Dr Paul Wood strikes me as one of the most self-aware people I’ve ever come across, and I tell him so.

“No, shit no!” he exclaims. “I’ve done a lot more [self-analysis] than most people, but I’m still 100 per cent a work in progress.”

As a psychologist, Wood is an expert on introspection; his research is all about how people can change and change for the better, and how they can more effectively and deliberately manage their emotions. But it’s his life experience that has had the most impact on who he is today.

“My real passion for this space comes from my own experience of transformational change, from my own personal journey of delinquent to doctor,” he says.

Wood’s journey has probably been more intense than most people’s. An awful turn of events saw drug-dependent, unemployed, eighteen-year-old Wood convicted of murder and sent to prison for over a decade.

During his incarceration he started to turn his life around – he threw his energy into study and transforming himself. He gained his undergraduate and master’s degrees and began his doctorate, all while in prison.

“I began to understand that in order to focus on really changing my life and having a life of greater meaning and wellbeing, I needed to focus on the inner game.

“I realised I needed to focus on my mindset and how I thought about the world, my beliefs, but also about learning the skills, the insights and the tools that would enable me to more effectively cope with the all-too-human stress and emotion that we all experience, but often have unhealthy ideas and views about.”

Wood is right – everyone deals with stress and emotion in its various guises and doses. From Auckland rugby to the Defence Force to the Treasury, his expertise is sought by all sorts of different groups. And now it is the aged care sector’s turn – Wood is confirmed to speak on Day 3 at the New Zealand Aged Care Association conference next month.

“The wrapping of our challenges all looks different, but the gift of our misery is the same.”

The wrapping of an aged care provider’s challenges might indeed look different from those of a loosehead prop, but Wood maintains that emotional fitness is important for us all.

“[Providers] need to proactively and deliberately maintain their emotional fitness, which is really the grit and mental toughness that comes in the heat of the moment, and also the ability to bounce back when they experience the challenges inherently associated with their industry.

“But they also need to maintain the mindset that will enable them to ensure that change is change for the better and that any of the challenging emotions and the experiences within the context of change will be seen and understood in a way that will make them feel more empowered and in control of what’s going on.”

I’m feeling rather empowered just from our quick chat – delegates certainly won’t want to miss Wood’s keynote at the NZACA conference next month.

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