Leaders performing at an optimal level are awake, aware, and inspiring. They are resilient, have control of their mind and senses, and can see life at a deeper level—thus inspiring their teams to strive for, and reach, their highest possible level of work. They also do their personal best to serve as positive examples—cultivating mental strength and resilience, all the while operating with principle and purpose.
Do you want to be that kind of leader? If so, it’s time to start embracing an overlooked fact about leadership:
Your personal wellbeing is directly connected to your success.
To function fully as leaders, we need to be happy, healthy, and connected to ourselves and our lives so we can engage, motivate, and even inspire our teams. We do this by taking care of ourselves, including taking care of our physical health. If leaders are not fully functioning, they can’t fully be there for their teams or their families.
In my new book, The Yoga of Leadership, I break wellbeing down into five distinct layers. This yoga-inspired approach to holistic wellbeing includes nurturing the following:
We need sleep. The facts don’t lie. When we cumulatively get less than seven hours of sleep a night it has a negative effect on memory and concentration and directly contributes to heart disease and diabetes.
So, how do those of us that have trouble sleeping get those needed Z’s? You have to work at it and commit to it. We function very well with rituals. Establish a sleep ritual that involves winding down before bed. Start dimming lights after dinner. Put all gadgets down 30 minutes before bed. Go to bed at the same time each night. Don’t get up for at least seven hours afterward.
I know I need eight hours of sleep but I can function on seven, but I am quite sure six hours of sleep is not enough for me to be mentally strong. Without sleep, everything breaks down—mental strength and resilience, emotional control, insight, clarity, discernment. I could go on and on. Our ability to be a successful leader requires quality sleep.
As a society, we’ve moved away from connection. Communication is so truncated these days, increasingly taking place via gadgets and apps. As we go through each day, we are often not interacting much with the people we see, let alone paying them a compliment and expressing gratitude for their efforts.
To have someone stop, look at you, and pay you a compliment is like a shock. It’s startling because it is so seldom done.
Expressions of gratitude and appreciation, including paying compliments, help foster connection with other people, which is a healthy way to support energy and vitality. It is one way to help lift other people up and make them feel energized. It can also boost your mood and energy by getting in some quality connection time. When anyone feels good, they feel more content, satisfied, secure, and energetic.
The average human attention span dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 sec in 2015, putting us now below the 9 second attention span of a Goldfish. The average office worker checks their email 30 times an hour. Media overload is the sixth top cause of stress in the U.S. including all forms ranging from television to social media.
One way to care for our mental wellbeing is by reducing the distraction in our lives. When our mind is distracted we are not fully present to the task at hand and cannot concentrate. Eliminate distraction at the office by turning off sounds and notifications on gadgets, reading less news, requiring your team to set appointments to meet with you, putting your phone in a drawer turned off, blocking off time on your calendar to get work done.
At home, watch programming that is inspiring or funny, read books that help you grow as a person, listen to serene music, and spend more time in quiet.
Present-mindedness, sometimes called “centeredness”, is an essential quality of great leadership. We need to be centered in order to listen and offer full attention to others. Spend ten minutes breathing softly in quiet with your eyes closed each day. Make sure you are in a comfortable seated position.
As thoughts come into your mind, return your mind’s focus to your soft inhales and exhales. Notice the feeling of calm that comes over you after the first few minutes. Seek to cultivate that feeling each day. With daily practice, notice how differently you are able to approach your work after you center yourself like this. Notice how this simple centering practice positively impacts your focus, decisiveness, sense of control, and interactions with others.
The greatest leaders in the world believe they have something to offer and they find meaning in it. They don’t question their worth, and they are self-motivated because of it. We are motivated by things for which we feel personally connected. So, live on purpose. Find your meaning and make purposeful choices on your own terms.
With a life grounded in a sense of meaning and purpose comes a fantastic inner state—bliss. Recognizing one’s own value and uniqueness gives us the ability and freedom to open ourselves up to wonder and beauty. So live with intention and follow your bliss!
When we function in our days, disconnected, exhausted, stressed, or sad, we are simply not being the best leaders/parents/friends that we can be. When you truly begin to realize how much you can positively enhance the lives of others through your own good example, being your best self, life offers meaning and purpose. So, take good care!
Tarra Mitchell, author of The Yoga of Leadership, demonstrates in her book how personal wellbeing is not only principle centric but also a leading indicator of success at work and in life. With an MBA in International Finance and German, her keen ability to connect with people led to an investment career directing billion-dollar fundraising events and developing relationships around the world.