My wellbeing – being fit to lead

fit to lead

“I just don’t have the time,” John said in one of our coaching sessions.

Caught trying to balance the pressures of a busy working life and a busy family life, many professionals struggle to find time to focus on their health and wellbeing.

“I looked in the mirror and I realised that I was in the worst shape of my life,” one coaching client said to me.

“I just can’t seem to find the time to exercise,” another leader said looking exhausted.

“It’s just expected that I’ll be out most nights for dinner and drinks with clients,”  said another leader.

The pressure on leaders today is unrelenting. Therefore, it’s no wonder that the time available to focus on our health and wellbeing feels limited.

Although there’s a plethora of research explaining the benefits of being active and focusing on our health, it doesn’t make it easier to find the time to do it.

Three areas of focus

For any professional wanting to improve their health and wellbeing there are three key areas to focus on:

1. Physical wellbeing

This relates to our health and fitness. The two direct influences over this is the amount of exercise we do and our diet.

“Just tell me straight,” Peter recalls what he said to his doctor after a medical exam.

“It’s simple Peter,” the Doctor replied. “If you don’t get your cholesterol under control you are a prime candidate for a heart attack.”

Within two months of this appointment Peter had changed his habits. He was exercising three days a week and walking everywhere he could. He’d cut down on coffee, diet drinks and alcohol, and he’d changed his diet.

“I feel great,” Peter said when I remarked about how healthy he was looking.

“What prompted the change?” I asked Peter.

“Rob, I have a family,” he replied, “and I owe it to them to really look after myself.”

The decline of our physical health and fitness happens gradually. Therefore, often it takes a shock to help us realise that we need to take action. Unfortunately for many this action is a sudden surge of activity that can’t be sustained. Thinking of our physical health and fitness as a marathon and not a sprint helps us become more conscious of the little things that we can do each day to make a positive change to our exercise and diet.

2. Mental wellbeing

This relates to our state of mind. The greatest influences over this is the amount of pressure and stress we are under and how we are dealing with this.

“You seem to be working a lot of hours,” I mentioned to Michelle who was a Finance Director.

“We’re under incredible pressure at the moment,” she replied. “There is far too much to do and not enough time.”

“What are you doing to take care of yourself?” I asked.

Michelle smiled.

“No matter what’s going on I give myself 30 minutes every lunch time,” she replied. “I get away from my desk, put my phone on airplane mode and I put my headphones on. I then go for a walk, listen to meditation music and just breathe.”

Too often when we’re busy we feel like it’s impossible to find the time to just relax and tune out. Our brains and our bodies need a rest from the constant pressure that work creates. It’s therefore important to carve out time, even if it’s only 10 minutes a day, so you can just tune out.

3. Professional wellbeing

This relates to the circumstances that surround us at work. The greatest influences over this are the nature of our working relationships and how we prioritise what we need to do.

“We seem to spend a lot of time talking about your relationship with Helen,” I said to James during one of our coaching sessions.

“We just don’t get along,” he replied sounding frustrated. “She just doesn’t ever want to see it my way.”

After some further exploration we reframed the concept.

“Perhaps rather than say that you don’t get along, let’s say that you’ve not yet built a strong relationship,” I suggested.

“I guess we’ve never spent any time really trying to get to know each other,” James said. “It’s never felt like a priority.”

The way we spend our time at work and what we prioritise has a significant impact on our professional health and wellbeing. When we focus on building stronger and more productive relationships, and when we focus on the items that are high impact and high importance, we learn to let go of that which doesn’t matter.

Creating habits

It is hard to live in society today without being constantly reminded about the importance of looking after ourselves. However, this doesn’t make it easier to find the time.

To focus on our health and wellbeing requires breaking old habits and establishing new ones. Whether that’s about being more conscious of grabbing a glass of water rather than a can of diet coke, getting up a little earlier to exercise in the morning, or going for a walk at lunch time, these habits if embedded, are all it takes to improve our health and wellbeing.

Furthermore, with technology there are so many useful tools that can now be used to help build and embed the right habits. Whether these are wearable technology (e.g. Fitbit, Apple Watch, Garmin etc) or fitness, nutrition or meditation programme apps that you can put on your phone (e.g. Freeletics, Nike Training, 7 Minute Workout, Headspace, Breathe etc), there are many tools that you can experiment with to find what works best for you to create the right habits.

Whether we like it or not though, our health and wellbeing is ours to own, and therefore it is up to you to take action. As Zig Ziglar says:

“It was character that got us out of bed,

commitment that moved us into action, and

discipline that enabled us to follow through.”


Something to consider…

What habits do you currently have that negatively impact on your health and wellbeing?

Something to try…

Take a minute to consider what one habit you will put in place this week to improve your physical, mental or professional wellbeing.

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