Sleep is apparently a little known secret to good leadership that is critical to high performance and well-being. It is not just for beauty rest; there are plenty of leadership and health reasons for getting a good night’s sleep.
It has unfortunately become acceptable and even encouraged in our society to ‘stay busy’. Nature cycles and human beings are a part of this nature. When we disrupt our natural sleep cycles in favor or ‘getting more done’ we actually become less effective. Typically, because we don’t take time to reflect on what is purposeful and important to us, we often find ourselves doing things that are not really relevant to our own goals and dreams.
Did you think, ‘what goals and dreams?’ Some of us have lost sight of what is truly important to us.
We become addicted to ‘to-do’ lists without holding a clear endpoint goal in mind. This is energetically inefficient and draining. There’s typically no passion in this and thus it becomes hard work instead of enjoyable. It can also take much longer to do when we are not focused. Also, because our society tends to devalue self-nurturance, play and creative relaxing pursuits, many people feel guilty or invalidated by those around them when they attempt to live with more balance and restoration.
Well, it takes courage and vision to create space in your life so that you can stay healthy – spirit, mind and body. It takes courage to listen to your heart above the noise of the many distractions vying for your attention and your money. And it will take courage and focused attention to slow down in the evening early enough to get your mind and body prepared to go to sleep at a decent hour. Here are 3 benefits to encourage you to consider how sleep can help you to become a better leader:
Emotional Intelligence is the mind of the heart, the right-brain in metaphoric terms. Realize that language has its limitations and speaking in terms of the English language, subtleties can be lost – such as having only one word for, ‘love’. When culture moved away from communicating with images, we also moved away from an appreciation of what the right-brain has to offer us as a human civilization. This is unfortunate as our feelings are powerful influencers over the quality of our lives.
We lost the language of the heart to a great degree. Symbolism and imagery, specialties of the right brain, allowed us to use our individual imaginations more consciously and to connect easier with our feelings. When we only live in our left-brain logic, the attempt to circumscribe words into ‘black or white’ meaning, we really lose much of the richness and depth to human relationship and life. We tend to try to live only in our heads. Just think – where would the head be without the body and its heart? They need each other.
Logic and our left-brain are only a part of the equation; we need both hemispheres to attain sustainable joy and happiness. The tendency as a culture – as a human race in general – to deny and repress our emotion and feeling is one reason why we are so emotionally UN-intelligent. It is the primarily reason why so many people still live, as Henry David Thoreau said,
…. lives of quiet desperation.
We can change this. We do not have to live life like this. There are many benefits from embracing your right-brain ‘heart’ including creating a vision for your life that is purposeful and being better able to relate to others. We have the power to ‘NeuroReInvent’ our self. Now this is innovation! It’s innovation on our outdated attitude of belittling personal growth and development as if you must have ‘something wrong with you’ if you raise your hand that you need more emotional intelligence or self-awareness. Truth is, we all do.
We, human beings, love stories. One of the all time favorite theme is, ‘The Hero’s Journey’. Adventure stories and the lessons from ‘fairy tales’ were, and still are, at the top of my list of favorite movies, books and conversations. This is why movies like, ‘The Hobbit’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’ and even more contemporary movie settings in the ‘adventure’ genre are so popular. Too often we only live vicariously through the movies and lives of others. We see this journey in others yet remain blind to our own personal hero or ‘shero’ journey.
A facet of ‘self-awareness’ is recognizing that we are all on this journey. Our lives are an adventure of self-discovery, other-discovery and life-on-earth discovery. This includes the work that we do in the world. Do you perceive your work as a ‘hardship’ or a place to uncover your true potential? Do you see it as stressful, or simply a challenge to expand your vision for your life? How you perceive your self and your experience will determine how you respond to it – to your life.
We are all a hero on a journey and our journey defines our message. Take notes along the way so that you can then share your lessons.
I see a lot of unhappiness coming across the airways. I hear messages about what’s wrong with ‘us’. There are an awful lot of people at the office and generally, scrambling to ‘fix’ themselves in some way, shape or form. Here’s a novel thought – ever think about the fact that you are simply on a ‘Hero/Shero Journey?’
It seems to me that many people are short on time and long on things to do. This certainly was an issue of mine also at one time. What I learned during those years was, time wasn’t the issue as much as it was energy and focus. Lack of clarity and reflection time often drains the brain.
