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Snake-oils, Sooth-Sayers, and Self-promoters

30th May, 2018

Reece Williams



As a subject like mental health moves from a zeitgeist to a cause-celebre, leading-lights and founders are soon joined by hordes of evangelists, tribes of me-toos and inevitably, those that realise that there is an opportunity to make some money. Type “mindfulness” in to a search engine or a social media platform and the evidence (albeit very well dressed) is there in legion.

Over the past five years, I have trawled through them all. Don’t get me wrong, there is some really good, helpful and insightful stuff out there. But there’s also a good helping of platitudes, stockpiles of miracle-cures and magazines (literally, in some cases) of Magic Bullets. “Do you want one? It will make your life perfect in one, quick stroke…” That’s the snake-oils speaking. It does not exist. “Read this and enrol on my course to mental utopia”. Approach with caution folks.

So, here are my key learnings from the past five years – without the BS or snake-oil miracle cures.

1. Responsibility. This is a hard one in regard to mental health. If we are unwell, it’s hard enough to do the basics – sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other to get a pint of milk is a massive challenge. “Take responsibility for my own mental well-being? Look where that has got me up to now!”. But responsibility is what we take every day of our lives. We consciously or unconsciously choose how we react to a situation, thought or feeling. We can equally choose to change how we react to that inner-voice that says what we should or shouldn’t do.

2. Self-Awareness. Your ability to notice your feelings, your physical sensations, your reactions, your habits, your behaviours, and your thoughts. It teaches you how to manage yourself and how to productively engage with other people in a way no one else can ever teach you. 

3. Resilience. Quite the buzzword, especially in business. And misinterpreted by many.

 It is NOT stubbornness, sticking-it out to the bitter-end, coping, total self-reliance.

 It’s principally about not giving up at the first or second or third hurdle, but instead learning from when stuff goes wrong and making adjustments to try a different way in order to move forward. Resilience is born out of openness to what many would consider its nemesis – failure. Resilience also flourishes when you share failure or issues.  It’s key to understand what it isn’t as much as what it is.

Mental recovery and well-being is frequently nuanced. If any of us have been on a diet or a physical fitness regime, we can relate to this:

 

  • Stage one may well be recovery (we have got out of shape, running for a bus feels like a marathon). It’s helpful to make a plan, make changes to lifestyle, get some help from an expert. 
  • Well-being means making the changes a habit, accepting that there will be set backs (KFC anyone?) and making continuous, smaller adjustments to ensure you remain as physically fit as you want to be.

It’s the same for your mental health (physical and mental health ARE closely connected, uncoincidentally). Mental health and wealth requires time, thought, flexibility and action. It’s multi-faceted, multi-layered and it’s on-going (can’t bring myself to use “it’s a journey”, but that’s probably more succinct). Establishing responsibility, self-awareness and resilience are essential travel companions.

Notice one thing that isn’t listed though...? Money! Sorry snake-oils.


Reece Williams

Reece Williams has worked in sales and marketing for big companies (Wella, ghd, Coty, Next), small ones (Home House, on his own) telling marketing stories and selling stuff. He has lead and been lead. He has directed successfully, and got it wrong just as well. He’s got better at it since he practised mindfulness. It’s taken some time and he is keen to impart what he has learned to help others and help save their time.

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