There is growing recognition that there's a strong connection between health and wellbeing and productivity at work. At a time when organisations are cutting to the bone, companies such as IBM and Westpac still see the importance of investing in wellbeing programs for their staff. Why? Because it contributes to greater productivity, engagement and sustainable careers, therefore they retain their high achievers.
So if you're feeling flat at work, try working out!
I realised seven years ago that there is a strong connection between building physical and mental strength. When I push myself at the gym, it pushes me mentally. When I push myself in one area of my life it cascades into others.
So, how do you go about integrating sustainable change?
The last thing anyone wants to hear when they're trying to make changes in their life is "things don't happen quickly. It takes a long time to achieve change." Although this is absolutely true, it is neither encouraging nor useful when you are in the first phase of your journey.
A more helpful realisation is to notice that change is achieved by taking one step at a time, one day at a time. I know, another platitude, but when you implement one new behaviour, no matter how small, it does have a ripple effect. It either has an immediate impact on another behaviour or another area of your life. It all starts with taking one step in the right direction, and then another. When it comes to building long term, sustainable change it's more effective to implement just a couple of changes at a time, normalise those, then bring in another level of change, normalise that, then do it again and again.
Mind over matter
When you start to push yourself physically, there will initially be some mental resistance (and a lot of whingeing). You are pushing yourself beyond the restraints of your mind, and each time you will be able to go further and further, expanding your comfort zone. This state of mind will also expand into your career. You may find yourself taking more risks, and daring to do things you have hesitated to do in the past.
People who push the boundaries in the gym often have strong self discipline, are able to set goals and map out a strategy to achieve them. All essential skills to be successful at work.
Make a change in one area of your life, and see how it impacts your career!
‘Psychological resilience’ refers to the differences between how people respond and cope with difficult or stressful situations. People who are highly resilient are empowered to act confidently in a stressful situation, are less affected from stress, recover faster and are more open to personal growth from such occurrences.
Would that make a difference to your career?
Now think about this: It is widely acknowledged that mental disorders such as stress and depression have increased in recent years. People are also relying on technology to move less, eat faster and bring ease to their lives.
Could our lack of movement and poor food choices reduce our physical and mental resilience? Therefore, is the opposite also true, could becoming more physically active increase our resilience?
So how does exercise help?
Firstly, exercise not only strengthens our physiological make up but also releases endorphins, which are powerful chemicals that enhance our mood and self-esteem. Most people talk about what they can’t do but good personal trainers encourage you to focus on what you can do. Quite often, the lessons you learn from personal training enable you to apply these skills to the rest of your life with rewarding results.
Four key principles for being mentally resilient.
Responsibility – We may blame everyone and everything for our issues rather than take active steps to change whatever we are capable of. We choose what we think, how we feel and what we do. Exercise is a strategy to ensure you are responsible. Committing to yourself daily will teach you responsibility for being healthy and taking on the challenge yourself and teaches you to be responsible for your health. If its’ going to be, It’s up to me! In life this quote carries through and your resilience develops.
Adaptability – We may seem mentally healthy when we are suited to our normal conditions, i.e., our jobs, relationships and home etc, however if these conditions change and we are unable to adapt, we may be at risk of poor mental health. Exercise teaches your body and brain to adapt daily. From different classes to to trying something new you are put in a place where you learn and adapt, learn and adapt!
Commitment – A key aspect of commitment is that it provides us with meaning in our lives. If we ask ourselves, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ then our commitments should provide the answer (note: yours should be in various areas, not just one or two i.e., relationships, career, health, home, wealth, leisure). Exercise teaches you to commit to yourself when perhaps you would rather do something else or rationalize in your mind some excuse.
Confidence – Is the belief in your ability to get things done. We may prefer to stay in our comfort zone but eventually everything changes and unless we change our comfort zone, these become comfort traps and can sabotage our happiness! Exercise gets you out of your comfort zone. How do you feel once you have accomplished something you didn't think you could do?
By practicing these steps to building resilience through exercise, you will learn things about yourself that will give you the strength to harness that little voice inside. This voice can be your best friend or worst nightmare.
There is one simple way to tell - how are your senior leaders shaping up???
Are they setting an example which inspires others to want to follow in their footsteps? If the answer is no, then perhaps the change needs to start at the top.
Success is more than a reflection of what's in your bank account.
Are you happy doing what you're doing? Do you have healthy relationships in your life? Do you have time to live life? Are you healthy?
I often see people move into senior roles and when I catch up with them at the 6 month mark, I see visible changes. At 12 months, it's even more telling. The long hours, the after hours functions, the lack of planning for nutrition and exercise all take their toll. On top of this, stress levels start to go through the roof, and there are no coping mechanisms in place. Not a sustainable position to be in.
A corporate wellbeing program is far more than offering flu shots and having a fruit basket in the kitchen. It's about changing a mindset. You need to be the best version of you to have the mental and physical stamina, balance, resilience and mindfulness to thrive, yet where do you see evidence of wellbeing practices in the workplace? Not just the annual 10,000 steps program, but on a daily basis.
So ask yourself some questions:
What is one area you could start working on to make changes? Start with small changes, just make a start. Which area would have the biggest impact if you made changes? It's amazing how getting some small wins can have a cascading effect.
I've worked in the corporate sector for 30 years and have always had a curiosity for people who are successful in business and in life.