When we are not clear about where we want to go and “why”, we waste a lot of our energy and without passion and clarity, you are not likely to have much productivity. You may certainly have plenty of activity, but these are not the same thing; long hours often don’t equal productivity.
I see this over activity as a type of “addiction”. I sometimes hear people say that they “can’t sit still”, that they feel that they “should” be busy. We have worked our way up to frenzy with ADD type symptoms in our culture. This is no way to live or work. We would get more done in less time by making time to reflect, rest and have some fun. One reason why innovation is in short supply is that we are too busy to slow down to let our creative juices flow.
A busy mind is not very creative. When we give our left busy brain a break, and intentionally create space for mindfulness practice by engaging our right brain more and resting the left our productivity improves. Breathing deeply and making time to gain clarity about our strategy, projects and what is purposeful for us will allow us to experience:0
Emotional intelligence is beginning to be recognized as a powerful contributor to business intelligence – “soft” skill or not. I’m all for respecting the intellect and I’m all for respecting our intuitive, feeling mind as well. I have a book on order, “Descartes Error”, by Antonio R. Damasio. I’m looking forward to reading it, as Damasio studies emotion and the brain.
I realized years ago, that there was erroneous rational conclusion in the statement that Descartes made, “I think therefore I am”. Feelings define our “state” more than thinking. Thinking can trigger the feeling state, but it is feeling that drives our mood, our action and powerfully impacts our decisions. It is feeling that when ignorantly handled create dysfunctional cultures and repression and causes lack of self-control and fear.
Our emotions cloud our vision if they are murky. If they are stagnant, we become like a repugnant cesspool over time. Emotion and feeling were meant to flow, just as water and life flows. Water is a symbol for emotion. Emotion is “energy in motion”. Ironically, the less skillful people are with their emotional intelligence, the more volatile, angry and inauthentic they tend to be.
What are some of the personal and business issues that show up in our lives when we fear and repress our feelings?
1. Emotional volatility (Paradoxically with repression, the dam bursts periodically)
2. Ineffective communication and tendency toward relationship dysfunction
3. High blood pressure and other chronic health issues
4. Tendency toward lack of clarity of one’s vision and purpose and the vicious cycles of stress
5. Lack of inner peace, confidence
Believe me, this is the short list; there’s lots more. It’s more than challenging to be an inspirational leader or to enjoy your work when you are blind to what you “don’t know that you don’t know” is limiting your true potential. A big chunk of these unknown factors are our emotional blind spots. These misperceptions are like “cataracts of the heart and mind”. It’s the undercurrents of those stagnant, “don’t talk about it” feelings that make them bigger than life.
Our leadership “true potential” is not realized simply by inspiring other or feeling inspired or just having more information; knowledge is not really power until it is applied. Recognition or an “aha” are only nice, interesting tidbits until you muster up the courage to make the change. Courage is a funny thing; it does not mean the absence of fear. It is primarily an intention to feel fear, but to go ahead and proceed anyway. Understanding the source of FEAR, mostly Fictitious Evidence Affecting Reality in our brain, can help to alleviate it.
To me, courage and leadership go hand in hand. Leadership often requires one to step out of the proverbial comfort zone and guide the way into new and sometimes uncharted territory. It is also an act of courage at times to deal with one’s own blind spots so that growth for both the individual and the team can happen. Leaders need to lead by example not just by charisma, if real change and sustainable improvement is going to be made. Leaders need to get comfortable with change or else they need to stop calling themselves, “leaders”.
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly, ~Henri Bergson
What is the challenge that makes change so, well, challenging? Why do we try to keep our self, “just the way we are?” In a nutshell, it is our perception about “feelings”. We have unwittingly conditioned – yes conditioned – ourselves to fear our feelings. Feelings are associated with “states” of being. Feelings come to surface when we are in the midst of change. Avoiding feeling is to our own detriment. Here are a few interesting points about feelings.
Reaching true potential is easier said than done. We’ve conditioned our brain and mind to trust outside of our self. Once I garnered the courage to color outside of the boundaries of what I was “informed” from those around me to be “true”, I really began to grow. Here’s the catch: I had to learn to trust myself. It’s amazing for me now to notice just how much we are willing to let “science” or others dictate to us what works for us and what doesn’t. Actually, there is much trial and error going on, even in science. And then there is perception, meaning, one authority says “X” and one will say “Y” about the same outcome.
