One big story emerged from the 2023 World Athletic Championships in Budapest: Australian Nina Kennedy and Olympic champion Katie Moon of the United States sharing gold after tying in a nail-biting women’s pole vault final. Many celebrated the decision, praising the duo for sports(wo)manships, while others criticized the two athletes for their unusual choice and (seemingly) lack of desire for victory.
When Kennedy finally spoke about her decision, she enlightened all of us about the implications of her sport and the danger she and her rival found themselves in just before they put a stop to the competition. It wasn’t about pride, lack of drive, or niceties: they knew they had to draw the line and stop because neither their bodies nor their minds would have carried them through to another jump. The mindset was not enough – there was no option for “mind over matter” – and the body was done. Such disconnect would only have resulted in a serious injury.
What we are pausing to think about here is the deep understanding that when body and mind are not aligned, in synch, congruent, athletes cannot perform at their best, and their actions show up as results.
Let’s take it to the boardroom
CEOs are none other than elite athletes in the business world, and their actions, too, show up as results. However, too many rely solely on their mindset during business hours and are not connected to their physicality. They sit at desks for the majority of the time, so their bodies are de-conditioned and they’re literally stuck in their heads. A strong mind is, of course, an essential ingredient for the success of a CEO, but when it’s in synch with a strong body, then performance can be elevated, and so does productivity.
Physicality is directly linked to creativity and critical thinking. Research has shown that when we move our bodies, we are able to activate our physical intelligence, our oldest and most crucial form of thinking. We create new neuro-pathways, we access more of our brain matrix, we concentrate better, we see the bigger picture, a different angle, we become more curious, we go deeper and find better solutions.
Shifting our attention
When we think about a “really good day at work”, we can easily relate to the external factors that contribute to making it so great: a successful meeting, increased sales, a breakthrough solution to a stalled project, and the list goes on. When we go internally, though, it is a bit harder to describe the reason behind it: we just know we are in the flow, in that sweet spot, where everything falls into place and just works out. The challenge facing leaders is to keep coming back to that feeling and being able to access it at the ready. To do so, we need to shift our attention from the external to that inner space where performance meets productivity, the space where the mind is sharp and the body is primed.
Activate the body
When your thoughts are stuck, and you can’t shift your energy at work, one of the quickest and most powerful solutions to lift your performance and recalibrate that crucial inner space is to activate your body with movement. My favorite strategy, and the fastest to implement, is to literally think on your feet and walk, putting a step in front of the other to physically (and mentally) move forward, away from the stillness we are anchored in. The blood starts pumping, we take in more information around us, we signal our brains with new connections, and we bring balance to our inner space.
There are many other ways to activate the body to keep peak performance while you work. Take short walks between meetings, answer a call while pacing the office, take regular active breaks, and swing your arms above your head while sitting down at your computer. It really is a matter of injecting more movement into your schedule and being a bit creative in the way you go about it.
Written by Brett Lillie.
Movement is a business strategy
Leading requires clarity, courage and creativity, all qualities that are heightened when body and mind work closely together. When you plan movement as an integral part of your business strategy, you give it importance and make it part of your routine, not only you are feeding a habit but you create best practice you can lean into to access the inner space where performance meets productivity.
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