We are better together

We are better together and being together isn’t always easy.
– In the green zone we work to figure out ways in which to make relationships work better, so that we can be more effective with one another which leads to better health, greater productivity and more fun, says Celeste Blackman, international consultant and co-founder of The Green Zone Culture Group.

Celeste Blackman has always been interested in people. She says she was a coach already on the playground in elementary school. In college she got interested in health. The more she got involved in human potential, first through The Human Element and then Radical Collaboration, the more she came to understand the connection between relationships and health and wellbeing. She is passionate about sharing these findings with others. The primary focus of GZC is relationships and how to cultivate a cooperative mindset so we can be better together.

According to Celeste:
– What you do impacts me and what I do impacts you. We impact each other, our environment, our world and ultimately the whole ecosystem in which we live. The quality of our interactions has long-term implications that can be positive or negative. Relationships have never been more important than they are today. Our capacity to manage relationships in respectful and caring ways is critical to our very survival.

Celeste Blackman started working together with CoreCode three years ago following an introduction to the Green Zone at Bommersvik, south of Stockholm and this past summer Celeste, Magdalena Helander and Kurt Karlsson from CoreCode facilitated The Green Zone Health Adventure workshop at Ljungbergsgården in Stockholm, for the second time.

We long to belong
The Green Zone Culture Group evolved out of the Green Zone concepts originally introduced in Radical Collaboration and is based on the expanding body of knowledge emerging from the fields of neuroscience, neurobiology and positive psychology.
– As human beings we are social animals. We have a social brain.  We long to belong, we long to connect and yet nowhere in the academic curriculum do we teach people how to do that effectively. As a result, most of us struggle and have heart-breaking experiences. I think that if we focused on helping people to connect more effectively we would all be happier, healthier and more productive.

Celeste is convinced that we have to start by caring deeply about ourselves in order to expand our capacity to care about others, our community, our country and ultimately the planet. – It’s all about human sustainability. Unfortunately, we’re still trying to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions, built on knowledge and beliefs from the 19th and 20th century. What gets measured gets managed. Since our measures are based on old methodologies so are our practices. For example, many leaders still focus on how many hours you worked, versus the quality of your work or your contributions. We’re held hostage to the way we’ve structured our lives and our work, in part because we know how to measure it. The new scientific knowledge hasn’t been formulated in ways that are easy to implement and measure yet. So we’ve moved into an era of big data, collecting lots of information that we can quantify, but we’re not very discerning about what really matters. We’re focused on the quantifiable versus qualitative.  

Improved relationships and productivity
Celeste has noticed that many leaders are afraid of human emotions and of what will happen if the emotions are unleashed. As a result, many leaders have learned to suppress them.  Unfortunately, suppressing emotions means they quash energy, the positive kind along with the negative. This means they miss out on all the advantages of the Green Zone practices through which they can channel the energy of positive emotions. It is emotions that drive personal meaning, action and behaviour. Highly effective leaders understand that tapping into the meaning networks of individuals is how you unleash the discretionary emotional energy that drives high performance, passion, commitment and optimal health and wellbeing.

–Working and living in the Green Zone opens new possibilities for positive relationships, improved capacity for influence, collaboration, cooperation, engagement, fun, joy and ultimately productivity. I like to say that Green Zones Cultures are good for the brain, good for the body and good for the bottom line. They are good for the brain because they foster a positive response in the brain and the nervous system. This positive response signals safety releasing positive feel good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine associated with trust and connection. These claiming chemicals are good for the body promoting greater health and wellbeing. There is ample evidence demonstrating a strong correlation between health and wellbeing and productivity. The more we take care of physical and mental wellbeing the more we optimize systems, both human and organizational, for high performance.

Practice green zone behind the wheel
When people start practicing the green zone philosophy they see instant results. Celeste has noticed that people feel energized by the realization that they have more control and influence over their own lives than they thought. That with a little more attention and intention they can manage even the smallest aspects of their lives and achieve more positive outcomes.

Celeste gives an example about the stress of driving. She shared how she plays a little game with herself to stay green while driving. When she gets in her car she sets her intention to drive in the green zone.
– It shifts my whole experience of traffic. I feel that I have plenty of time and I really practice being aware of the other drivers around me and what their needs are rather than competing with them and going into the red zone. I relax and figure out how I can help them have a better driving experience. I notice if they are trying to change lanes and I make room for them, or if they are trying to merge and I let them in. I hold the steering wheel lightly and focus on our shared experience of trying to get safely to our respective destinations. As a result, I arrive where I am going, calm, feeling good and happy.