So who to believe? I would believe my own experience before I would research – and of course, research has its place. It does help the logical mind to process and put tangible structure to the concept. The lesson is to allow space for “both”, instead of either/or, black or white. We can better own our power though if we are willing to:
1. Rest and renew our minds
2. Reconnect with our heart to uncover our core values – and recognize that we evolve
3. Reflect on new ideas, does it fit our current model? Does our model need to evolve? Does it align with our values? Do our values still support and expand our genius, joy, and inner peace?
After all, science can’t even define or explain gravity – it still affects our daily lives. Just because you can’t explain it intellectually doesn’t mean you will not hit the ground hard if you jump off of a tall building. Currently, most people are simply doing what the late psychologist William James said:
“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”
Innovation, adapting to change and having peace of mind depend not on what you see, but “how” you see it. Here are some tips to help you shorten your “to do” list, increase your clarity and decrease your overwhelm. Let’s look at work. There is so much busyness and “doing” that it has gotten out of control and is causing suffering and illness now.
This chronic state of needing to “get stuff done” has become a great source of dis-ease, not only in mind but also in the body. I’ve been reflecting on this social ill more deeply recently, and I’ve had some insights that I’ve been applying with great results. Of course, we are all still growing, including the so-called “gurus”.
Before listing some tips, realize ahead of time here that “work is never done”. Free your mind from the concept that you will ever reach a place while here on earth that you have external “stand still”. Change is constant. Once you finish a project or task, there will always be something else. Life evolves. Now, I’m not even going to address how some external voices continuously try to manipulate you into buying things that are really not purposeful or your true heart’s desire. That is a conversation all about creating the perception of lack or something is missing in you to get you to “need” something.
These tips listed below are just to suggest that in order to slow down and shorten your “to do list”, you need to create some clarity. So here goes:
Achieving business success requires more than collecting advanced degrees and learning sales and marketing strategies. These things are useful, but we are so “dis-integrated” in our thinking these days, that we miss the forest (the big picture) because we are so busy trying to cut down trees (“doing stuff” and gathering information).
We need to integrate and do both and do it with clarity and a clear and passionate “why”. Gaining clarity and “why” though is a product of making time to slow down and reflect. If we do it this way, paradoxically, we’ll likely get more done with genuine productivity, easier and in less time. Now wouldn’t that be nice?
You may also start to enjoy your life again as you find more time for relationships and self-care…. maybe you can even nurture the source of your very life force – your spirit!
I have personally and experientially found out, even before the brain science started to document the fact that self-mastery requires a tangible understanding of how to “retrain our brain”. Why retrain? Because for the most part, the way that most people have wired their brain does not serve their highest good or support their true potential.
In this post, however, I want to focus on five things you can do to begin to boost your brain’s power and efficiency, even if you don’t yet understand techniques to rewire it. Here are 5 Tips to Boost Brain Power and Productivity the “soft” – and powerful – way:
Happiness is a perception that is subject to how one sees life, how one interprets their circumstances. Brain research essentially shows we create our “reality” by assigning the meaning to our lives. Research shows that our ability to create and manage positive emotions is one of the foundations for success (and happiness) in business and life.
Whether or not we are happy is often not so much about what we do or how much money or associations we have as it is about the level of self-awareness we have to engage our mind and heart in our activity. While there are studies that connect happiness with better health, meaningful relationships and meaningful work – the key is “meaningful”. What does it mean to you?
Judging how materialistic our society is and how little attention is given by our educational system to develop the unique talents and interests of individuals, we still believe that happiness is outside of ourselves. We continue to “look for love in all the wrong places”. We still believe that we can “do” happiness, or “get” happiness through more “stuff”.
Business and material “success” does not necessarily make us happy. If it did, Americans should be some of the happiest people in the world. Polls have actually shown quite the contrary and we have frighteningly high rates of depression, obesity, debt and disease despite high-income levels. The answer lies in realizing that the path to happiness is an inner journey.
It’s not that having things is bad; it just that when we associate our identity with them, they have us – we get stuck.
When we can truly love and compassionately accept who we are, independently of what we “do” then we can “be” more joyful and fulfilled as we do our work in the world. The happier and more at peace that we are, the more likely we will be prosperous and healthy. Our choices are more likely to be done with clarity and with less effort and “hard work” (“hard” is mostly due to resistance, versus “flow”). When we recognize that our minds are conditioned to focus on what we fear or don’t want, we can learn to “retrain our brain” to change our focus of attention.2