My Google search history this week reveals several attempts to find out how to find a shortcut to attaining the elusive work-life balance.
"how to make exercise part of your daily routine"
"quick workouts for busy people"
"fitness classes in [my area]"
"what's the deal with crossfit"
It turns out that all I had to do to find the answer was to take a walk.
As this article promised, and this one, and this one, I benefited from something far more valuable than a trim waistline ... I found perspective, calm, excitement, creativity, and drive.
If you're struggling with finding the motivation for making time for exercise (yes, making, not finding) then do it for the dope ... the chemicals that are released during physical activity that are said to:
- "motivate us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them"
- "feel significant or important"
- "alleviate anxiety and depression"
These benefits seem so similar to the factors that are needed for success - positive attitude, positive image, creativity, stamina etc. - that exercise appears to be the only shortcut needed for surefire success (together with consistent, focused hard work of course). And since we'll only be able to reap the rewards of the success is if we are physically and mentally healthy enough, it makes the benefits of exercise-induced chemicals superior to the manufactured ones bandied about in popular culture.
If you, like me, hate the idea and schlep of exercise, and always place it at the bottom of your to-do list because it never seems in line with achieving your professional goals, then it might be time to rethink your approach. From now on, I will be doing it for the dop(e)amine.
* The above is indeed based on a lot of "pop science", and should not be used as facts in any informal or legal argument as it is purely a result of a mind left to wander while the feet pounded a few kilometers of tar. For more scientific views on the topic of brain chemicals read this, or better yet, ask a trained professional.
**I'm by no means advocated forming an addiction to any type of chemical, natural or manufactured!
My motivation for exercise (which has mainly been half-harted attempts a week before hitting the beach) has changed from being focused on looking and feeling good, to being an integral part of my career plan.
The poor Comfort Zone.
I've been neglecting it for years. Until I realised that instead of trying to break free from it (and essentialy who I am) is setting me up for failure.
Popular activities for teambuilding include exercises to help teams think outside the box, workshops that force us outside our comfort zones, seminars on how to embrace discomfort in the name of personal growth ... I could go on.
As with every story, there is more than one side to the tale of the Comfort Zone.
In the zone
When inside a comfort zone, the flight or fight response is significantly reduced, and therefore people can think and act with clear minds and passion in their hearts, because situations aren't clouded with anxiety or fear.
Inside a comfort zone, a person can use all of their energy to be the best version of who they truly are, instead of a mediocre version of what theories and popular culture seems to demand.
The result of this best version of a confident, relaxed and authentic person is an environment where high performance comes very naturally.
For purposes of growth and balance, it is necessary for everyone to move to a place of discomfort every now and then, with the focus on "every now and then".
When exposure to experiences outside ones comfort zone occurs in an environment where time and risk can be managed, and expectations are proactively communicated, the experiences can lead to high learning, which is why pushing the boundaries of ones comfort zone is so popular.
Very simply, my point is this:
Bringing learnings from outside of the comfort zone together with high performance inside of the comfort zone makes for authentic personal and professional growth.
No workshops, no seminars, no exercises necessary.
Imagine if all workplaces had the privilege of ensuring during the recruitment stage to select team members with a perfectly balanced team of strength profiles that accommodate the weaknesses of others. A team that moves comfortably in and between a variety of comfortable skill sets, sensitivity levels, and life experiences.
Imagine if leaders had the skills to guide their teams on the weaving journey between high performance and new experiences.
Imagine if we all had the confidence to feel comfortable with feeling comfortable, and not fear the discomfort that goes hand in hand with growth.
With the MASSIVE changes that struck the media, journalism, and PR fields in recent years, it is incredibly important that PR professionals learn to be comfortable with moving in and out of comfort zones. It is one of the most important Fundamentals of Future Marketing Success.
For our 2013 year end function the ATP team went glass blowing. What an experience! I expected to be forced outside of my comfort zone (and have fun at the same time) but I did not expect a valuable leadership cliché to be proven during our session.
At one point during our glass blowing workshop the facilitator wanted us to attempt a technique without showing us the ropes first. My initial reaction was to let one of the others go first, as my personal habit is to observe first and learn from the mistakes others make. However, the team was quick to voice their preference that I go first.
I realised then that ‘leading from the front’ does not allow for a personal culture of perfection and saving face. It implies getting dirty and even potentially losing face.
As explained on a military forum: “In times of great chaos someone must remain sane to steady the group and drive [the group] through the point of friction. This is the job of all leaders of all ranks.”
Leaders must embrace risks and accept discomfort in order to create and maintain an environment for their team in which the team members can safely explore, ask questions, experiment and learn. The face to be saved is that of the team, not that of the leader.
Nelson Mandela perfectly described the only time a leader can afford to lead from the back. “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”