What an opportunity 2020 was to truly reflect on what’s important in our personal lives and collective society. Have you taken the time to reflect on how the global pandemic impacted your life? To make sense of it and to ask what it is teaching you?
The interruptions to how we live and work gave us a chance to experiment with our habits. Habits you may have intentionally developed for your life as well as the habits that emerge without you knowing. You know, habits like checking your social media first thing in the morning, staying up too late, eating too much fast food or checking email or news at all times of the day. These habits are not who you are or who you want to be.
I spoke to one CEO who really enjoyed the slower pace rather than racing from meeting to meeting. They reflected the pandemic had given them more time and space to think, to move more and connect with family.
If we can take away anything from this experience, it’s the opportunity to reset. This is the time to make purposeful changes to your daily life. To raise questions at work about how you work best! This is the time to start carving those new grooves and living in a way that aligns more with your purpose and values.
Look at your Life
It starts by asking some of the big questions in life. What is important to me? What values do I hold dear? How do I want to show up in the world? Maybe you’ve done some of this thinking before and maybe you haven’t. Either way – it’s a good time!
Author, Brian Johnson suggests starting with three key domains in your life – energy, work and love to align your purpose and values to the everyday actions in your life.
- Energy: Without your health, you can’t show up fully for your work or life so your energy is foundational to living your best life.
- Work: Happy people have meaningful work serving a purpose greater than themselves.
- Love: Cultivating connection with family, friends and community has been shown time and time again to create enduring wellbeing in life.
So let’s look at those in-depth…
Domain 1: Energy – lighting you up!
The pandemic has caused a fair amount of physical and mental stress. It’s important to acknowledge this as it takes a hit on our energy levels ongoingly. Research has found people with high energy are happier people.
So how do you increase your energy? There are two key ways we can create energy in your life – physiologically and psychologically.
Physiological – Creating energy physiologically means the basics of life – how you move, eat and sleep. How would you rate on the basics? It wasn’t a surprise when the lockdown first hit, many people were extolling the importance of eating well, moving your body and getting enough sleep. That’s because it protects us from physical and mental illness!
But it’s so easy to see these things as getting in the way of what we really want to do in your life. They become a chores that need to be done. Dr Michelle Segar, in her book No Sweat, suggests we reframe these chores to instead seeing them as a gifts.
Dr Segar suggests connecting exercise (or eating healthily or sleeping enough) with the short term benefits it brings to your life. That’s right, forget about vague promises that it’s good for your health and think about how it makes you feel today.
She also suggests focusing on the smallest improvements. For example, instead of trying to fit in our hour of rigorous exercise, she says make it a game to find OTM – Opportunities To Move throughout your day. She says – everything counts!
You may think that your day is crammed so full that you can’t fit in one more thing, but believe me: It’s not true. If you’ve got one minute, you’ve got time.”
Dr Michelle Segar, Author, No Sweat
Like finding a parking spot furtherest away from the supermarket, train station or workplace rather than the closest (you’ll be spoilt for choice!). Taking the stairs rather than the lift (easy way to avoid the crowds!). Taking a walk during your lunch break or while the kids are taking their music class or when meeting with a colleague. How many opportunities to move do you have in your day?
Psychological – You can also create energy psychologically too. I’m sure you’ve had the up and down of negative thoughts and emotions over the last few months. Recognising the emotions you are feeling, acknowledging them in the moment and realising they will pass are vital skills to manage the stress.
There are a number of scientifically validated mental tools to get you in the right frame of mind too, training your mental resilience through focus training, gratitude, confidence building and hope.
It starts by spending small moments thinking, talking or reflecting about what you are grateful for, what goals you have for the future, reframing mistakes and acting in integrity with your values. Setting habits to review what you are grateful for, your purpose, goals and values can help cultivate your mental strength and resilience to weather the highs and lows in life.
The more you move away from our values, the more you feel stressed and anxious in your life. Instead, aim for coherence between your purpose, values and goals and your everyday actions.
Domain 2: Work – serving the planet with your greatest strengths
What conditions help you to do your greatest work? Think about where prefer to work? What time do you have the greatest energy? What cues help you to focus? What gets you in the zone? This is what top companies obsess about – helping their people do their greatest work. What did you learn about this during lockdown?
Did you learn you work best from five to seven in the morning?
Did you learn you were most productive with less distractions around you?
Did you learn what triggers you into your most productive work?
What percentage of your work allows you to use your greatest strengths? Psychologist, Martin Seligman found using your strengths makes you more productive, happier and engaged at work! Are you making the best use of your greatest strengths?
The challenge becomes creating space and time to focus on your strengths deeply within your diary. In Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, he suggests your ability to focus deeply at work is becoming increasing uncommon. Think – notifications, open plan working, back to back meetings or 24/7 email. Yet, this deep work is becoming more and more valuable in our economy.
The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”
Cal Newport, Author, Deep Work
Your deep work is your life’s work. It’s building a body of work that makes you proud. We tend to overestimate what we can achieve in a day and underestimate what we can achieve in a year. So what is the focus for your next 12 months and how are you breaking that down and working towards it little by little every single day?
You can’t do eight hours of deep work every day though so Brian Johnson suggests you match your the energy levels to the type of work you want to do. You want to create rhythms to do your best (deep) work when you have your greatest energy and the oscillate your deep work time blocks with time with your team (team work) and then the monkey work (email, admin and so on) as well as some time to rest (don’t forget this too)!
Domain 3: Love – cultivating moments of connection
The pandemic has given many of us a huge wake up call about how much time we are spending with our loved ones. A recent newspaper article shared how many leaders had been able to reset during the lockdown, realising that events every night of the week was not only burning them out energy wise but slowly disconnecting them from their partner and children.
Clayton Christensen, Harvard professor and author of How will your Measure your Life? suggests we live in a culture that over invests in work and under invests in our close personal relationships.
The relationships you have with family and close friends are going to be the most important sources of happiness in your life. But you have to be careful. When it seems like everything at home is going well, you will be lulled into believing that you can put your investments in these relationships on the back burner. That would be an enormous mistake. By the time serious problems arise in those relationships, it often is too late to repair them.”
Clayton Christensen, Author, How Will you Measure your Life?
I’m not saying don’t focus on your work I’m saying actively take the time to cultivate the love in your life too! Career or business success can be super important, for sure, but it is not the only ‘capital’ you want to build in your life
Are you building a life which allows you to be the healthiest version of you?
Are you building a life which allows you to connect with your partner and children?
Are you building a life which allows you to be an active member in your community?
Time to RESET?
Undoubtedly, this pandemic has had immeasurable effects to our global world. This, on top of insane environmental, social, political and cultural challenges, has left many of feeling off kilter.
This was the gift of 2020. Not the year many of us might of imagined but a gift no less. Any opportunity to reset. An opportunity to re-imagine. An opportunity to reconnect. Are you making the most of this opportunity?
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