I recently participated in the first of two week-long residencies at the Teleos Executive Coach Development Program, a fantastic program taught by leadership luminaries like Annie McKee and Fran Johnston. As you might expect from a program run by emotional intelligence experts, the week highlighted the brain research showing that deliberate acts of personal renewal reduce stress and create other physiological benefits.
Personal renewal is, well, personal. What increases my resilience might not work for you, and vice versa. For instance, meditation might be a powerful tool for some while exercise might be just as effective for others. People also recharge by connecting to spiritual beliefs (e.g., through prayer), visiting a dear friend, or immersing themselves in deep cognitive thinking. Bottom line: research points to the positive effects of renewal, and fortunately there are many ways to renew.
I have a small confession to make. Sometimes when I try to deliberately recharge my batteries, it doesn’t work. I can’t clear my head. I end up feeling badly or more frustrated that I’ve “wasted” the time that I could have spent getting my work done. Or sometimes I get frustrated that I’m not “doing it right” when I don’t have a euphoric feeling of peace when I’m done.
Am I abnormal? Is this a career limiting confession? After all, Annie McKee and Fran Johnston are my bosses! Being an expert at renewal is a job requirement, right?
No to all of the above. Turns out, I’m experiencing the same frustrations felt by leaders all over the world who want to change. It’s also the challenge coaches face when working with such leaders. We rarely take time for ourselves, and many leaders are so achievement focused they want to see results right away. When we finally admit that we need to recharge, we are impatient for the results.
However, patience, persistence, and effort is required to realize any benefit from whatever type of renewal you choose. It is work. Yes, work. Renewal is an intentional act meant to refocus you on your priorities and to give you some lift. So, that means not working does not count as renewal; neither does sitting on the couch watching TV. Vacations help, but not if you take one every four years.
Because renewal works best when it’s a sustained, regular practice, it makes total sense that some renewal activities may be effective one day and feel ineffective next day. However, the benefits begin accumulating right away: a greater sense of clarity and calm to face life’s challenges, greater compassion for others, increased optimism, and even lower blood pressure and increased immunoresponse. So, on those occasions when renewal eludes you like it sometimes does for me, don’t discard your renewal practice. Keep at it! Maybe you’re just not into it that day. Or maybe you need to try a different approach (for me, the creative and cognitive act of writing gives me way more lift than meditation). For your sake, and for the sake of those you lead, make it a priority.