I make a regular habit of walking. I like the solitude, the regular slap, slap of my feet on the pavement and the fresh air in my lungs. All leaders can benefit from their own form of solitude, exercise and fresh air, but too often we are unable or unwilling to find the time to do so. With all of the benefits, see if you don’t want to schedule your own habitual re-energizing time.
Solitude – Leaders today are being constantly bombarded – electronics, data, people, meetings – and the list goes on. Leaders also often have more priorities then they can manage. Our brains are not designed to perform at peak performance with the amount of decisions, data, to-do’s, etc. we hold on to. As a result, we go into a form of survival mode which limits, rather than frees us up, for productive work.
Taking time for quiet work, reflection or – as a former colleague of mine did every day -10 minutes of meditation every morning, can allow your mind a rest, which ultimately allows you to ideate, reflect and focus in a more fruitful and freed up way. Authors Scott Barry Kaufman and Caroline Gregoire describe what happens in our “imagination” when we do this:
Using many regions across the brain, the imagination network enables us to remember the past, think about the future, see other perspectives and scenarios, comprehend stories, understand ourselves, and create meaning from our experiences.
Exercise – Exercise helps our brains understand how to deal with stress. It also may provide a rest for the brain (see above) as you go through the routine activities that allow your mind to completely lose focus or, alternatively, chew over a current singular problem or idea. Whether you start your day with a long run or take your lunch break on the walking path at your office, regular activity can feed your body, mind and spirit…and support a more focused and energized leader.
Fresh air – Certainly, stepping outside and getting fresh air periodically during the day has the power to wake you up and refresh your perspective. However, fresh air is also a metaphor for thinking about a problem or a project from a different vantage point. Getting another colleague’s point of view or seeking out an opposing or alternative perspective can spark new thinking and give you momentum. In the article How Diversity Makes Us Smarter, the authors remind us that Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision-making and problem solving. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. Even simply being exposed to diversity can change the way you think.
Re-energize YOUR leadership. Make a habit of quiet reflection, a little exercise and the benefits of “fresh air.”