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Fighting Fire with Fire: A Clarion Call to the Wellness Community – The World Needs Us Now

BY: Sara Martin, MS // CEO • WELCOA

You can see it in their eyes. Hear it in their voices. Feel it in the air. This pandemic has scorched the emotional, physical, social, and financial well-being of our workforces. You don’t need stats to understand this truth. Our collective health is on fire.

How do we respond to this unmitigated blaze? It’s simple. We fight fire with fire.

You’ve heard that saying before, I’m sure. There actually are scenarios where fire is used to combat another fire. As you may know, fire requires oxygen and fuel (i.e. vegetation) to spread. If you want to stop it, you have to rob it of both of these resources. Firefighters can accomplish this by setting a controlled burn or through explosives.

In the case of the flames we face, stopping the spread involves reducing access to anxiety and stress, unsupportive workplace cultures, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and poorly managed diseases. You know, all the things we were tasked with before the pandemic even started.

So, it’s time to fight fire with fire.

After all, fire can be a violently destructive force, or it can positively re-define our reality. As an example, Native Americans once used the controlled burning of forests every one to three years to create grasslands and promote more diverse habitats that would ultimately bring them more stability and security.

And now it’s our turn. As wellness professionals, we are tasked with reshaping our terrain and creating new cultures and climates for healthier organizations and communities. We have the power to turn the heat up on health so that our world doesn’t burn down around us.

Still tracking with the analogy? We’re only halfway done. Stay with me, because this next part is very, very important.

What does fighting fire with fire look like for wellness professionals? That’s the question I’d like to answer. What do we need to do?

  • Start the fire – Check this off the list. The movement has begun, and the spark that you created is already fueling change. When you are trying to create and maintain a movement, there are many ups and downs. Just because your fire is burning brightly today does not mean that your journey is over. Just because it looks like you’re down to your last embers does not mean your fire can’t be stoked back to life. You’ll have wins and losses. The first thing I want to charge you with is not to get caught up in losses—just like a fire that is shaping the landscape, real victories can be forged in imperfection. Through patience and persistence, we make progress.
  • There will always be those who accuse you of being too visionary and be overly cynical about the potential for successfully creating a new culture or a new landscape. When this happens, remember that you are not the first professional to start this fire. Health promotion professionals have been starting fires and reshaping landscapes for decades. You are part of a true movement and we are doing incredible work. The best part? You are working toward helping people build and sustain their most valuable asset—their ability to thrive and flourish. Bigger than that, you are giving people hope that they can change through setting up sustainable ecosystems that will be the legacy of this industry. Protect the flame by standing by your mission.
  • When you create a beast, you have to feed the beast. Fires must be fed. This is tiring work. When you feel like you are losing momentum, remember that just like a fire, it sometimes only takes one small thing—an extra few twigs, a tiny bit of accelerant—to reignite a fire and keep it burning. Remember that a small tweak in your program, a new campaign, a new inspirational story that you share, a small victory is enough—small kindling stokes big flames.
  • This is not arson. You should not be shying away from admitting that you are the one who started the fire. Too often in this industry, we are complacent in being the grassroots advocates, the unsung heroes. What it takes to carry the torch for a movement this big is for you to stand up, claim ownership, get a seat at the table, put yourself among leaders in your organization and carry the torch for wellness. Because you better believe that your CFO is carrying the torch for your company’s bottom line and your SVP of Marketing is carrying the torch for maintaining market share. You are no different from these people. Carry the torch and be a powerful professional for wellness.
  • The Native Americans used fire to clear land and make it fruitful for hundreds of years. This practice was a legacy that had to be taught generation after generation. It would not have been sustainable if there was one master of fire who kept this information to herself or himself and did not believe that help was needed from others. To be truly successful in creating cultures of health and improving people’s lives, we have to be successful collaborators. This means constantly searching for new great ideas and having the courage to say to someone, “I think you are doing this better than I am, I would love to learn more about what you are doing.” Don’t be afraid to work with professionals in your organization and don’t be afraid to approach colleagues through networks and events. Pass the torch, share your knowledge with others, be truly collaborative and charge yourself to create the next generation of fire-starters.
In the end, we are responsible for a fire that will forge goodness, health, healing, and prosperity. As wellness professionals, we have an unprecedented opportunity to step into a new level of leadership. But here’s one last truth about fires. They burn until they are stopped, or until they are finished.

So, I only have one question for you. Will you turn up the heat, or stand by while the world burns?

Sara Martin
Sara Martin, MS // CEO • WELCOA
Sara has launched award-winning wellness programs and engineered work environments to create cultures of health across multiple industries. At WELCOA, her role is to ensure you continue to have access to the best products and information so you can achieve your professional and personal wellness goals.