Hula Hoops and Habits

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New Habits Spelled Out in Letter Blocks

Sean Hesler, our University HR Leader of Learning and Development, builds a foundation of development that enables our campus community to invest in themselves. He is tireless in his commitment and is curious. I truly value Sean’s engagement and his willingness to share thought provoking articles with me. Throughout his career, he has focused on the growth and development of people. Sean’s strongest focus is on the growth and development of his son. As you will read, he’s been spending quality time with his family to help engage his son in experiential learning and togetherness, the same way he helps all of us continue to learn and develop as HR professionals.

As you reflect on Sean’s post, I would encourage you to rate the quality of your own family time. It’s always worth asking, both inside work and outside, “How can I do this better?”

--- Cheryl Reardon, Chief Human Resources Officer and Associate VP

Hula Hoops and Habits

Hula Hoop Tree in Amber, Iowa

I recently read an online post in which the author suggested that, “If you don’t use the time you have while being quarantined to make progress on your goals, then you’re wasting your time and you have no one else to blame.” To me, this sentiment discounts the multitude of other things that are still occupying the time of many who are now home a lot more – childcare responsibilities, work, at-home haircuts – that can get in the way of goal-oriented efforts. I think the person who made that statement was trying to be motivational, which I can appreciate…..but I read it more as a declaration about how we should or should not be using our time.

Still, as I reflected on that statement I began to wonder how my quarantine time might play a role in changing some of my habits or making progress on goals. So, I began to take stock of some of the things that had changed in my life as a result of being home more and going out less. One significant thing I noticed was that when I wasn’t doing work, I felt like life had slowed down. It’s as though the urgencies (real or perceived) that go with many day-to-day pursuits like cooking, cleaning, home-school activities, and spending time with my family were suddenly less rushed and also much more meaningful. As a result of this new ‘pace,’ I decided to take a crack at some new habits. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, so I decided to see what I could do to capitalize on the rising thermometer. Here is what I have done and learned so far…

One habit is daily walks around the neighborhood – usually with my wife, but sometimes just by myself. It’s good exercise, breaks up the other routines of the day, and affords opportunities to interact with neighbors (from a safe distance). Plus, I’ve found that it clears my head, which is great for problem-solving or even just getting time to mentally graze on a variety of thoughts and ideas.

The second habit is a weekly visit to a state park or attraction as an outing with my 8 year old son. These are free, fun, and another great way to get exercise. Often, we will couple the visit with some geocaching, and have had a lot of fun trying to locate things that others have hidden around east-central Iowa.

One such weekly outing was particularly memorable – a visit to the Hula Hoop Tree. The unofficial story is that a couple of hula hoops showed up on an all but dead tree outside of Amber, Iowa after a storm in 2015. It’s not known if they were placed there or simply blew there during the storm. In any case, over time more and more hula hoops began to appear on the tree until there were hundreds.

Visitors to the tree are encouraged to add a hula hoop to the tree, and a local artist paints rocks with images of the tree and leaves them at the base of the tree for people to take as souvenirs. During our visit we donated a couple of our hoops to the tree, and even have a rock with a painting of the tree adorning the center of our kitchen table. Sadly, about a week after we visited the tree we learned that the owner decided to have it cut down. It is no more.

Painted Rock of Hula Hoop Tree

I am very grateful that I got to see this one-of-a-kind curiosity and that I got to share it with my son. This was a lesson to me about how impermanent things can be, and how even simple, weird things – like a tree festooned with hula hoops – can be really entertaining.

The second lesson I’ve learned is about the value of routine. I won’t say that I’ve made progress on any particular goals – as the online author urged – but I will say that I have built in some routines that are cementing positive, meaningful habits in my life. I feel different about my life….in a good way, and I want these habits to stick around.

Sean Hesler, Director, Learning and Development
UHR coaching tips to share

What positive habits have you adopted and want to keep? Share your thoughts with and to Thanks in advance for sharing!