Ashley Brooks

27th July, 2018

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Food for thought…

Holidays are an opportunity for reflection. Reflection about a number of things, but in the main I reflect on where we are as a business, in relation to longer term plans. Day to day it can often feel like there is not much progress, like you are simply faced by one challenge after another. However, one of the many things I have learnt over the years is that this is absolutely natural. In everyday life, as stress levels rise, your perspective narrows and it becomes more difficult to step back and take stock effectively. It is so important to take the time to jump off the hamster wheel of life, to assess what has been achieved, and importantly, assess what improvements can be made to progress the plan.

During my downtime this year I am reading one book on the brain and another on the gut. Possibly the most interesting part is the relationship between the two. It is fascinating how linked nutrition, exercise, sleep and your dominant organs are. If you can work towards improving the health of all, it can be life changing in terms of wellbeing and in turn, performance. Of course, it’s impossible to change things over night. Like everything that’s worth having, it takes time to see the change, and it takes perseverance to feel the benefits.

Did you know that 30% of your calorie intake is consumed by your brain? When your brain needs more energy for physical or mental activity, it will draw energy reserves from elsewhere. To save energy, it will shorten the digestive process for example, forcing your body to pass waste more frequently. Therefore, at times of nerves or anxiety, there is often a need to visit the loo more often!

Moreover, the human brain was designed at outset to walk between 5 and 12 miles per day. It needs movement to remain healthy, and that’s why you often feel so much better after exercise. The phrase, ‘I’m going for a walk to clear my head’ is evidence of how we all know the effectiveness of exercise, but we often don’t take time to understand why. Completing aerobic exercise just twice per week, reduces your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60%.

My work is so heavily based around people, so when I get some down time it’s nice not to have to interact with new people and try to get some rest. Inevitably however, I always come across new faces and new conversations. Isn’t it amazing how often people you don’t really know, ask the question “and err, so what do you do?” My mental reaction is to ask ‘why are they asking me this? Is this because they want to know if I’m worth talking to? Or is it because they think I’ll then ask them what they do as they think it’s likely to be so much better than what I do?’ I respond by saying what I do, which is to help people to achieve their aspirations. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is quite a statement, which inevitably leads to a whole conversation about what’s behind that. Interestingly, the discussion often has positive outcomes; these people start to think in more abstract terms about what they do, and why they do it (which is far more important by the way). As an example, one of the guys I’ve met here on holiday runs a clothes shop for men. Instead of responding with that dull description, he started to focus on what he actually does. He does run a clothes shop for men, but what he really does is help people to look and feel their best. The latter is so much more interesting, because it breeds positivity from thinking outwardly and the brain gets far more satisfaction from that perspective. Therefore, by thinking differently and looking at the high-level effects of what we do, we can create much more positivity and energy.

So, when thinking about the bigger picture, one of the ways we try to improve is to get our team to think outwardly about what it is they do, who they do it for, and to measure how things change as a result. If we can all understand ‘the Why’ behind what we do a little better (this applies to personal lives too) we will all operate with more purpose and ultimately become more productive. Productivity increases our chance of reaching our short-term goals, and in turn our longer term objectives. And whilst all this is going on, the brain and the gut are intrinsically involved in setting a framework for success in achieving this.