Rest and recovery are a crucial part of any exercise program. After putting your body through a significant amount of stress during a grueling workout, you have to give it time to recover, repair, and ultimately, come back stronger. Recuperation after an exercise program is one thing but what about at work?
There is no doubt that leadership stress levels can be significant. Perhaps it’s competitive pressures or underperforming financials. It could be a dysfunctional culture, poor teamwork, ethical dilemmas or a lack of employee engagement.
But who wouldn’t want to work in high-performance mode nonstop? A desire for achievement and competitive success urges us on and often past our physical and mental limits. Professional athletes build in time to recover, but executives rarely do. Why not? The limiting beliefs are well accepted: commitment is noticed through hard work and suffering.
Our reality is that often little value is placed on renewal or developing practices and habits that create and sustain our ability to function at the highest level. Surely only slackers take time off during the day?
What we need as leaders is the self-awareness to shift our mind-set from managing time to managing and balancing energy. The solution is simple in concept but in the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Knowing is not enough; We must apply. Willing is not enough; We must do.”
What we need is to schedule recovery activities and stick to them until this is our new normal. Examples might include hobbies, music, reading, sport, exercise, volunteer work – it’s a very long list and different for each of us.
The parasympathetic nervous system responds to events that are perceived as relaxing, enjoyable and calming. When activated, it counteracts symptoms of stress in the body. The key is one’s attitude. It’s possible to let ambition and competitiveness interfere with the relaxation and recovery processes. We must be aware and mindful of how we manage our energy levels and to recognize the signs of over extension.
As you reflect on the mind-sets that limit you, consider a shift to understanding that practicing recovery regularly helps you spend more time in high performance mode. Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.
Effective leaders know they must attend to themselves first otherwise, they won’t have the energy to maintain their leadership capability. And just a final point to note, running late doesn’t count as exercise…