Steve Peralta is the co-founder & Chief Wellbeing Officer at Unmind, a workplace mental health platform empowering employees to improve their mental wellbeing.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I co-founded Unmind 5.5 years ago. We’ve grown to a company of nearly 200 brilliant people, all passionate about transforming mental health in the workplace, and creating a world where mental health is universally understood, nurtured and celebrated.
In my role as Chief Wellbeing Officer, I want to help transform how we think about mental health. I believe we need to change the narrative from one that focuses on problems and pathology, to one that builds on this by asking how we can create the conditions for flourishing in our lives.
Before Unmind, I spent 7 years in the wellness space as a personal trainer, mindfulness facilitator, wellbeing coach, and workplace wellbeing consultant. Before that, I spent 7 years making my living as a singer, musician and actor.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I work from home about 3 times a week, and when I do I typically follow the below routine:
Roughly 6am to 6:30am – I start my day with Athletic Greens, followed by a bulletproof coffee, and hopefully a chat with my fiance, Laura.
Roughly 6:30am to 7am – I journal.
Roughly 7am to 8am – I improvise my morning practice. I see how I’m feeling and tend to mix up some or all of the following: dancing, stretching, singing, playing guitar, drumming, meditating.
Roughly 8am to 8:45am – I go for a walk in the woods with my dog, Lola.
Roughly 9am to 10am – I learn. There is always something I am learning, researching or studying.
Roughly 10am to 1pm – I use this time for deep work. I block this out in my calendar and work on my most important tasks that require either focus, reflection or creativity.
Roughly 1pm to 2pm – I exercise at the gym, often with my co-founder, Nick.
Roughly 2pm to 2:30pm – I have my first meal of the day. This is usually a pre-made, frozen organic meal that I heat up.
Roughly 2:30pm to 6pm – I typically use this time for meetings, batched tasks, and tying up any loose ends for the day.
Roughly 6pm – 6:30pm – I review my day and plan my next day.
Roughly 6:30pm to 9:30pm – I relax, have dinner, watch some TV, play with Lola, and spend time with Laura.
Roughly 9:30pm – 6pm – I usually read in bed for about 30-min and am asleep by around 10pm.
My 2 days a week in London typically involve collaborating with Unminders at our office, or filming our ‘Flourish’ podcast in Soho. These days are a lot more flexible than my ‘work-from-home’ routine.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, we take a flexible approach to work, which includes remote working. I tend to work from home about 3 times a week, and follow the routine I’ve mentioned above.
On the days I go into the office, my routine is less structured and I add 3 hours of travelling to and from the office to the mix. Luckily my station is the first/last on the line, so I always get a seat and sometimes a desk, so am able to use that time fairly productively.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
As a way of thinking about it, I tend to focus on harmony. I don’t really think about balancing work against life. Work is part of life, and to use an analogy, is one note in the chord of life. Let’s say the notes in my chord are spirit, relationships, health, play, and work, when they’re all in harmony the chord sounds more beautiful. Life is more beautiful.
I definitely used to work too much. Because of my aggressive focus on that note in my chord, I wasn’t playing the other notes gracefully enough, and so my ‘life chord’ lost its beauty. I now have more harmony in my life, although it is always something I need to be mindful of. Unless you actively rebel against how Western society is set up, work will typically dominate and life will lose its vital essence, or soul.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve journaled on and off for 20 years, but over the past year it has become a daily habit during the week. I start with some stream of consciousness writing, followed by reflections on books I’m reading. I’ll then write a few lines of gratitude and end off by writing a haiku.
This time in the morning helps me to connect with what feels like a deeper, soulful part of myself, which can sometimes be obscured by the strategic mind.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I am somewhat of a bibliophile, and probably buy more books than I’ll ever be able to read. I do read a fair amount though and there are many books and authors I would recommend.
But I’m going to go with the poet, philosopher and author, David Whyte. He writes about the conversational nature of reality and has also explored the notion of bringing soul into the workplace. Aside from his poetry, the books I recommend are Crossing The Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, and The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship.
In terms of podcasts, again there are many, but I’m going to go for ‘On Being with Krista Tippert’ and ‘The Psychology Podcast with Scott Barry Kaufman’. Both of these podcasts interview some wise people, exploring what it means to be human and live life well.
When it comes to newsletters, my favourite is probably The Marginalian by Maria Popova (used to be called Brain Pickings). I always find her content inspiring, and she does such a great job of weaving other people’s work and ideas together.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
No. Unless my guitar counts as a gadget?
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
David Whyte, as his call for us to live our lives as a sacred conversation, where we listen deeply and respond courageously, seems like a good way to approach both work and life. I think it invites the idea of harmony and integration, as opposed to trying to balance things against each other.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
However we choose to define the relationship between work and life, we should not pit them against each other. When we do we create more stress and suck the soul out of both.
We should ask ourselves what we value in life, what we find meaningful, how we can connect with and help others, and how we can add beauty to the world, and then go about weaving all of that into our lives, which, of course, includes our work.
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