How Writing and Walking Can Lead You to Happiness 

And to Better Mental and Physical Wellbeing Too

Photo by Youssef Naddam on Unsplash 

Liam was barely keeping his head above water. Covid-19 had seriously impacted his finances. As a freelance trainer, his work had stopped immediately when the pandemic hit, and workers were either forced to work from home or were furloughed. He had to cancel the events he had planned because people couldn’t attend them. At first, he toyed with the idea of turning them into online training sessions, but there were so many jumping on that bandwagon — many of whom were offering courses for free, Liam didn’t feel he could compete.

So, what did he do?

He started writing.

Why?

Well, Liam had always written. Stories about the amazing things people had achieved in their WorkLives. Stories of their struggles and successes. He had recently published his first book and accompanying workbook, which shared many of these stories, along with the exercises that helped people navigate through their WorkLife situations, which he presented as assignments for readers to adopt and adapt to help them navigate through their situation. Liam had developed workshops from the different topics covered in the book — these workshops were the training courses Liam had been forced to cancel.

So, instead of jumping on the online training bandwagon, Liam started writing. He began to develop each chapter in the book into an e-book on that topic. He did this by adding more stories and assignments.

Why did he do this?

Well, Liam believed people would tire of online training. For many, their whole WorkLife had moved online. It was zoom meeting after zoom meeting, online class after online class. All of this meant people were constantly in the company of other people — albeit remotely. Liam felt this would bring about burnout, and the last thing people needed was more interactive learning. Now in normal times, Liam championed interactive learning. He had based his work around it. But these weren’t normal times, and Liam, who also had always championed learning alone, because he knew that for some people, this was their preferred way of learning — learning in their own time and taking their time, as opposed to scheduled learning events, which by their very nature, demanded people’s presence at a certain time, and sessions were timed to be completed in a set time.

Liam knew the importance of serving people’s preferred learning styles — whether it was interactive group learning or solitary learning. He designed his learning programmes to meet people’s preferred learning styles — whether that was a bigger picture or a more detailed approach, or whether people preferred to learn auditory, visually or kinaesthetically, He ensured his programmes addressed all of these needs.

Another reason Liam started writing more stories was that he believed stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching. A powerful medium to learn through. A powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for — much of Liam’s work was designed to help people fine-tune their soft skills to support this communication.

Liam believed his first book and the subsequent e-books developed from the individual chapters would enable people to manage their own learning to achieve what they want and need in their worklife development and growth. He believed people would welcome solitary learning in a world that had become so interactive. And he believed this would help people’s mental health and wellbeing, too, because it would encourage people to slow down and take a step back from the intensity and busyness of the teleconferencing world of meetings, shared screens and the need to be constantly connected.

So, Liam had a plan of what he wanted and what he believed he needed to do to serve people’s ability and desire to learn. As a provider of learning programmes, he had been through several downturns in the market that had taken people’s jobs away from them. That had led to frozen training budgets, in essence taking away learning from those who remained in their roles. But the one thing in life that Liam had come to know that could never be taken away from you is your learning. Liam believed everyone could take ownership of their own learning needs.

Wanting to play his part in making that happen set him on a path to create learning programmes that are accessible to everyone. His books — paperbacks and e-books, the stories he wrote and the exercises he created were all part of allowing Liam to play his part. His part in enabling people to take control of their own continuous WorkLife learning.

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When Liam’s work had come to an abrupt stop, so had his income. He had no money coming in, and his writing work wouldn’t bring in any income anytime soon because first, he needed to develop a body of work and then somehow market and sell it.

Thankfully Liam was able to get financial support from the Government to see him through the unprecedented times that people and businesses worldwide were going through.

Liam was grateful for this support, it gave him the time he needed to focus on writing, and it alleviated any stress that not being able to meet his monthly living costs would have brought about.

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Liam began to write, and write, and then write some more. From the moment he woke up in the morning until the moment his head hit the pillow at night. The words flowed onto the page. Liam loved writing. Sitting at his laptop, writing was his happy place. And despite everything bad that was going on in the world due to the pandemic, Liam was in a good place mentally. His writing was the reason for that because it brought him happiness.

However, because Liam was in effect establishing himself as a writer, he needed to develop a body of work — stories and assignments to fill the e-books, and also stories and assignments to establish himself as an expert in his field — someone who is knowledgeable and whose work is helpful to people. Liam focused on content marketing to establish himself as someone knowledgeable and helpful. He wrote and shared WorkLife stories that were based on real-life struggles and successes; he created exercises that he presented as assignments that demonstrated how the people in the stories worked through their challenging situations for people to adapt and adapt to their situations.

