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Connecting in Walking Meetings

Why We Feel More Connected in Walking Meetings

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” — Friedrich Nietzsche

There is a reason some of the greatest thinkers (who also happened to be great at marketing their thinking), had a habit of walking; either with themselves or with others for walking meetings.

Sitting down, inside, meeting after meeting, likely with a loose agenda but rarely a significant outcome – that tends to be a large majority of our working lives today.

We meet to share updates, discuss topics that feel slightly irrelevant to our core mission, and very rarely feel more connected with each other than we did beforehand. If anything, we leave with a slight taste of resentment and frustration.

In our personal lives, ‘catching up with a friend,’ might typically look like catching up at the bar, or at the local cafe for a tea or coffee. Again, we might leave feeling satisfied, light and re-connected, but I know for me there is something missing. An ease, the feeling of moving in a common direction, a feeling of being side-by-side, supporting, guiding. Together.

Of course there are some instances in a working environment when indoor meetings make sense.

Types of meetings

We could divide meetings into six categories:

Status updates (quite pointless, or could be done on a project management software)
Information sharing (again, use something like Slack)
Decision making (often necessary)
Problem-solving (often necessary)
Innovation/creative (useful)
Team building (useful)

The first two categories could easily be met with a project management and collaboration software. The last four categories could call for a physical meeting. 

So, why embrace walking meetings?

It is known that Aristotle instructed students while strolling the Lyceum. Sigmund Freud conducted many of his analyses by foot. And Charles Dickens quite routinely walked around 20 miles a day with no particular destination in mind. He once walked 30 miles from his London home to his country residence at 2am 🤔

As Sports Illustrated reported, Dickens found writing to be “painful,” and walking was a significant de-stressor after a long day.

More recent walkers include Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Weiner, and Steve Jobs. Whilst I might question some of the thinking that takes place here, I can’t help but see the pattern in fostering strong working relationships and expanding the box in the thinking that does take place.

Walking across the street

Here are some of the reasons walking meetings help us connect:

1. They create a safe space for candor

Walter Isaacson, who wrote Jobs’ biography, told Forbes that Jobs insisted their first meeting happen on the move; it was Jobs’ preferred way of meeting someone and having a serious conversation.

LinkedIn is known for its workplace culture and the effort and intentionality in designing both space and culture. They have their own bike path, built into their California headquarters, often used by colleagues for walking meetings.

Igor Perisic, LinkedIn’s vice president of engineering, commented to Huffington Post that desks create unwelcoming barriers during one-on-one meetings:

“You feel like you’re at the principal’s office. That’s not what you want.”

Very much agreed! If we are to foster meaningful, creative and nurturing relationships – in work, and life-outside-work – finding ways to have others feel in our spaces, and a permission to let their guards loose a little is crucial. The nature of casually walking and talking, side-by-side helps create that space!

“When we walk we let our guard down,” says Marily Oppezzo, a post-doctoral student at Stanford School of Medicine.

“Walking releases your filter. Ideas you hold back in a conference room come spilling out when you’re moving.”

This makes walking meetings incredible useful then, for relationship building, team building or important decision making.

2. They inspire creative thinking

“Methinks the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” — Henry Thoreau

We are influenced by our environment, in many ways and even when we think we may not be. Walking outside seems to be a great catalyst for generating fresh perspectives, discoveries, and ideas. 

One research study looking to find out how walking does effect our creative performance, had test subjects look to find alternate uses for everyday objects like car tires after either walking or sitting.

For example, one subject suggested using a clothing button as a doorknob for a tiny house, a miniature strainer, and a ground marker for path tracking.

The study found that the walkers came up with many more unique ideas than the sitters, both while walking and after walking.

Another study published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology found that both children and adults performed a memory exercise better while walking than sitting.

While the reason isn’t incredibly clear just yet, researchers speculate that movement itself produces superior brain functioning compared to that of typical multi-tasking. 

Guardian columnist Oliver Burkeman echoes the theory:

“I suspect the greatest mental benefits of walking are explained not by what it is, but by what it isn’t. When you go outside, you cease what you’re doing, and stopping trying to achieve something is often key to achieving it… And in some hard-to-specify way, even the distractions of walking — traffic noise, people — seem to help.”

Regardless of the science behind it, you simple need to reflect on your meetings and the times you have ventured into movement and the outdoors. How do you feel after a walking meeting, compared to a seated indoors meeting?

3. Movement and the outdoors is simply good for you

Of course, walking makes you feel good. It also gets you moving, awakening from the slumber of our sedentary working lives.

Did you know that the average professional spends an average of 9.3 hours per day seated and 7.7 hours per day sleeping. While I don’t necessarily consider sitting to be “the new smoking,” I do know that regular movement is essential to my well-being, in may ways!

One study found 12 minutes of walking to increase happiness, vigor, and attentiveness significantly more than the same time spent sitting. 

To walk or not to walk?

