For many, balance means the tightrope tricks needed to properly invest time into work and personal endeavours. However, the idea of balance extends to how we prepare our minds and bodies to perform at their best, not only at work but also with our friends and family. The ideal balance encompasses the attitudes and actions that keep our brains in top condition.
Unfortunately, many of us are out of balance. It’s almost as if we are trying to walk on an ice rink without skates--we slide and try to stay up. To maintain proper balance, we should consider aspects such as physicality, down time and sociability. If you think of these three aspects as points on a triangle, balance is the goal in the middle.
Physicality refers to not only exercising and eating well but also to spend some time relaxing and playing. Down time means stopping to do nothing and to get enough rest. Quality sleep and regular breaks help accomplish more work in less time. Finally, sociability is the connection with other humans. Leaders must help teams connect and engage.
Indeed, a recent study found that social support at work helps create a better balance between work and other aspects of life, promoting better physical and mental health. Empathetic leaders who supported collaboration and teamwork were more likely to be socially supportive.2
MODERN LEADERSHIP REQUIRES BALANCE
But why should a leader care about balance? When the primary goal is only to make money for shareholders as quickly as possible, balance is easily forgotten. However, balance is required for sustainable leadership more than ever. The 24/7 way of living, with technology making us always on the clock, has blurred the lines for clear thinking and new ideas.
Leaders who want to achieve high performance must first achieve a balanced and functional brain. This also creates the foundation for all the attributes that make a strong leader.3
“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.”
CREATING BALANCE IN THE IMAGINATION AGE
With increasing demands from all angles, leaders must lead by example. When you value your physical and mental health, others will take the cue and follow. No person can handle all the factors of life without taking the time to reset.
To take care of yourself, try:
Slowing down your mind. Your leadership journey shouldn’t be a race to the finish. Slow down and give yourself some time to ponder and consider options. Try not to make automatic assumptions about people or situations around you.
Setting aside time to reflect on thoughts and ideas. Inspiration can be a fickle thing, and so often we are busy and pay it no mind. Great ideas may be lurking in your mind, but you have to give yourself time to hear these thoughts.
Taking a hard look at what you are eating. Neuroscience has shown how foods can delay or prevent cognitive deterioration as we age. Healthy food helps create and maintain a healthy mind and body. Understanding that brain health and gut health are woven together is the first step to improving performance.
Hugging. Nonsexual physical touching such as hugging or hand-holding shows empathy towards others. Hugs can help relieve stress & lower blood pressure, and the touch of another living being can lift spirits & create smiles. Snuggle with your pet, partner, child, or even your favourite pillow to help balance your brain.
Achieving balance won’t happen overnight, and you will likely find that it is difficult to maintain once you get there. Your life is a journey, and work is only one aspect. You can improve your sense of balance to create a healthy, high-functioning brain. These benefits will improve not only conditions at work, but also interactions between peers, colleagues, family members, and friends.
1. Hodgson M. Balance--The Secret Recipe for High Performance. About my Brain Institute. 2017. Available at: https://blog.aboutmybrain.com/balance-the-secret-recipe-for-high-performance
2. Lapierre LM, Li Y, Kwan HK, Greenhaus J, Direnzo M, Shao P. A Meta-Analysis of the Antecedents of Work-Family Enrichment. Journal of Organizational Behavior. 2018;39(4):385-401. DOI: 10.1002/job.2234
3. McLennan K. Building Leaders for the Imagination Age: The Case for the i4 Neuroleader Model. About my Brain Institute. 2016;1. [White Paper].