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 can learn to deepen our connection with ourselves then we become less likely to be blown over in a storm. More importantly, when times are calm, we also enable ourselves to spread our leadership ‘branches’ out wider, into larger challenges and roles.
There are three ways that we can 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 and we hold snags from our mind in our body, 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 practicing your creativity will strengthen your creative ‘muscle’ and build your ability to innovate.
Engaging with the arts is a powerful way to recharge your batteries as well as experiment with new ways of seeing, and new ways of finding solutions.
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 achieve the focus he needed to bring down an empire.
All three of these can also be combined with spending time in nature, which is another powerful way to reconnect with who we are and what matters most to us. Visits to hills or large bodies of water can be especially beneficial. In Japan the benefits of simply taking a short, leisurely visit to a forest, or ‘forest bathing’, are also widely known.
The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important relationship we have. It is the only one that lasts our whole lifetime. It affects the quality of every other relationship we have and so it limits or enables what we are able to achieve with and through others.
To get better results in the outer world, start by improving your results in your inner world: strengthen your relationship with yourself. Set up a regular practice of whatever combination of exercise, creativity, and meditation is right for you.
How well do you know yourself today? Do you stand firm in a storm or are you buffeted by every breeze? How much time do you spend each week strengthening your relationship with yourself using exercise, creativity, or some form of meditation? How much time do you spend in nature? Do you feel drawn to change any of that?
Adapted from Inner Leadership. Buy the Book