As lawyers, we often find ourselves with such busy days that we frequently neglect our own well-being. Lawyers also suffer from a great deal of stress in the work environment. That stress can lead to many negative consequences. A way to reduce this stress and improve our health is as simple as taking a walk. A walk in the park or even down the street to the coffee shop may soothe the mind and perhaps improve our mental health. I personally began walking and monitoring my steps and miles in 2012. The process for me began as a lifestyle change to improve my health. In the process, I lost 40 pounds of excess weight. The result of all of this walking is that I am happier, healthier, more relaxed and just as efficient at work. Lawyers as well as any other busy professionals should follow the example of some of the tech world’s top leaders, who have long turned to walks — often in the great outdoors — to improve meetings and decision making.
In an article on CNN, Matt McFarland discusses a new book by Lawrence Levy, To Pixar and Beyond. Levy, the first CFO for Pixar, describes the hundreds of walks he went on with the late Steve Jobs during the company’s developmental years. Levy would walk the streets of Palo Alto with Jobs for typically about an hour and their conversations would range from business to personal.
Levy and Jobs aren’t alone. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has reportedly taken potential job hires on hikes. CEO at Uber headquarters in San Francisco Travis Kalanick makes time to walk 40 miles a week. Another example, is LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner who began doing walking meetings in early 2012. Weiner believes that the discussions are more direct and candid. He believes walking side by side with someone makes direct eye contact rare and that eye contact can be intimidating and may discourage some from stating an issue or engaging in conflict.
Marc Berman, a University of Chicago psychology professor, has found that walking in nature can improve what’s called directed attention. Directed attention is a foundational mental resource that allows us to manage the focus and direction of our thoughts as well as regulate our emotions and behavior. There are benefits to walking even if one isn’t out in nature. For the past decade or so, scientists have explored how exercising can enhance brain function and improve our attention and memory.
Walking has become a huge part of my life. I always make sure I get in those extra steps by taking the earlier exit off the train or taking the further parking spot. In 2014, I wrote an article for the Daily Journal called Walk this Way that discussed my walking journey towards health. However, walking for me has now evolved into a type of meditation. I have often shared my meditation and thinking time with clients during mediations. Mediations tend to be stressful situations and at times it can seem like an agreement is nowhere in sight. Taking a walk with a client or suggesting a walk can allow for a better opportunity for a resolution. With a freed mind, a person has more energy to direct their attention to a tough problem. Clearing our minds and becoming healthier is not as difficult as it may seem, it just takes one step at a time.