Stuff. Some people have lots of it. Others have less of it. And I’ve become acutely aware of my own stuff over the last couple of weekends as once again I’ve been moving house. This will be my 8th move in 7 years and I think it’s fair to say I’ll be happy to stay where I am now for longer than the average year.
Moving house is undoubtedly stressful, and one of the reasons is that from a biological/evolutionary point of view it represents a ‘1st alarm reflex’. It can trigger our primitive safety and security alarms, setting in place a cascade of hormonal responses that tell our bodies that we are under threat, or potentially may not be safe.
I’ve experienced the unsettling nature of constantly moving around myself but I’ve seen its impact on my clients too, who almost always perform best when they have a stable and settled happy home life.
Knowing you have a safe roof over your head forms the basis for all life rhythms that give the body its physical foundations – the circadian routine of sound sleep at night, the organisation and pleasure of home cooked food and regular meal times.
Working around flat mates or house sharers can sometimes affect some of these health basics, like diet and sleep, but I’ve learnt there are some hidden advantages to simplifying your life that can change it for the better
If and when you have to downscale to renting a room, it’s interesting to learn how soon you forget about all the stuff you’ve put in storage. What’s not there in that room is not there, and you manage pretty well without it. And as you move back up the accommodation ladder, the stress can return when you must reassess and review what you’ve got.
For me, I’m not so sure it’s the moving part that makes moving house one of the top 5 most stressful life events, or the fact that as part of the process you must confront your life story represented in the glorious narrative of the stuff that you must carry with you.
It’s true of course that things can give you pleasure. For example, to enjoy a bike ride, you need a bike, and if you ride a lot a nicer or better bike will most definitely add pleasure to your cycling. However, if you’re injured or ill and can’t ride the bike pain free, it fails to give you any pleasure, even though its financial value remains the same. For me it’s never been things that have given me pleasure, it’s the experience and possibilities that things might allow me that I’m interested in.
I’ve had reason to visit the local dump several times over the last couple of weekends, and in a connected story I also had reason to visit Deptford market. In a near devastating administrate cock up I ‘recycled’ my partners most important books, only to have to trace their route via ‘Chris Carey’s Collection’ and Deptford market to retrieve them back again. In 24 hours, I witnessed the earnest recycling of excess stuff by people who comparatively have quite a lot, and the second-hand clothes and shoe shopping at Deptford market by people who clearly don’t have very much. The juxtaposition of witnessing both in the same day had quite a profound effect on me.
The fact is that most of us can more easily appreciate the stress of having too much stuff than not having enough. And having more stuff doesn’t always make you happier or healthier.
I’m now looking hard at the books on my shelves, and have questioned how many of them I should keep and how many I should let go. Some of my books are of great value to me as they represent ongoing learning, time and money spent studying my subject. My life-long interest in all things health and fitness makes me highly qualified in my field, but the certificates mean nothing without the assimilation and absorption of daily practice – the experience of working with myself and my clients
The fact is that what’s most valuable is not the books on the shelf, but what’s stuck in my head and become part of my process of working. What I intuitively and experientially know without reference to any stuff is what makes me valuable as a trainer.
Equally it’s the process and impact of learning with my clients that is important in my time spent with them. The coaching time itself has a financial value attached to it, but that alone will not make anyone of them fitter or healthier. I’ve worked with clients over the years who believe it will. Those who pay for the hour and think they’ve ticked the box, only to realise months down the line that they are not making progress. Health and fitness is not something you can pay for and put on the shelf to admire, it’s something you must invest in often financially, but also in terms of time spent learning.
Health and fitness is not stuff you can buy, but it is something you can easily carry around with the potential to give you great pleasure.
The clients I work with who do the best with what I can share are those that understand the value is in the learning and practice of health and fitness, not the purchase of it. But something I’ve perhaps learnt from some of them is what a happy stable home looks like, and what it can do for you. That’s something I’m really looking forward to enjoying in my new home.