To achieve what he needed, Liam had a lot of writing to do. He was OK with that. After all, he was in effect writing the next chapter of his WorkLife, and in so doing, he was living true to his commitment to creating learning resources that are accessible to everyone.

His days of writing turned into weeks and then months, and before he knew it, a year had gone by. He had self-published his e-books, and he was continuously sharing stories through content marketing on his website and across several platforms for writers. He was doing everything he could think of doing to raise awareness to him and his work and establish his brand. But nothing was coming back. It wasn’t that people didn’t like his work or find it helpful, or at least he couldn’t know that because people weren’t coming to his website, which in turn would have brought them to his books.

He was beginning to get extremely anxious. He knew the government financial support would soon stop. He also knew that training budgets would be frozen again as companies endeavoured to get back to business. The body of work he had put so much work into developing wasn’t reaching the people it needed to reach — individuals who wanted and needed to take responsibility for their own WorkLife learning.

Liam had shut himself entirely off from the world — at first because social interaction wasn’t allowed, but as things began to open up, he had remained isolated — he enjoyed the solitude of being alone and working from home. But mostly, it was because he had so much writing to do. He wrote from early morning through to late night, stopping only to sleep. He grabbed the quickest thing he could to eat. He wasn’t taking time to cook proper meals, or indeed to shop for healthy food — beans on toast had become his mainstay for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

He also wasn’t making time to keep fit. Walking was his go-to exercise. It’s a simple exercise that got his body moving and his mind too — in that if he ever had anything to work through, time spent walking always gave him the space to think things through. From this, the solution to whatever challenge he was experiencing always came to him.

The cracks in Liam’s mental wellbeing started to appear, and with it, the happiness he had found through his writing began to disappear. He was living in a constant state of anxiety, worried that the Government financial support would stop and that he wouldn’t be able to afford to sustain himself and meet his financial commitments.

He couldn’t sleep, which negatively impacted his mood. Not only was he feeling emotionally and mentally drained, but because he hadn’t exercised in over a year, his physical wellbeing started to suffer too. He had always prided himself for maintaining good mental and physical wellbeing by walking, but now the short walk to the shop was enough for him to feel exhausted. This added even more to his anxiety, worry and state of unhappiness.

Liam knew that he somehow had to get back to a place of good mental and physical wellbeing and happiness, and the only way he knew how to do this was by walking.

And so he decided that the first thing he would do when he got up each morning would be to go for a walk. He knew it had to be the first thing because he knew as soon as he started writing, he wouldn’t stop. He knew he would keep writing and writing and then writing some more. He knew morning would turn into night, and it would be too late to walk, and he’d be too tired even to contemplate it.

And so early next morning, he set out walking. He took a walk that he used to do regularly, a two-hour walk that took him to his nearest park, around the park and back home again. It was a walk that he used to do with ease, but having not walked for so long, that was no longer the case. Halfway through his walk, he felt exhausted. He didn’t think he’d make it back home. He had to push himself to do so. And when he arrived home, he had to lift his legs up the 51 steps of stairs to his flat. He was exhausted and dehydrated — he had forgotten to bring a bottle of water and had left bank cards at home so he couldn’t buy a bottle. He drank a litre of water and then lay on his bed, but immediately he had to run to the bathroom because he was throwing the water back up. He was so ill he was shaking. He had to lie down, and he ended up sleeping on and off for the day. Every time he tried to get up, his body ached so much, he had to lie down again.

Liam got no work done that day. The next day he was so full of aches and pains he couldn’t walk, and so he was back to his writing. The following day was the same, but by day three, his aches and pains had subsided, so he decided to attempt another walk. A shorter one this time — an hour’s walk that took him along the river. While he was tired on getting home, he wasn’t ill or dehydrated — he had remembered to bring water with him and so had kept himself hydrated throughout his walk.

Liam continued like this, walking for an hour every other morning to begin until he felt able to walk daily. He was then coming home and writing for the rest of the day. Over time walking became easier and enjoyable. Alone with his thoughts, he began to think things through. The solution to the challenge he was facing of people not finding his work came to him. He needed help. He was a writer but not a marketer, he had done good work in establishing his brand through the books and content he had written, but he needed help to get his work to the people who needed it most.

