As the days draw in, I’ve been taking some time to reflect on what makes life enjoyable and engaging. Recent walks with family and friends as the leaves turn have been nourishing. Here’s a pic of my sister and me at Attingham Park in Shropshire. I wonder where you go to revive your spirits?
We are moving through turbulent and tricky times. As Camilla Cavendish observed recently in the Financial Times: “In six short weeks Britain has acquired Italian-style politics and finances, without the sunshine.”
Amid all the uncertainty and dissatisfaction, however, is the opportunity for a creative response rather than becoming passive or disengaged. I share more reflections below about what’s trending in leadership and how we can use these insights to craft a more fulfilling life and career.
How to live your best life
How meaningful does your life feel right now? For one minute, shut your eyes and ponder that question….. Now, how would you score that feeling on a scale of 1-10? (where 10 is ‘I feel energised and meaningfully engaged’ and 1 ‘I feel deflated and lack any sense of meaning’.)
Getting a grip on your current reality is the starting point for change to happen. Until we acknowledge what’s so, what’s possible stays out of reach. It might be an uncomfortable place to start but being truthful with ourselves opens up the inquiry about what would be more energising.
How does your day start?
A recent episode from a popular podcast, The Diary of A CEO, got me thinking. The podcast host, Steven Bartlett (a British businessman, entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den investor) was chatting with Dr Rangan Chatterjee in a conversation titled ‘Why you need to care about your morning routine.’
As many of us know, getting off to the right start is important for how the rest of our day goes and the attitude we take into our activities. A good morning can make a day, a bad morning can make it hard to recover from there.
Dr Chatterjee gave some wise advice to make sure you have a balanced, healthy morning. He talked about how a great day is never further away than taking just five minutes to become present and to connect with what really matters. I find that really inspiring: just five minutes can make all the difference to how a day turns out.
He spoke about how we all have a ‘stress threshold’ – that moment when we snap at our kids or become grumpy and go silent. When we wake up in the morning, we’re often far away from this threshold, but maybe not for long. We switch on our phone and read our emails. A snarky comment from a colleague or a post on Instagram makes us cross. As the day goes on, we might feel stressed by the growing list of emails that need a response, social media posts or guilt for not contacting a friend in need.
Dr Chatterjee calls these little hits of stress: ‘micro stress doses’. Each one gets us closer to our threshold. We might think that when we snap it’s all to do with that email we’ve just received at 3pm but by then we might be carrying 20 micro stress doses and they all add up.
The point is, that by taking care of our morning routine, we build resilience that protects us from getting mad or feeling bad later in the day when stress stacks up. Inspired by Dr Chatterjee I realise there are three elements to my morning routine that strengthen me for the day ahead (movement, stillness and inspiring words.) On a packed day, five minutes is all I can manage but I know the difference it makes:
* I am much more likely to be present in other moments if I’ve taken some time to become present early in the day
* Intuitive flashes arrive that never would have happened had I been caught up in my busyness
* It gets me out of worry and distraction so that my mind can open to new possibilities
I wonder what’s a good morning routine is for you? How could you nurture your desire to live your best life by taking a few moments to yourself at the start of the day?
I recently learnt a new acronym which was coined to capture how some pack in cross-training, running, meditation, ice-cold baths and ‘bullet journaling’ in the hours when most of us are snoozing.
MMMTMs (macho, masochistic mornings) are, apparently trending among those hoping to scale the corporate ladder. Whilst this gruelling start to the day might work for some, it leaves me feeling exhausted just reading about it.
Living your best life is less about making change happen and more about allowing change to flow in. When we drive ourselves so hard, there is little spaciousness for the unexpected, the unsought after or synchronicity. I recently realised that virtually all my client work – whether at Saïd Business School, Livewell Southwest or Choice Support – came and found me.
When we do what is ours to do, life has a flow that we miss out on when we’re trying too hard. And not only that. When we experience discomfort, challenge and opposition, we can weather these stormy times. As a client said to me:
“Purpose is my anchor, it is stronger than my fear.”
Making our lives more meaningful calls for courage. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of change can scupper our next step unless we find ways to feel our fear and move out in the face of it.
Back to you
Now take a moment to list the top five activities that might improve your score on the 1-10 scale. Which single activity could you do now? Take a break and, if you can, do it now. Enjoy the inflow of energy!