Remember what it felt like when Covid struck, nearly a year ago? (Has it really been that long?!) Of course you do. All the uncertainty, the fear, the toilet paper hoarding, the sourdough bakers, the deniers… I remember well the mad bustle of emotions. No wonder, with all of us confronting a global pandemic for the first time in our entire lives. Yet, I feel that there is another reason why it all felt so profoundly unsettling. There we were, in March 2020, confronted with a crisis that augured in massive change in our professional and personal lives. And what were we asked to do? To sit still. To hunker down. To wait it out.
For me personally, my intended 200 days of travel for 2020 shrunk down to, well, zero. A big hotel development project I had just embarked on went bust from one day to the next. I’d been geared up and ready to seize the day and seize the year, as they say – and then all ground to a halt. There was a truly eerie feeling to being asked to confront such an event through stillness. Yes, all of us were racking our brains over the coming change and scrambling to make the necessary arrangements – but the way we had to do so was not by mobilising, but by retreating from the outside world into our own little bubbles. How counterintuitive!
You see, I believe movement – literal movement! – is central to how we all face the world, and how we understand and deal with change. Change itself invites movement. It’s no wonder that when we talk about any great undertaking – a challenge personal or professional or even life itself – the image that comes to mind most readily is that of a journey. We move through the world, sometimes skipping, sometimes trudging along our path, responding to what we encounter along the way, adjusting our course when we must. When we find ourselves at a crossroads, we might pause for a moment, gauge the situation, and decide. But then we must keep moving for that is life. Movement. And change. So we set off in our new direction, putting one foot in front of the next, confronting change as we are changed by it.
From the early days of the spring lockdown to its second iteration in this dark Berlin winter, I have found not just calm but infinite inspiration in something that harks back to the earliest days of my own childhood in the Black Forest: walking. I cannot understate its importance in how I got through 2020 and how I am intending to face 2021. Every morning, I would meet up with Elsa – who has since become my business partner – and we would hike for 10 miles through the Grunewald forest, through the empty streets of Charlottenburg, or along the Havel river. We would talk through our worries and anxieties together, reflect, pause to look at the trees and the lake, allow ourselves to feel their calm, listen to our breaths and the sounds of our steps on uneven ground.
What was born from the experience was not just a sense of equilibrium to keep our heads up in The Year of the Plague, but inspiration, clarity, and a new way (sic!) forward. The result being the business whose website you are currently looking at!
Sure, you could say we could have cooked all that up in an office without racking up quite such a mileage on our Fitbits. I am not so sure. It felt that through our movement, we were able to process everything that was happening so much better – we were able to move forward literally and figuratively.
The power of walking is borne out by psychological research, so no need to take it from us. Here’s what the authors of a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology have to say about it: “Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of creativity and increasing physical activity.” (1)
It truly is an amazing problem-solving tool, even when your challenge is more of an intellectual one. Don’t just think your way through it, but walk your way through it! One of my clients – a writer – always goes for a long walk before sitting down to write. She claims it helps her orient herself around her topic, to map out her argument, and to come up with the magical little turns of phrase that make her writing a joy to read.
In the same way, when someone is stuck on a particularly stubborn problem in a coaching session, I love inviting them out for a walk. The very act of walking opens us up to new perspectives, allows us to engage with the world around us in more immediate ways, which in turn empower us to quite literally move on from whatever we’re struggling with. I have seen it be a real game-changer – in both my clients’ lives and my own – and I love to shepherd that kind of process.
Walking isn’t just a great tool for individual coaching sessions, either. Indeed, in my coaching programs for teams, I often like integrating walking sessions as a way to overcome challenges in which teams struggle to really connect with each other. It is also a great way to foster better trust and connection between leaders and their employees. Why? Again, don’t take it from me. Says Shane O’Mara in The Praise of Walking: “On foot we are capable of interacting with each other at a human level, we quite literally have more common ground, we can synchronise more easily, and we can have shared experiences.” (2)
So, if you’re curious about a coaching program with CK Collective, why not have our initial consultation as a walk? Trust me: there’s no better way of charting out the way forward. And it’s much, much safer Covid-wise, too!
Kaag, John (2018), Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are &
Yalom, Irvin D. (1992/2003) ‘When Nietzsche wept’ – Are you living your life or are you lived by it