I’m too tired, achey, burnt, frazzled, blah, blah, blah…
Life speeds by and half the time we feel lucky to just catch a glimpse, let alone jump in and play. We work insane hours, endure unyielding pressure, strive for inhuman goals and lumber around increasingly fatigued, stressed, in pain, frazzled and just plain old burnt. We barely have enough juice to get through each day.
The reality is, we’re caught in a bit of a vicious cycle.
Relentless hours lead us to neglect our bodies and minds, which, in turn leads to poorer sleep, weight gain, physical pain, slower and worse decision-making, planning and problem-solving, decreased efficiency and brain function, increased cardiovascular impairment and disease risk—which all leads to the need to work longer hours to get the same volume of work done. Which leads to more stress, more pain, more fatigue. Get the picture?
The vicious-cycle is the bad news. The good news is…
The way out has been right in front of us…for some 2,500 years.
Before you can effectively pursue your bliss (or even right your ship), you’ve got to live well in the world, maximize your physical state and minimize your distractions.
Put another way, for you to succeed in any career or life endeavor, especially one that will require an extraordinary amount of energy and work, you need to clear your psychic plate and you need…
- A body that’s not only not riddled with aches and fatigue, but strong, energized and healthy and
- A mind that is free of distractions and fully capable of sustaining a serious, concerted effort for an extended period of time.
Physical pain, poor sleep, lack of energy, ill-health, disease, stress and all manner of physical and mental discord are mega-distractions to the ultimate goal.
The old dudes were onto something…
The ancient Greeks came to the same conclusion, viewing intense daily physical practices as a necessary element of the pursuit of scholarly success thousands of years ago. The yogic sage Patanjali codified a similar realization in the classic Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, revealing the need to follow the yamas and niyamas, their version of the 10 Commandments, exercise and meditate in preparation for pursuit if higher level thought and awakening.
The lustrous little-men in loincloths (I’m sure to be drummed out of the yoga world for calling them that) remedied this by prescribing a set of fairly simple daily practices that, done regularly, would bring the body and mind into a place of optimal health. They called it yoga.
Others call it exercise, meditation, movement, visualization, breathing exercises, relaxation-response training, mindfulness and on and on. They are all points on a continuum of practices that, done daily, profoundly enhance your physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual states.
Just like the yogis of old in search of bliss, your ability to dramatically decrease physical discomfort, ease stress, reduce your likelihood of a wide variety of life-altering or ending disease and regain your peace of mind is a necessary prerequisite to attaining what you want out of life. It fuels your effort and greatly diminishes the bodily and mental distractions that keep you from investing yourself more fully in achieving what’s most important.
Modern research proves exercise makes you smarter, more efficient and better looking (okay, I made up that last one)…
For those not convinced by the wisdom of the sages, there is a growing body of science that now proves the impact of exercise on your brain’s everyday and “executive” functions—complex problem-solving, decision-making and planning.
- Exercise doubles late-day efficiency – A classic NASA study contrasted the work-efficiency of employees who exercised versus that of those who did not. During the last two-hours of an eight-hour day, the non-exercisers efficiency dropped dramatically by 50%. At the same time, those employees who exercised maintained near 100% efficiency, allowing them to accomplish twice the amount of work in the final two hours of the day. Exercise actually breeds efficiency.
- Fittest bodies yield the fittest brains – In a 2007 study of 259 third and fourth graders, kids who were the fittest, as measured by a variety of flexibility, strength and cardiovascular benchmarks, scored higher in math and reading than their less fit counterparts in statewide standardized tests, even controlling for socio-economic and other outside factors.
- Exercise has immediate impact on productivity and interpersonal performance at work – A 2005 study of 210 workers by Professor Jim McKenna at Leeds Metropolitan University revealed that, on the day that employees exercise, not only their mood, but their work performance was substantially improved, as measured by their ability to manage their time, increase output, and improve mental and interpersonal performance.
- Aerobic exercise grows brain cells responsible for executive function – According to an October 2007 Newsweek article, a series of recent studies by Professor Arthur Kramer, a psychologist at the University of Illinois and others, show daily aerobic exercise can actually grow new brain cells, especially in the hippocampus, the area that controls memory and learning, and the frontal lobes, which are chiefly responsible for executive functions. Dozens of studies back this up, yielding improved performance on psychological tests, the ability to answer question more quickly and accurately. Interestingly, the research also seems to show that there is a use it or lose effect once you are well into adulthood. Stop exercising and the increases quickly fade.
Of course, this comes as no surprise to a growing cadre of executives who have been embracing daily practices, from exercise to yoga to meditation, in record numbers over the last 20 years. The big news over the last 10-years is that we now have hard science to back up the claims.
So, what’s the answer?
Stop kvetching and start moving, breathing, meditating and visualizing.
Yes, it’ll take a little time to learn. Frankly, it’ll be a pain in the ass, require changing around your schedule a bit and maybe even create a few more aches in the short-term as your creaky body adapts to movement.
And, the meditation and visualization will be a huge challenge for the first four to six weeks, but once you begin to find your zen-groove and these practices develop into habit, your professional abilities, options and achievements will be vastly improved for the effort.
What am I missing?
Ever tried any of these (and stuck to it)?
What was the impact?
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