When was the last time that you truly took a mental break from work? Many of us in North America are now getting out our calendars to gear up for summer vacations, so it's timely to discuss how we use our "downtime" to enhance our ability to excel in our businesses and our workplaces.
The book The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, 2003, uses an enlightening analogy from their studies of world-class athletes. They remind us that muscles are grown most effectively by stretching beyond the limits of comfort and then allowing them to recover. Alternating activity with periods of rest is a training method used by elite athletes throughout the world. To quote Loehr and Schwartz, "The key to expanding capacity is to both push beyond one's ordinary limits and to regularly seek recovery, which is when growth actually occurs."
What are you doing to ensure optimum stretch AND recovery of your mental muscles?
Looked at this way, it's not that difficult to buy-in intellectually to this principle. It makes sense that our creativity flows best when we are refreshed. It's logical that our ideas are more focused when our minds are sharp. We know that we are better able to "pour it on" in times of crisis when we have energy reserves to drawn on. So what gets in our way of acting on this principle?
Somewhere along the way we started to equate being available to our customers, clients and employees with being "responsible" and almost "noble". We joke about our workaholic tendencies with an odd sense of pride.
I have certainly caught myself in this game. The light bulb went on for me when I looked at how my behaviour matches my values. It has been helpful for me to ask myself, "How am I modelling the success that I want for my clients?" and, "Is this really what being responsible looks like?"
When the pressure is on, it's easy to slip. We need anchors to hang onto that are core to us, not a list of "shoulds". Compromising our vacation and recovery time can compromise the integrity we model with our employees and our colleagues (let alone our families and friends). Integrity might be one of your anchors.
How might your own values help you stay committed to the practice of rejuvenation?
Clearly, running on fumes doesn't cut it. The demands of today's businesses are too high and customer expectations too great. We owe it to our businesses, our employers and our customers alike to be functioning in top form. We owe it to our employees to rely on them in our absence. When others take vacations, we need to show respect for the value of disconnecting from work. And we particularly owe it to ourselves to build in recovery, so that we can be our most creative and highly contributing selves when we get back to work.
As you look ahead to summertime?
What action can you take today to be accountable for building rejuvenation into your plans over the next 3 months?
Susan Edwards is President of Development by Design, a Business & Leadership Coaching and Human Resources Consulting firm. Her Coaching clients are high potential leaders and profitable business owners who are redefining the terms of their success and taking their impact to a new level. She consults to Fortune 500 companies and smaller entrepreneurial organizations who are also committed to creating extraordinary impact with their customers, employees and shareholders. One of the niches of her practice is supporting new leaders and senior professionals in successfully transitioning into new organizations and "clearing the 90-day hurdle". She is authoring a self-coaching workbook to support people in effectively navigating this transition. Visit Sue at http://www.development-by-design.com