There appears to have been a fair bit of attention being paid lately to the unexpected ways in which lockdown has impacted us. Some of these are positive, such as more people prioritising home cooking and outdoor exercise, and some have been less good, such as poor sleep.
One that doesn’t neatly fit into either category is the observation that many people have found that their appetite has noticeably increased during this period of enforced isolation.
There are lots of different theories put forward for this. Some argue that we are seeking comfort food, whilst others suggest that we are paying more attention to our food and enjoying it more. For me, I know that almost all of my increased appetite is due to my new running schedule. As I’m running more, I need more fuel to keep me going.
I highlight the importance of fuelling your body well to my clients. It’s really hard to keep your energy levels high and maintain motivation on a diet of cheeseburgers and convenience food. A varied diet that includes a wide variety of nutrients, flavours and textures is essential to keep you performing at your best.
The question I then like to ask is, if this is true for your body, how are you fuelling your mind?
There are many different ways to interpret intellectual and emotional ‘fuel’. This can be the people we surround ourselves with, we things we spend our time doing, the media we consume. In this, as with food, variety really is key.
I try to surround myself with a wide variety of different types of people. Some people are simply restful to be around, knowing that their beliefs and values are so closely aligned to my own. Other people I rely on to challenge and push me. Yet others keep me on my toes, as I’m never quite sure where the conversation is going to go. And I always have my old army friends for when I need a dose of brutal honesty. Having such a range of people in my life keeps me learning, striving and growing.
It really is fuel.
The same is true of the media we consume. Getting all of our news from one source can stunt our understanding of the world. Increasing the range of viewpoints we hear helps us to understand the whole of a problem, not just the perceptions of those who agree with us. Fiction can also have an impact here. When we describe someone as “widely read”, we are saying that they have sought out understanding from a wide variety of sources and that they have become insightful and thoughtful as a result.
In thinking about this analogy of our interactions and reading/viewing habits as fuel, I was struck by an aligned concept; metabolism. We all know that different people burn fuels differently, with some able to burn off far more calories than others. I sometimes suspect that my son could eat tupperware and still be able to run rings around me. In terms of our intellectual and emotional fuel, then, what would give someone a high metabolism?
For me, I think that the most important aspect of a good intellectual metabolism is to reflect and discuss. I know I talk a lot about my journal, but I do find it invaluable for helping me to link concepts that I hadn’t connected before or to explore ideas that I haven’t yet fully appreciated.
In some ways, that’s also a part of why I write this blog. I want you to be able to see the ideas that I’m considering and exploring. The ultimate fuel for me, however, is the point at which I share my thoughts and listen to the viewpoints of others. Exploring an idea or suggestion as a shared activity is invigorating and often profoundly insightful. It’s one of the great privileges of coaching that I get to be that sounding board for others.
I was sharing this thought with my family last night before writing this, and my wife gave me one of the nicest compliments I could imagine. She said “You know, under that analogy, you’re always hungry!”