Healthy Habits is the theme for this years Men’s International Health Week. It’s a topic that resounds greatly during the week of 12 -18th June 2023 and well beyond. What are the issues and opportunities for building healthy habits in men’s careers & lives? I take a look at a few of those in this article.
As circa 65% of my clients are men, I am passionate to promote the week every year.
But it’s more than that, as I have witnessed first hand so many male family members, clients and friends hurting and grappling physically, emotionally and mentally.
The 2023 Men’s International Health Week theme is about encouraging men and boys to build healthy habits by identifying small changes they can make that benefit their health and wellbeing.
On SBS’s Insights program this week the episode was on Habits also. What serendipitous timing to discuss building and breaking habits. We all have millions of habits – good, bad and neutral. By gee it’s just about being human isn’t it?
I believe attitudes are also a habit
The perpetual ideology that men must bottle their feelings and be self-reliant and problem solvers is a pervasive and unhelpful habit that needs breaking.
The belief men need to resolve issues on their Pat Malone (alone) is a major cause of poor physical and mental health.
So it’s a great theme for this important week and to address the habits and attitudes that are cause harm professionally and personally.
👞 1981 – Billy Fields
In 1981 Billy Fields released the hit Bad Habits. The lyrics are stirring given the theme this year.
I wanted to resurrect it from the music archives as it really could be a theme song to ditch the habit of society and men putting pressures on themselves to not look after their health and wellbeing. A few bars of the lyrics:
Can’t help myself , bad habits
Well I’m running wild, lost control
And it’s a shame to think
That a boy like me
Has got so many , bad habits
Well I’m off the rails
My resistance fails temptations got
A hold on me
And I can’t refuse
Because I always lose
Can’t help myself
👞 What no lunch!
A few months ago I hired a tradesman to do a few days of work at our home. I was planning to provide him lunch and snacks (if he hadn’t bought any with him).
I was shocked when he said he never eats lunch or snacks during the day. A bloke doing very labour heavy outside intensive work who doesn’t fuel up. WTF!
As he was over 50 I was worried and opened up a few other lifestyle conversations over a coffee (he agreed to coffee at least). He admitted that he never goes to the doctor and is actually too scared to find out anything.
This also fits in with the statistics that men visit GPs 30% less than women, so he is not alone in his ostrich in the sand mindset. .
His bad habit of not eating lunch to replenish his body I felt also coincided with a general lack of self-care and love.
And he is not alone as the 1000s of articles on men’s mental and physical health attest.
👞 Mind, Body, Spirit Links
And whilst there is a huge focus on men’s mental health and suicide (rightly so), there are strong and proven links of the conduit of trauma and stress manifesting in physical disease generally.
Whilst it is not 100% 24/7 every day, the intersection is undeniable. Just think of all nutrition focussed super fit men who end up in hospital, or worse from sudden heart attacks.
It’s not all a blanket situation but by gee I reckon for many, there is a causal link. Again, there are 100s of scientific articles to support this
I have been a long time follower of Louise Hay and her seminal book You Can Heal Your Life. The book writes with incredible alacrity of the mind-body-spirit trilogy of disease, pain, cancer, mental health etc.
Again I have seen the links of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes and other health issues that men face after prolonged trauma and/or inattention to self-care.
There are also excellent resources and articles on the Australian Mens Health Forum website.
👞 Career Dreams, Hopes & Passions
One of the negative habits I see in many men as mentioned earlier is the bottling up of their dreams, hopes and career passions.
After many years working with men of all ages in career coaching, job search and their own businesses I observed a lot of career dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
Where I see this also manifest is in a society reluctance to give permission to men to share from heart their truth and feelings around work and occupations. And yes that comes from culpability from both men and women.
A few questions to shake the mindset habit
1/ Are you living your own business, career or professional purpose and truth?
2/ OR are you living the business direction and vocation foisted upon you by others OR by your own limitations and fears?
3/ Have family, friends, partners, your culture or environment been a major influence? Perhaps you have followed a family business or profession and felt trapped to do so?
Many readers will recall the LinkedIn Poll I ran in 2020 during Men’s Health Week. I have no doubt if re-ran in 2023 the results would be similar or indeed higher leanings towards unfulfillment and unhappiness.
Why men felt stuck or unfulfilled?
In further private questionnaires and discussions I asked what was causing the feelings of being stuck, desperation to change and what obstacles for change were. Below are 5 anonymous answers covering a range of issues:
♦ I realise now that I have no confidence. My last position took all that away after 4 years of trying to get a promotion to get out and failing. It’s hard to earn $100k+ outside of my industry when that is all I know.
♦ I don’t have enough of a network of positive people around me to feel supported or able to share ideas and develop new business ideas.
♦ Time and money. And a complete lack of knowing what else I could or can do.
♦ I worked for an organisation with a toxic bullying culture largely allowed by management who welcomed confrontational discussions and demanded people obey them. HR did nothing about it and in the end I felt scared to go to work and my self-esteem was the lowest it had ever been in my life. I left the company as I could no longer go to work without feeling of anxiety and inadequacy.
♦ I need to be able to be there for my family while still excelling in my chosen field.
Unrealistic and old fashioned expectations
Men can be imprisoned in and bought up to follow the social stereotype belief that they must be super achievers, make big $$$, be a strong leader and in total control. They must take it on the chin, MAN UP not display any emotion or vulnerability or empathy etc. Again this is a society and self-made habit that needs breaking
And as a consequence, many men re following a career path that deep inside may be torture. They are often burnt out and incredibly dissatisfied.
The list of beliefs and ‘must not do and not be’ both consciously and sub-consciously for men is vast. It is entrenched across all ages, industries and occupations. I see it all the way from top tier corporate CEOs to plumbing sub-contractors.
Many men grappling with and deny themselves a job or business path that they really want to pursue. And current social issues, aberrations and legalities can create an additional fear into men as they consider a new direction.
But to add some balance I also observe many men sitting very happily in a place of true business ownership authenticity or career alignment.
👞 A few suggestions for next
- Men, give yourself permission to open up and not bottle up feelings and struggles. Sure easier said than done for many. Small healthy steps eh!
- On a work, career perspective, take an honest and caring self-evaluation of you who, what, where, why. More information here.
- If you are working in a deeply traumatic and unhappy workplace, you need to make a firm decision for your wellbeing to get out.
- Put good boundaries in place, remove or distance people (friends, family, colleagues) who don’t have your best interests at heart.
- Go to the bloody doctor
- Eat decent meals ok
- Acceptance that it’s not weak to seek help – be it for professional or personal needs
- Acceptance that you are worth caring for and about.
Wishing you courage and wisdom in building new habits that support you and breaking old ones that don’t.
If you would like career clarity support and direction, take a look over on my executive careers services here