Driving can bring out the worst in us and offers us a wonderful opportunity to practice the skills and the mindset that we teach in the Green Zone. Being on the road offers numerous invitations to be defensive and self-absorbed. When you take a step back you realize how dependent we are on one another to have a safe and effective experience on the road. One overly aggressive driver can cause a pile up that wreaks havoc on everyone else. It is a microcosm of the bigger picture of the interdependent world in which we live and work. According to Celeste, being in touch with these experiences is a way to explore our impact on one another. Being more aware allows us a wider range of choices and the ability to choose options that are good for us as individuals while simultaneously creating a more positive shared experience.

– The goal with the practice is not to overly condemn or criticize ourselves for our reactivity, and imperfect reactions. Instead, it is to work with our biology so that we can more effectively manage our reactivity and channel it into more productive and positive responses. Being in the Green Zone is about recovery not perfection.  If I can enter the green zone behind the wheel, maybe I can do it in relationship with my kids, my spouse, my co-workers or my boss too. How might that change my relationships? My health? My happiness?

Healthy mind platter for optimal brain health
As mentioned before one of the focuses of Celeste’s work is The Green Zone Health Adventure workshop. One central component of GZHA is the use of The Healthy Mind Platter, which serves as the framework for the design of the workshop. It identifies seven essential mental activities necessary for optimum mental health in daily life:
Focus Time
Play Time
Connecting Time
Physical Time
Time In
Down Time
Sleep Time

Celeste Blackman and CoreCode have also included Nutrition to the list of important activities for a healthy mind.
– Your brain needs all these activities to function at it's best. Think of them as the nutrients optimize your brain’s ability to coordinate and balance all the activities for which it is responsible.  Optimal brain performance strengthens your brain's internal connections including your ability to make positive connections with other people.
The Healthy Mind Platter is used as a foundation both for the development and the design of the workshop incorporating each of the elements throughout each day of the workshop. It is also used as a tool for each participant to explore their own lives, in relationship to each of the seven activities. Through the exploration they discover, where they are currently, what is working and what is not working and where they most want to make changes.

– We also do some deeper dives to explore where their beliefs and mindset about health come from and how these beliefs are manifesting in their lives, their bodies and their beliefs. \What kind of things would they like to do differently and what relationships might need tending, mending or ending?  Participants leave with an action plan to help them achieve the identified changes they want to support their health and wellbeing.

Play is essential for our wellbeing
A lot of profound things happen at the Green Zone Health Adventure. One of the most touching, for Celeste, is the insight of how important play is and that we don’t get enough of it in our lives as adults.
– Play is an essential part of our capacity for learning, and development and curiosity. It is one of the seven emotional systems that help us to survive. As a culture, and I speak for the US but I think it’s true pretty much everywhere, are sort of pushing play out of existence for ourselves and for our children. For our children because we are over scheduling them and over routinizing how they have to do things and of course technology removes some of the opportunity for unstructured creative play.
– By the time we are adults we don’t think we even should play anymore. But we all need and want to play. One of my personal goals is to have more play in my life, like turning on the music when I am making dinner and dancing. Simply cause I love it.

Invitation to invest in yourself
Celeste invites anyone who is interested in Green Zone Culture to come to the Green Zone Heath Adventure (editors’ note; when publishing this article next opportunity is in August 2016) and to sign up on the Green Zone mailing list at greenzoneculture.com
– The invitation is to invest in yourself and be in the Green Zone. It’s good for your brain, its good for your body and its good for your bottom line. We all have an important part to play in creating the kind of world that we want to live in. We can impact our own wellbeing and the happiness and joy of other people that we connect with. I believe life can and should be fun. Let’s make this short adventure here on our earth one where we are connected, having fun, being healthy and happy and supporting one another.

Text: Ragnhild Larsson

The Healthy Mind Platter The Healthy Mind Platter was created in collaboration by Dr. David Rock, executive director of the Neuro Leadership Institute and Dr. Daniel Siegel, executive director of the Mindsight Institute and clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine.

More about Celeste Blackman:

Celeste Blackman