When I thought about an interview that would be informative and inspiring at the same time and touching topics like health, personal development, and creative culture at work, I could not think of anybody else than interviewing my friend and integrative consultant Therese Bogan.
I met Therese at a creative breakfast meet-up I hosted in Helsinki in 2012, and we quickly started to exchange ideas. Therese had just recently relocated from San Francisco to Helsinki, and to me, that was a wonderful source of inspiration and learning.
She brings a wealth of experience in working in the San Francisco startup ecosystem, supporting individuals through the darkest sides of entrepreneurship and work life, which she shared about at events like Arctic Startups ‘14 and Creative Mornings Helsinki. She has some exciting projects coming up blending health, digital and physical spaces and I can’t wait to dig in what she has to say about the future of work and food.
Can you tell us about your background and what you do?
I am a psychotherapist by trade and craft. I work with industry players in many fields who are changing their perspective or creativity to fit the future. My background is in integrative psychology and preventative care. I’ve made programs and networks dedicated to the prevention of long-term mental health issues, burnout, emotional abuse and the effects of complex trauma.
I became compelled to move back into the private sector to be a part of the current movement of mind-body connection into the mainstream. With technology and medical advancement happening at hyper speed, we will have new modalities for working with genetic and biological advancements in the hands of everyday people within the next 5 years. That means lifestyle choices and environments that we make by hand will have more power and influence on our health and our economy. I really feel this is a time for everyone to begin taking their lifestyle habits as investments in a long healthy and exciting life that could easily last over 100 years.
My most exciting focus is in helping people take the depth work they do with me into their work and home environments and create lasting change that they share, with everyone around them. Making health that lasts means taking a deep dive into understanding the mind, your body, and your emotions and how they work together. I think people feel comfortable allowing their environment to tell them it’s okay to be a workaholic. They may think ‘I’m proud that I can get other people to do things they don’t want to do.’ Although really, knowing how you are put together and how you integrate means you have the power to build and rebuild yourself.
“Making health that lasts means taking a deep dive into understanding the mind, your body, and your emotions and how they work together.”
What does it mean to have a “healthy” work life?
8 hours of activity or work, 8 hours of restorative and creative play, 8 hours of deep sleep or rest. Health is an ecosystem of these components. And, we are embedded in our environments. Health means you are resourceful enough in yourself, your mind, and your physical resources to stockpile energy, focus, aim and send yourself through a challenge beyond your limits. Then, when you have lived through going beyond your limits at work, you are able to look back and see what functioned and what got in the way and tweak the process. Just think of all the relationship conflicts, tool problems, resource leaks, and timing issues that get in the way of that. All of these things are a reflection of biological and psychological health, as well. It’s not a metaphor, it’s a literal reflection of our function.
“8 hours of activity or work, 8 hours of restorative and creative play, 8 hours of deep sleep or rest. Health is an ecosystem of these components.”
The role of technology
What are the main ways in which technology is shaping our lives?
Expression. How we express ourselves or how we socialize is becoming a priority in the digital world. And, the people who build that world are typically and generally unaware of self-expression. Self-expression and learning to know when you are putting yourself out in the world are shaping our technology. Our lives are essentially the same, in my opinion.
What I see in human self-expression is an incredible drive to be seen and heard. Most of us try and use our well-crafted social cover to disguise how strong our drive is. We act like we don’t care or talk about limiting how much we interact with others online, but this is just an act, a defense, a psychological protection device.
“What I see in human self-expression is an incredible drive to be seen and heard. Most of us try and use our well crafted social cover to disguise how strong our drive is.”
We care deeply about our whole self-process, no matter how cool or casual we talk about it. And, there is an effect that is involuntary. Our digital devices and tools become a part of ourselves. When we hold our devices in our hands or laps and express/think our brains begin to map these devices as a part of ourselves or a part of our psyche. It’s a profound change in our lives. We think in SMS text forms. We dream in images. Posting and receiving a message/post shows up on the deepest level of our psyche. These are profound daily life changes and deep psychological human leaps.
So, technology is shaping how we express and receive our deepest human needs. From the distribution of goods, all the way down to our most personal ability to activate ourselves to go out into to the world and be seen.
Is there such a thing as digital well-being? If so, can you explain it?
I think this is in question right now–maybe always. Many of the things that catch or sustain one’s attention in digital environments are about games, advertising, and media. Of course, choices are important here. But, I don’t think we can deny that real life and life online is blending deeper every year. I mean, our devices are in our beds and in our sex lives. That’s pretty deep. Digital contact is definitely present when people are acting out or in a destructive spiral. But, I also witness and guide people to use digital tools when they are integrating a very deep part of themselves which they find too vulnerable to share directly in live relationships.