There are plenty of reasons to experiment with walking, whether at work or simply for friendly catchups. Enhanced creativity, greater candor, and physical fitness are just a few of the lovely benefits.

Of course, all things happen within context. So, consider the intention of your meetings, the outcomes you are hoping for and whether walking would support you in this. 

While I do enjoy a room with whiteboards all over for some creative meetings or workshops, I will always prefer going for a ‘wander and ponder’ together most other times. 

What are your thoughts or comments? How do you like to meet, how do you prefer to connect with others in this way?

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Why We’re Addicted to Doing (And What To Do About It!)

As I sit down to write this piece, I notice the quiet and powerful whisper in my mind attempting to pull me to the myriad of other things I ‘could’ or ’should’ be doing. I sit, notice and choose to continue with this piece.

It’s crazy. Maybe I’m on my yoga mat, maybe I’m sipping my Japanese tea; wherever I go, my mind seems to try nudging me elsewhere.

Why do we have this impulse to constantly be onto the ‘next,’ up to ‘more,’ or crafting the ‘better?’

Evolutionarily we had a strong limbic dominance, meaning we were wired for preparedness and survival. We had to be switched on, alert, ready at all times. We seem to have transcended the need for this level of vigilance, but have either carried this trance with us, or created other reasons for its existence.

Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield calls this our ‘Reducing Valve of Awareness.’ We’ve become heavily fixated on looking for short-term opportunities, quick-wins, quick spurts and looking out for the next threat.

To re-open our Valve of Awareness is to take time for the mind to travel, for your mind to be captivated by the night sky, for your attention to become global for just a moment.

In a culture that places such emphasis on the ‘work’ we do, and the identity we craft in doing such work, it makes sense that we orient more towards doing than, shall I say, being. Constantly looking for the next opportunity to improve – ourselves, our work, our relationships, our house – we end up in the hypnosis of ’never enough’ and ‘forever seeking.’

In our FOMO and concern for being left behind (in many senses), we manage ourselves so stringently throughout our lives. Perhaps the biggest loss and that which we miss out on most importantly, is life itself. Managing ourselves, trying to chase and gather everything in a neat bundle right up to our last breath, realising that we weren’t truly participating or engaging with that which was right there, in-front of us.

If there’s nothing to do in this moment, what’s here and who am I?
Can it be ok, to have nothing to do in this moment?

By now, you may be able to relate to one or two things I’ve spoken to in this piece. Of course, you’re not alone if you have – in fact, you’re among the many. It’s real, it’s rampant and it’s all-consuming. 

So, how do we catch ourselves in this pattern and work to re-balance?

Well, isn’t the title a little funny? “Why We’re Addicted to DOing (And What To DO About It!)” If we meet our habitual-doing with the attitude of doing, will this support us in our intention?

Yet, this is what many of us end up doing. We create another list of ‘musts,’ and a maybe even a regimented routine to try and restore calm, clarity and connection.

I’m going to suggest the opposite, and I’m going to suggest we give it a name; The Sacred Pause.

There is a story about a champion paraglider who was caught in a heat thermal and sucked up to a height greater than Mount Everest. She was encased in ice. Panic, paralysis, shock, distress! Now, of course this is an event when reducing your valve of awareness would serve the moment. 

Her body shut down, and she lost consciousness. All resources directed toward keeping the vital organs warm and the heart pumping. She was forced to pause. Amazingly, after an hour she descended back towards Earth, regained consciousness and was able to land safely with only sever frost bites.

It’s in this pause that another form of intelligence arises. It’s in this pause that we release ourselves from the possibly of reactive or haste-full actions we may regret later. 

Pausing allows the wisdom of the more-than-mind to arise. Pausing allows us to listen to the wisdom that does arise, we realise other options. 

There is another benefit to the Sacred Pause, we start to bring awareness to the drivers of our personal addiction to doing. We become aware of the deeper drivers to this impulse within ourselves. The gift of awareness is that with more awareness (and a sprinkle of self-compassion), we start to be able loosen the chains of the patterns we find ourselves in.

Taking pause though, can be hard. Our environment and culture doesn’t reflect this notion back to us in our everyday environment.

Make it easier for yourself by considering doing one of the following things:

  • Put a sticky note on your computer screen
  • Set a phone wallpaper that reminds you to take a pause
  • Set a phone reminder every 2 hours
  • Setup an accountability buddy so you start to welcome your environment to support you
  • Talk to your manager or lead at work, ask if there is something you can do as a team
  • Plus many, many more…play around, experiment, find what works for you!

As I reflect on often, the clarity, calm and connection really is in the space between. The space between the information we bring in from the outer world and the way we respond to it. The only way we can access that beautiful space between, is to create space between, a pause. 

Let us learn to be a little gentler with ourselves, to know that we are enough as we are and this moment is. To allow ourselves the gift of a pause, in knowing it will bring greater clarity, calm and connection.

