But even better than learning to recover quickly is learning not to experience this inner churning in the first place. Like a tree putting down deeper roots, if we deepen our self-awareness and connection with ourselves we become less likely to be blown over in a storm. And when times are calm, a deeper self-connection enables us to spread our leadership ‘branches’ out wider, into larger challenges and roles.
Everyone is different but there are three main ways that we can easily achieve this deeper self-connection: through exercise, creativity, and meditation.
“Exercise,” says John Ratey, psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, “is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning. Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain.”
Mind and body are one system. We hold snags and tensions from our minds in our bodies. So shifting the body is an effective way to shift and free the mind. As just one example, Richard Branson says he gets four additional productive hours each day from a range of workouts that include swimming, rock climbing, running, weightlifting, and yoga.
In a changing world, the ability to innovate becomes a critical part of every leader’s toolset. Innovation is applied creativity, so developing your creative ‘muscle’ will strengthen your ability to innovate.
Engaging with the arts is a powerful way to experiment with new ways of seeing, new forms of solution. Choosing the right arts for you will also recharge your batteries, refuel your tank.
Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, was well known for practising Zen Buddhism. He said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Meditation connected him with that inner voice.
Science has shown that meditation and other forms of mindfulness generate higher capacities to concentrate and to manage our emotions. Gandhi used the power of meditation to bring down an entire empire, non-violently.
All three of these approaches can be combined with spending time in nature. Visits to hills or large bodies of water can be especially beneficial. In Japan the benefits of short, leisurely visits to forests are well known and are called ‘forest bathing‘.
The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important relationship we have. It is the only one that lasts our entire lifetime. It affects the quality of the relationships we have with every other person and so limits and expands the results we are able to achieve in the world.
How strong is your relationship with yourself today? How well do you understand yourself and how well do you put that knowledge into practice? How much time do you spend each week deepening your connection with yourself? Do you feel drawn to spend more time in exercise, meditation, the creative arts, or in nature? Where would be a good place to start?
Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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