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Why energy management and self-care are vital for sustainable success

In a world where uncertainty, increased risks, ongoing change and bad news are constant, leadership can feel draining. We can forget that creating sustainable leadership success is a marathon, not a sprint. 

The result is that we struggle to cope. In fact, one in five Australians has taken time off work in the past 12 months due to stress, anxiety or depression. This means about 20% of the workforce has been absent and unable to deliver sustainable success for their organisations.

Recently, I was coaching the senior leaders of a global technology company. Their teams were spread across all time zones. Meetings could happen any time of the day or night, and many people in the program only slept two or three hours a night. Needless to say, performance suffered. The leaders tried all sorts of improvement mechanisms before realising that a lack of sleep was the main contributing factor. When these leaders decided to make self-care a high priority, performance improved rapidly.

Sound familiar?

Ignoring basic needs comes at a high cost

Our bodies have evolved over thousands of years in alignment with the natural environment. Human beings are biological organisms with specific vital needs. These needs have not changed in 2021 simply because we have a faster, more virtually connected lifestyle. Our basic needs must still be met so we can function and perform well.

Ignoring or violating these laws of nature leads to increased stress levels and decreased health and wellbeing. Practising intentional self-care puts you back in alignment with the natural flow of life, reducing negative stress and burn-out, and making work and life more effortless.

We often say we need more time. But what we truly need are better balanced and aligned energies.  Because we don’t always understand this, we can put a lot of effort into the least-effective strategies to improve performance.

Energy management is more important than time management 

Time is a finite resource. It is the only fair resource on Earth, as every person gets 24 hours per day. Energy, on the other hand, is an infinite and naturally occurring resource. When you manage your energy levels well, you have more energy per time unit. This means you can achieve more in less time.

The energy you bring to your work is often more important than what you say or do. Other people unconsciously react to how you show up as a leader. If you are not well, you radiate your struggles onto other people.

Thus, the most kind and effective thing you can do for yourself and others is to show up as your best, most energised self.

Self-care is an undervalued leadership skill

The positive vibration of a calm and confident body and mind is infectious. It spreads optimism, hope and joy in challenging times.

However, taking care of oneself can feel indulgent. We often mistakenly believe self-care means we are only looking out for ourselves. Unfortunately, when the outside world becomes more demanding and crazy, exercise, good food, enough sleep and catch-ups with friends are usually the first things to go.

This might be fine for a while, but not for the long term. In Australia, it is estimated about 20% to 30% of all fatal road accidents are caused by tiredness. On the road, the consequences of a tired brain are obvious. The same is true for workplaces.

Fatigue kills performance. Thus, self-care is not selfish – it is a service to the whole community.

So, ask yourself, what does effective self-care look like for you?

Self-care is your foundation for sustainable success

Self-care is the management of your energy balance. It includes all the healthy activities that improve your holistic wellbeing and performance.

Self-care needs a personalised, systemic approach – not just exercising a bit more or eating healthier. Think about how you can enhance your physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual wellbeing. Also, consider the energy you get from your social connections and the natural environments you connect with.

A simple way to improve your self-care is to create an EnergyMap with all the activities, environments and people that drain or give you energy. Choose a couple of areas you can influence now and work on those.

Leaders who show up as their best, most energised selves are better influencers. They spread their positive energy to everyone around them. Thus, being able to manage your personal energy levels sets you up for sustainable success.

Written by Ingrid Messner.

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Ingrid Messner
Ingrid Messner, author of Naturally Successful: How wise leaders manage their energy, influence others and create positive impact, is a mentor, coach, facilitator and speaker who supports leaders and teams to optimise their positive impact, performance and wellbeing. Using a holistic and practical approach, she improves leadership effectiveness while connecting people back to nature and ancient wisdom.

Ingrid Messner is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.