I’d love to hear, what spoke to you loudest, felt most useful or resonant in this piece? Is there anything you take away that feels most beneficial? Let me know as a comment, or send me an email to

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Group Huddle

Finding Our Way to Belonging (a snippet of my story, a fragment of ours)

Growing up I always had a sense of being an alone ‘other,’ the image I was told to aspire towards being dramatically different to the impulses and curiosities I had whirling within me. I’d go to school feeling incredibly privileged and confused by the levels of disengagement I saw in those around me, against the backdrop of the inequality experienced by the larger populous on continents I’d not yet seen.

Grappling with my queer-ness in close proximity to my Mother’s Christian family left me feeling extremely disconnected and quite often very mis-understood. I’d sit in my bedroom telling myself over and over again that I was ‘straight,’ as if I would somehow ‘change my mind,’ or ‘grow out of it.’

Of course I need to mention that when I did muster up the courage to share myself with my family, I received nothing but embrace and all-accepting love. It did take the story written below to unfold though, in order for this courage to be reflected back to me. 

When people hear my professional story, and that I began my entrepreneurial career at just 12 years old, they most-often only see the striving, the agency, the creativity. Whilst I do honour myself for having the courage to follow my creative impulses at such an age, of course it too cast a shadow. 

At 16 years old I started up and operated a sustainable clothing label and organised fundraising events, raising funds and second-hand clothing for the Lighthouse Foundation, supporting underprivileged and displaced youth in Melbourne. Lunchtimes at school for me were spent in the library making sales calls and responding to emails, after school I’d be in meetings or sending out orders; on weekends I’d be at seminars or personal development workshops. My self-worth become inextricably linked to my work in the world. 

It become scary how comfortable I grew with the emptiness and the loneliness of my own company.

Although many times I do still feel deeply that I am the only one, it has been in the felt-realisation that I am not, that I have understood the deepest sense of belonging. That I am not the only one who feels alone sometimes. I am not the only one who doesn’t know exactly where they’re headed, all the time. I am not the only one who grapples with internal challenges that sometimes feel far beyond my own capacity.

In 2014 I was invited to join 9 other social entrepreneurs in Boulder, Colorado for a 6-month residential accelerator program. Watson University, with the slogan ‘Protect Your Courage,’ is a place for young social pioneers to come to strengthen their self-awareness, emotional capacity and creative ability. 

There is something extremely magical that happens when a group of humans come together with a common inquiry into a better, more equitable and more regenerative world, with a willingness to open to that within themselves. When our interests move beyond ourselves and become about something more, and when this is our bridge for our connection, we fall gracefully into the essence of community.

Designed very intentionally as a Rites of Passage, I’d never felt so safe, so open and so allowed to express myself as I, myself explored my own inner life. 

It was here, feeling held and that my tenderness and fragility was protected that I began to share the parts of myself that even I was still warming to. Here, in this process of coming home to myself, in the holding of others is where I felt a profound sense of belonging for the first time in my life. 

On the first night we were all ‘kidnapped’ from our rooms, put in the back of a van, driven up a windy road, then given lit candles and each taken to a room within a large house. We were to sit in silence with our blindfolds on for 10 minutes.

After the bell rang, we were to take our blindfolds off, and by candlelight write a letter about that which did not serve us here anymore. We were then collected – blindfolds back on – and taken out to the edge of a cliff with a large bonfire lit in front of us. With blindfolds off, in silence, we then took it in turns to read our letter aloud and throw it into the fire. That was night one!

Sitting on my flight home from LA to Melbourne, reflecting on my 6-month journey, I came to understand this journey for me as being from my head to heart. Firstly in coming to accept the reality of my own inner life, my identity and my challenges, to then living and sharing from this place. The profound difference I felt in my own experience of connection and community, when I allowed myself to express ‘how I feel,’ and not simply ‘what I think’ was immense. Simply now noticing in my own language when I say “I think…” versus “I feel…’ has been a great gift.

Sitting in circle, sharing my inner life and being so totally accepted and honoured for that, has been my greatest tool for coming home.

The Nguni Bantu word, Ubuntu, meaning “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that which connects all humanity,” comes out of me quite often as a way of describing this. My hope is that we can all find our own circles to sit in, to be held as we find our way back to our own stories yet to be told. This allows us to facilitate the cultural renewal required to hold our human family with tenderness.

In my sharing, I’m sure there will have been inner-smiles, inner sparks and inner resonance in some way. This small portion of my story of separation, transition and re-connection is simply a reflection of our cultural story at large. Recognising that yours will likely look quite different, it certainly may have felt very different, but I do invite you to reflect on your journey through belonging. 

This practice of ‘belonging,’ and of ‘community’ truly is a verb. As we each learn to soften and be witnessed in our own journeys back to ourselves, and in sharing ourselves courageously in community, we find what belonging is for us.

My hope is for a world where our inner lives are tended to, held with gentleness, spoken about openly, guide and inform our outer work. 

There is no way to community, community is the way.

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