Radiators, Drains and Forest Bathing

Author: Scott Duncan

I wasn’t really an Ed Sheeran fan. I mean sure, it’s impossible not to hear his songs everywhere, but I hadn’t really paid too much attention.

Until I went to his concert. Now I am a fan. That was an INCREDIBLE musical experience.

The night didn’t start that well however. Before the concert began, the group I was with thought we’d grab a few beers. Unbelievable! I mean surely the promoters had some idea that somewhere in the vicinity of 60,000 people would be attending that night. Surely, they’d expect that a reasonably large proportion of those 60,000 may wish to enjoy a drink with their concert experience. Then why, oh why, was the process to get a drink such a total and utter logistical nightmare? It took the better part of 50 minutes. There were only three lines. Each line only had two people serving. The drinks weren’t being pre-poured. As I said – unbelievable! As I stood in that line, I thought I had the topic of my next blog. Something about poor planning, something about lack of foresight, something about failure of leadership. As the line snaked slowly forward I felt myself becoming consumed by a seething rage. I didn’t like what this line was turning me into. I even took a picture.

Eventually, we got the beers and made our way into the concert area. We even missed the first song. And you know what? I haven’t really given the beer line a second thought since. And you know why? Because what followed was an incredible transfer of energy. How can one man, a guitar and a loop pedal get 60,000 singing and dancing, having a great time despite the rain, for over two hours? It almost defies belief.

And there’s the topic of this blog.

Energy – why some things give us energy, and why some things drain us of energy.

My colleague calls them radiators (energy giving) and drains (energy drains). Radiators and drains can be work tasks, leisure activities, our internal thoughts, or often other people. Instinctively, I’m sure you know what I mean.

Why do some things/people excite and inspire us, while other things/people fill us with dread and suck our wills to live?

Perhaps the more important question is why we don’t pay more attention to these emotional reactions and design our lives more accordingly?

This ain’t a dress rehearsal, so why do we tolerate people and activities that drain us of energy? Why aren’t we more actively seeking out those things that fill us with excitement and joy?

In an attempt to live a more purposeful life, I’ve been paying much more attention to my emotional reactions over the past 3-4 weeks. This is helping me build out a picture of where I want to invest my time in work activities and goals, my leisure time, and my relationships. It has been a revealing exercise. I’ve discovered an inherent disconnect between what I want, and what I do. It’s spooky.

In discussion with candidates, we often ask what it is that they’re seeking. What industries appeal, tell us about the size of organisation you prefer, what’s important about the role etc etc. Often the answers we receive seem to be lacking something.  Is it detail? Is it that they lack conviction? Is it that we’re asking the wrong questions?

Here’s an exercise I’d encourage you to try when you start thinking about your next role (or even your current role). What are the activities in your day-to-day work life that excite you? You know, the activities that literally put a smile on your face and get your imagination buzzing. Those activities that make you want to go the extra mile, those where you feel your values and purpose are truly aligned. Now think about the activities that you procrastinate over, those activities that you have to force yourself to do, that don’t utlise your natural strengths, that leave you tired and drained just thinking about them.

And there you go, you’ve just developed the starting point for what you’re actually seeking in your next role. More radiators, less drains.

Nature often gives us energy.

Have you heard of the Japanese concept of Forest Bathing? It’s where you simply be in a forest. Enjoying the trees, the nature, the sense of calm. It has been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing. It has been studied. By researchers.

In his book Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything, Victor Strecher touches on the phenomenon of forest bathing. Victor is a learned man, a professor in public health and a pioneer in behavioural health. He’s studied this type of thing for years. Yet his take was delightfully simple, and quite instinctive. To paraphrase, his response was “you had me at forest bathing”.

And at the end of the day I think it just might be that simple.