I am not sure about you, but the last two weeks were some of the most challenging of my career.
I have been consumed by the daily swings—the highs and lows—that seem to just keep coming at us. And I can’t help but think about the emotional impact these shifts are having on my physical and mental state.
As a business leader, how do you stay grounded when the pendulum is swinging so violently?
Specifically, how do you stay positive during these tumultuous times? How do you engage customers who are “eerily quiet and paralyzed,” as one of my clients recently described them? And how do you engage your employees, all of whom are looking to be inspired and led through this crisis?
Six months ago, I attended a Conscious Capitalism conference in Austin, Texas. I found myself in session on self-care and self-communication—an odd place to be with 100 other CEOs—and the experience would change the opening direction of my year.
The leader of this session, Dr. Neha, began by having each of us complete a “Medical Symptoms Questionnaire.” To my complete shock, she then started passing around the microphone for each CEO to share his or her various ailments. It was staggering to hear such a typically private group open up about their problems to a group of total strangers.
“I gained 50 lbs.”
“I had a stroke.”
After each person spoke, Dr. Neha would respond with the same 5 questions:
- Why this (part of your body, stroke, etc.)?
- Why now (what did you need to learn right now, in this moment)?
- What signals did you miss?
- What else in your life needs to be healed?
- If you spoke from your heart, what would you say?
At the core of everyone’s issue—no surprise—stress.
Stress is the root cause of 95% of health issues according to Dr. Neha. The lack of self-care and our unwillingness to be vulnerable as leaders was a problem even before this Coronavirus epidemic.
After Dr. Neha’s session, I made a commitment that I would do something special for myself. After some interesting discussions with close friends and my wife (who is always so gracious about supporting my kooky ideas), I booked a 10-day solo hiking trip to Peru and Patagonia, which I actually did in January of this year.
It was an intentionally self-reflective way to spend my 50th birthday. I can still remember being alone in the small town of Puerto Natales, at the bottom of the world, eating a piece of cheesecake as I marked 50 years on this planet.
But that was then. And with the devastation caused by this virus unfolding all around us, this is hardly the time for a slide show or some cheesy trip recap.
What I did want to share is a new morning ritual that I put in place for myself while in South America. Sharing it today is for me as much as it is for you. It looked something like this:
Paul’s Morning Ritual:
- Meditate first thing every day (10 minutes). I am using a popular app called Headspace
- Do not look at phone until after breakfast.
- Make a list of what you are feeling grateful for.
- Write or journal every day.
- Write a two-minute (max) positive email to a new person each day, praising or thanking them. Be specific.
- Be fully present when you meet someone today.
- Once a day, try to truly consider the perspective of somebody else. Listen intently!
If I spoke from my heart right now, what would I say?
Well, if I am being completely honest, I would say this morning ritual went right out the window in the last two weeks with the Coronavirus. And I am feeling the negative effects.
It is sending me a message, like it did for Dr. Neha.
My question to you and to myself is this: How can we possibly care for our teams and our families if we are not taking care of ourselves? If you are compulsively checking Reddit, all the news is horrible and frankly it’s depressing. You check those sites normally. Only now you do it 20x more.
We must nourish ourselves. We need to listen to our bodies. We must communicate with candor (like this).
We need positive inputs and we need to have rituals and traditions that help us manage the incredible stress related to our respective positions in business.
If you are looking for ways to start, I can recommend a few things:
- Check out the calming tones and voice of Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe.
- Order a copy of Dr. Neha’s book, Talk RX, for specific advice on how to listen to the connection between your health and happiness. I highly recommend it.
- What’s on Your List (one personal and one professional goal)? Learn how Sebastian Terry has helped millions of people to grow, connect and find purpose in their personal and professional lives with his 100 Things Movement.
In the meantime, listen to your body and take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.
– Paul Giobbi, President, Zumasys