And, I have to just mention here that there are already treatments for PTSD and other complex mental and physical health conditions with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. These techniques will be more mainstream and used through common devices and wearables in the next 5 years, and for common well-being goals like stress relief or anxiety reduction. Digital well-being will be much more clearly defined with these pieces of technology in our lives.
I think a perfect example here is when a basically healthy person hits a deep depression or bout of anxiety in their lives, and their first move is to Google search their symptoms and try to relieve the pain with information. The next move is sometimes directly to the doctor or therapist to receive medication. Yes, that’s common. But, more people are explaining to me that they are using my service, plus yoga online, plus a device that tracks important biological information that sculpts their view of progress and growth.
My service is live and deeply emotionally and psychologically intimate. And the digital supports allow what happens in my office to extend the client’s hand 24 hours a day. That’s digital well-being. Designing these steps and supports is the exciting fun that will happen in the next 10 years. It will happen around thinking, feeling, eating, exercise, sleep, friendship, dating, love, work relationships. It’s simply amazing how much an individual will be able to support their health. I guess doctors and therapist like me will have to choose where they want to sit in that world.
What are the biggest challenges that organizations face as we move towards the future?
The biggest change is from people doing automated or programming work into computers, thus freeing humans to carry the weight of critical thinking a creativity. This is the biggest shift that will happen in organizations in our lifetime. It will bring more flexibility in the work time versus free time. It will call on us to understand the culture in workplaces and support inner psychological growth.
What are the most important things that organizations should be thinking about in order to build an honest and nurturing place for innovation?
Number 1 thing companies should be getting their heads around is how health and creativity work together. Aesthetics and senses and intuition–these are not algorithms. And, these are core elements of what have been sublimating as ‘soft science,’ and these ideas are going to be reversed very soon.
“Number one thing companies should be getting their heads around is how health and creativity work together. Aesthetics, senses and intuition–these are not algorithms.”
We have a huge amount of contact and information. But, we are unaware of how this will be affecting our health. It’s not enough to remain removed and observe data. We aren’t sophisticated enough with those tools we are creating yet. Believe it or not, intuition is faster to tune in a few people than training 250 people to read data accurately together. This fact will become a dividing line in competition. It already has.
That means companies are guessing about how to foster intuition, senses, perception, gut reactions, knowing and focus. But they don’t have to guess. There are many tools and skills in health and spiritual well-being that are available.
How do the two worlds relate: the physical and the digital space?
I’ve put a lot of thought into this one. When I started using digital communication (which was a big NO NO) in my professional life with clients, I definitely spent lots of time studying the differences. I was really neurotic and fearful about the lack of eye contact and the barriers to reading or listening to others when we met online. And, honestly, it was awkward. Most people felt distant or inhibited.
At first, I needed to only agree to digital contact with early adopters or those who were already making primary contact with digital communication. I’ll explain. Those who in the spare time or for work take on all the latest technology, sometimes even faster than the makers; they are early adopters. And, people who are using digital communication for primary contact are business people or stakeholders in international or global business, which could also include military or academia or government. These folks live digitally already. And they are willing and capable of working through the tools and their work around until we have optimal contact.
The way these two worlds relate is often conflictual.
How important is the social and cultural environment within an organization to empower people to perform?
Strict norms are created in successful companies. The more successful the tighter the pull to conform. So, it’s often counter-intuitive when companies that are rising hot and fast claim an open culture.
Eating at work
In your opinion, is food culture playing a role in shaping future organizations? If so, in which way?
Absolutely. A change in focus on aesthetics, culture, senses, and interpersonal relationships to differentiate our experiences is the core principal of organizations. We can create standards for thinking and behavior, but you have to cultivate and nurture creativity.
Do you have an eating routine at work?
I have most of my food early in the day and then snack most of the working day. Then, in the late evening, I have a meal again. On the weekend, I usually have some porridge in the morning and then go until midday. Then, I have a large brunch –hopefully with friends and loved ones.
We have porridge every morning. It’s a strong Finnish tradition, but most people don’t follow it anymore. We do. And now, since it’s still summer, we have lots of fruit to choose from. Mostly, it’s just porridge and coffee.
Talking about eating, is there any food product or drink that is never missing from your desk?
That morning coffee is the only coffee of the day, most days. I drink a fruity flowery green tea called Mimosa from Tee Huone, in my office. It has a really beautiful aroma and it keeps me sharp and interested in holding a deeper concentration.
“I have to eat dense and concentrated fats and foods that will support my concentration and quick problem-solving.”
Snacking at work means nuts, sharp chocolate, and soup. I have to eat dense and concentrated fats and foods that will support my concentration and quick problem-solving. That means plant fats and root vegetable soups. For so many reasons it seems like good chocolate goes a long way.
Interact with Therese:
Facebook: Therese Bogan, MFT