In Week 28 of The Great Wake-Up, our challenge was to go for a walk with a friend and talk non-stop for 7 and a half minutes.

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I'm still curious why Chris choose to add walking to the exercise, rather than just nattering for 7 1/2 minutes...

So, of course, I did some experimentation of my own. I talked with a friend while tidying up, I talked with a friend while meeting for lunch, I talked with a friend while we were driving and, as a control, I talked with a friend while we were walking. Here's what I got from that - the key seems to be mindless activity, so you're active but don't have to think too much about it (eating and driving weren't quite as good). That makes sense to me, and fits with my experience that walking is a great medium for meditation if you share my challenge of an over-active voice in your head...

I'm also not sure about the rationale for 7 1/2 minutes so, guess what, more experimentation, with some strictly timed, some loosely timed and some un-timed sessions. I guess the time thing is about not talking for too long, but for long enough; I found being too strict about timing interrupted my flow, though, as I was worrying about the deadline. At the same time, the interesting thoughts did tend to come at the end of a monologue, so I clearly needed time to clear my mental guff...

I told two of my friends about the experiment, and the other two were friends who I knew would let me rabbit on if I just started. Interesting, the two who I framed the experiment for were both male (unconscious gender bias going on there?) but, putting that aside, it was great to be able to share thoughts on the experiment afterwards, especially because we each had a go, so I could hear how they found the talking part as well. They both found it helpful, and one friend in particular remarked on what an unusual, but useful, approach it was to frame meeting up in this way.

Fun extra experiments aside, I got a lot out of the actual experiment. For a start, one of these free-rambling talks about what was missing from my life led directly to me booking a solo trip to Paris (realising a dream I've had for years). Another helped crystallise for me the benefits and motivation for starting up my own business, and reinforced the physical and mental freedoms that have changed my life so dramatically in the last year.

One session was with my husband and that had a double result. First, I got some great insight into managing the balance in my life, which boils down to "go big". I am a creature of obsessions, so planning bitty days doesn't work; I'm much happier spending a whole day on one thing. So it's less about balancing each of my days (apart from making sure I have time for my morning walks and eating) and more about balancing my week; I can already feel that's going to help my planning. Secondly, my husband was wishing we could go away more - ironically, the reason we don't is that he tends to cycle every Sunday - he's an endurance cyclist, so that means all day... Going a bit lateral, I suggested that when we wanted to go away he just book the Friday off and we go away Thursday night to Saturday evening. Result! More things are open longer hours on Friday and Saturday and we miss Friday night and Sunday evening traffic - everyone's a winner! Why didn't we think of that before???

My final session, also a reciprocal one, got a bit more esoteric. The friend I was walking with is also self-employed, so that coloured our conversations around the monologues. (He was the one who found the technique really interesting, and I'm betting he'll be using it again...) We touched a bit on feelings of inadequacy, which seem to plague people no matter how much positive feedback is contradicting that, but the big message for me was the value of a fresh perspective, and the positive impact of actively seeking them.

This was distilled from several things that came out in the conversation with my friend, starting when he asked why I wanted to go to Paris alone, and the answer was because I want to see who I am in an a strange country, on my own, where no one knows me and no one else is affecting my choices. We also talked about holidays, and how life has changed with self-employment, which made made me reflect on opportunities I've had in the last year to see myself through (other people's) fresh eyes - including the Wake-Up family - and to try out versions of myself with new people. It's hard to be different with people you've known forever; we're creatures of habit and after a while people seem to slip into a role within any established group that it can be hard to see a way out of ("spreadsheet girl" here - it was inconceivable in my old job that I could be creative). I'm not advocating leaving your job and changing your whole life, but just taking the opportunity to do something different, and with new people who won't have preconceived notions about how you "normally" are, can be so energising - and freeing!


cat lover, wife, designer, analyst (the spreadsheet kind...), friend, sister, daughter, writer, consultant, lover of beauty...


Go to the profile of Mark Cuddy
Mark Cuddy over 4 years ago

That was an amazing positive post that's got me thinking about going away on my own - wow I never thought I'd say that. It seems so positive and sure and awake - wow. Sometimes when I read a post like this, and other ones from others over the course of this journey, I could sit here all day listening to other peoples thoughts and feel so tranquil and yet energised. It's beautiful, thanks for sharing.

Go to the profile of Ffi Ffi Trixibelle
Ffi Ffi Trixibelle over 4 years ago

I so enjoyed reading this post first thing this morning, it was a great start to my day. So intelligent and thought provoking.

Go to the profile of Vanessa
Vanessa over 4 years ago

Thanks, both! It's been so humbling - and exciting - to hear back from the Wake-Up family about my blogs. Your eyes have shown me more about myself than I'd ever have seen on my own, and I'm so grateful.

Go to the profile of Vanessa
Vanessa over 4 years ago

Oh, and Mark, if you fancy some solo travel, go for it! I started small, with days out, but I'm so excited about the next step. I'll miss my husband and cats, too, but they'll be there when I get home and, luckily, ready to listen to my adventures. I'm sure Sarah and Bobby will be too!

Go to the profile of Mark Cuddy
Mark Cuddy over 4 years ago

Just thinking about a solo break gets my adrenaline pumping. I still think I'd miss Sarah and Bobby too much. Before we got Bobby we had another dog (for nearly 16 years called Bruce - I wonder why we called him that, ahem) and I could be having the greatest holiday ever abroad (we did have a couple) but at the end of the day I could hear a voice in my head say, "I wish Bruce was here to enjoy this, then this would be the best." What a crazy man I am. I will defo give the solo break some thought though because it does sound exciting and would reveal something about myself. It's exciting just talking about it! (voice in my head says, "A break without Sarah, who's going to laugh at your jokes?"). Then again there's a plan B I've just hatched.... might need to give to some deep thought.

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Sarah-Kate Goodwin over 4 years ago

Thats why falling in love or meeting a new comrade who you just bounce off of is so exciting because they are getting the absolute best of you and who you are. Trips alone is such a great idea Vanessa, I have always considered booking a cottage or tipi just for myself and a few books/notebooks! Ive now been encouraged to turn this thought into action x

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Chris Baréz-Brown over 4 years ago

Fantastic research and insight Vanessa! Always brilliantly creative. Got me thinking too... Thank you, Chris xx

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Vanessa over 4 years ago

Oooh, Mark, can'you wait to hear about Plan B! Sarah, hope you manage a trip!