But the thing was, Liam didn’t have money to spend on marketing, and also, he didn’t like asking for help unless he could pay for it. But if he didn’t ask for help, the alternative was that he wouldn’t be able to pay his bills when the government financial support stopped. He had to do something.

He reached out to a good friend, Jonas, who worked in marketing and events. Liam had put work his way over the years when people he knew who, like himself, were freelancers or small business owners, would benefit from Jonas’s support to help promote their products, services and events.

He asked Jonas if he could buy him a coffee and ask his advice on promoting his books.

Jonas immediately said yes. He respected Liam and was grateful for the support he had shown him by referring people to him.

On learning about the series of e-books Liam had published, Jonas suggested a swap of services. Although the books were designed to help people self-manage their learning, Jonas knew that Liam had delivered one-to-one WorkLife coaching sessions over the years. Jonas felt he would benefit from a coaching programme, he was feeling stuck in his WorkLife, and he needed someone who would act as a sounding board to help him work through things while also holding him accountable to follow through on doing what he needed to do. Alone, Jonas felt he would continue doing what he always did, mosing along and not pushing himself to take the actions that would get him to where he wanted and needed to be in his Worklife.

That was one reason Jonas suggested a swap of services. There was another reason. He knew he could help Liam to market his books successfully. He also knew Liam wouldn’t take that help unless he could pay for it. The swap of services would alleviate the need for financial payment for both of them. Because in the same way, Liam couldn’t afford to pay for the marketing support he needed, Jonas couldn’t pay for the coaching support he needed.

And so, Liam and Jonas set up a mutually supportive swap of services. With Jonas’s marketing support, Liam’s books started to sell. The sales began trickling in and, over a matter of weeks, built momentum, resulting in the income Liam needed to support himself to arrive in his bank account. And before the Government stopped their financial support.

And with Liam’s coaching, Jonas identified and followed through on the actions he needed to achieve what he wanted in his WorkLife. He established his work in a way that allowed him to relocate to Cambodia while maintaining, building and serving his clients. Cambodia was always a place that he wanted to experience. To experience it in the true sense, he didn’t want just to visit. He wanted to live there. To do that, he needed to be able to work from there. With Liam’s coaching support, Jonas achieved this.

Epilogue

Liam is back to his happy place of writing and walking. He is also back to a good place in his mental and physical wellbeing. He has vowed to himself never again to be at a place where he had come so close to destroying that.

Having come so close to losing his happiness and mental and physical wellbeing, and having found he had everything he needed within himself to restore and rebuild that, he set about helping others to do the same. Because Liam knew he wasn’t alone in the struggle he had faced.

How did he help others?

By sharing his story, of course.

Words of Wisdom

In doing so, Liam also shared the importance of asking for help when you need it. And the importance of helping others whenever you can in whatever way you can.

Get Help By Giving Help Assignment

As with Liam, and as with many people, there will be times in your WorkLife when you need help.

As with Liam, and as with many people, you may not like or want to ask for help.

To make it easier, as with Liam, and as with many people, make it easier by being known as someone who helps others. Not because you want or expect something in return, but because you simply want to help people when you can.

As with Liam, and as with many people, when you do this, you will find people want to help you.

It’s the power of reciprocity — the gift of giving and returning acts of kindness and generosity.

People helping people is an act of kindness and generosity, and the power of reciprocity is simply powerful.

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As a WorkLife Learning Practitioner and Writer, I create learning programmes and resources to help people manage, develop and transition their WorkLives in good, challenging and bad times.

The focus of my work begins by helping people identify a WorkLife path that’s true to their core values, purpose, and motivation. This is followed through by creating meaningful short and long-term WorkLife plans while enabling self-coaching, self-directing, and self-leadership to drive these plans.

I bring you stories created from questions and answers drawn from WorkLife lessons. What I’m trying to do is to highlight different solutions, to provide you with a pathway so that even if a particular story doesn’t apply to you, you understand there is a path to follow.

Whatever you want to do, there is a clear path to it, and once you understand those steps, it becomes much more intuitive, and hopefully, it motivates you to get started. Because that’s what you need most, the motivation to get started. The motivation to follow your vision.

My book, Your WorkLife Your Way, focuses on helping you live your best WorkLife by managing your learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful questions and the ability to shape and tell your unique story. Click on the title to see a preview of what’s inside the book.

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Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of School Of WorkLife Books & Your WorkLife Your Way: Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.

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