of good balance.  We encouraged delegates at meetings and conferences, children doing school projects, politicians and academics to give it a go and what became very obvious was just how poor my balance was – not to mention other members of team Roar.

In this at least, I can now hold my head up (or my leg if I’m balancing). I signed up for a boot camp and now have greatly improved balance. But there are definitely other aspects of my health and wellbeing that I am not quite practicing what I preach!  Or going to fess up to in a blog!

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting one of the ‘coolest offices in Glasgow,’ home to a major daily deals company.  The wide open, well lit space was peppered with beautiful glass office pods, items of quirky humour, breakout areas, a beautiful free café area and a yoga studio!  The staff appeared very well groomed in a casual chic way and there was a general atmosphere of focussed calm.

Lucky them, I thought.  But I couldn’t get up in the morning to come and sell luxuries to people.  I work in the third sector because I believe in social justice and want to make people’s lives better!

Uhuh! That is true, but actually we are in many ways ‘selling’ a lifestyle improvement package.  We encourage people to look at their mental, physical, social or spiritual wellbeing and offer support on making changes, but are we who work to enable this change taking our own advice?  And if we are not – what does this say to the people to whom we are selling?

We (Roar – Connections for life Ltd) (This link will take you away from our website) run a network of health and wellbeing clubs and groups.  In the earlier days we encouraged health professionals to come and promote their specific topic but we don’t any more.  I couldn’t abide one more overweight professional talk about healthy eating to a group of older people who generally probably ate quite well, or a smoking cessation worker who appeared to have no grasp on the comfort a cigarette may bring if you are lonely or stressed.  I could go on, but you get the drift.

Our office is a sardine tin of desks, phones and computers.  Our recent upgrade was to invest in windows that open.  Our staff team and volunteers have the usual spectrum of weight, anxiety, smoking, drinking, mental distress, low self-esteem, caring responsibilities and mobility issues as the older people we support but, that’s exactly what makes our approach work.  We don’t preach to the people who come to us for help.  We encourage them to want to make changes that make them feel better – and often in doing so they encourage us.

By all means strive to be a good role model of wellbeing!  I do – but I am far from there yet.  So unless you are on very firm moral high ground, then take a good dose of self-awareness, a pinch of humility and a giant dollop of empathy and become an authentic part of a community who all need to help one another.

Thanks to the ALLIANCE for the invitation to write this blog.

Nicola Hanssen is the General Manager at Roar – Connections for Life.  Nicola has the responsibility of leading the organisation’s strategy in partnership with the Board Of Trustees, designing and creating new projects and services. You can contact her at nicola@roarforlife.org.

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