In this series, we're focusing on nourishing a culture of leadership by applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this episode, we're exploring the principle of balance. Being aware of whether you are in a state of balance or out of your state of balance is critical to being able to being productive, content, and living a meaningful life. We're exploring what it looks like to be in or out of balance and offering a simple 4-part framework for working to maintain and regenerate your health and balance every day.
Leadership Development Focus: Balance
You may be asking what balance has to do with leadership development?’ We offer you the opportunity to consider skillfulness with balance as important in your leadership development. Thank you for making use of this opportunity. Our intention is to support you in developing your leadership.
Nature has a preference for balance. We live in a natural world. When you look around at nature, when it is working at its optimal best, it is in balance. You can experience the life force, the vitality, and the sense of harmony. When nature is out of balance, for example, if the soil and the water are polluted, nature shows signs of distress. We mention nature because we are part of nature. When we are out of balance, we also show signs of distress.
When we are out of balance physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, there are symptoms that we exhibit. When we are out of balance physically, we tend not to perform well and can actually self destruct. When we are out of balance mentally, amongst many other symptoms, cognitive function decreases. When we are out of balance emotionally we are more likely to make choices that are not in our best interest. When we are out of balance spiritually, it is easy to live in a way that does not support our purpose and can also lead to self-destruction.
Developing Leadership Capacity for Staying in Balance
When a leader is in balance physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, it is possible to perform in wise and productive ways. The state of balance affects personal leadership as well as leadership with a group of people. The leadership of one’s own life from a balanced state produces better results. The leadership of a group from a balanced state attracts people to follow, to respond to the leadership provided. In both personal and professional leadership, decisions made from a balanced state are wiser and more productive.
When a leader is out of balance it is difficult to have the awareness that you need to make adjustments back to balance. One way to develop awareness is to pay attention to the results you are getting. If you don’t like the results, it may be worthwhile to conclude you are out of balance and need to do something to rebalance yourself.
If you are out of balance, the simple steps below are useful steps in bringing yourself back into balance. They will also assist you if you are in balance and want to stay in balance. They are simple steps. Keeping it simple is a useful approach as it is not overwhelming and thus should not add to your stress. Making a daily habit of these simple steps is good practice to have. When times get particularly stressful, you will have an established practice to support you to stay in balance
despite a highly stressful situation. Beginning with these simple steps will create the internal conditions for you to start bringing your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual consciousnesses into balance.
Simple Steps to Balance
- Take a Break: Every hour, take a five-minute break from whatever you were doing. If you were physically active, you might consider doing something quiet. If you were engaged in high-stress mental activity, you might consider doing something physical. If you were very engaged with people, such as in a meeting, you might make a practice of creating five minutes for silence, for a time to reflect.
- Chunk it Down: Organize your day so that you change your activity focus at least every two hours. In other words, do not stay with any particular focus for more than two hours as that is about the limit to which you can pay attention to something without becoming tired. . Shift to something else. This shift might lead you to another part of your work or to something that feels creative. For those with home offices, it might be a shift from some very dedicated computer time to going back into the house and doing some housework or watering the garden.
- Get Outside: To the extent possible, get outside into nature. For example, if you have a meeting with someone, arrange to go outside for that meeting, and meet while you walk and talk. Spend at least an hour a day in nature. Nature doesn’t need to be out of the city. Being out in nature might simply be to go outside in the city block where your office is, take note of the sky, the earth, any trees or vegetation, and pay attention to the signs of nature that are there for you.
- Meditate: Learn to meditate and make it a daily practice, even if for only 5 minute stretches. A very simple way to meditate for five minutes is to get to a space in which you can be in silence and pay attention to your breathing. Breathe in to the count of five, hold the breath to the count of five, breath out to the count of five, and hold this state to the count of five before breathing in again. You can do this for a few minutes at a time. Do your best to meditate for at least 15 minutes a day.
Note: Depending on the state of balance you were or were not in at the start, you might benefit from engaging the services of a personal leadership development coach. The coach can help you to sort out a plan for getting yourself back into balance, and support you through your process. Having a coach tends to have the added benefit of holding yourself more accountable to the commitments you are making.
Strengthening Your Leadership Capacity with Staying in Balance
If you get enough rest, good food, adjusting workload and work habits, exercise, enough time out of doors, and use the simple exercises above as a guide, you will be well on your way to bringing yourself back into balance. With a daily practice of the simple steps, you will have a routine that you can draw from in times of high stress.
As a leader, you and the decisions you make will benefit if you strengthen your capacity to stay in balance. To strengthen this leadership capacity, you will need to develop greater awareness at all times about your state of balance.
Make it a habit to pause, and then notice how things are going for you. Be aware of when things are going well for you and you are getting results you like. Confirm for yourself that you must be in balance and pay attention to how that feels. Yes, if things are going well you are likely to be in balance. Be aware of when things are not going well for you and you are getting results you don’t like. Confirm for yourself that you must be out of balance and pay attention to how that feels. If you pause regularly and with the awareness that you are checking in with yourself about your state of balance, you can take immediate remedial action if you find you are out of balance, and you can reinforce how good it feels if you are in balance.
As well as making it a daily practice to follow the steps above, and using these steps any time you find yourself out of balance, you can strengthen your leadership capacity to quickly rebalance yourself, to stay in a state of balance by taking immediate action…no matter how busy you have convinced yourself that you are. The immediate action is important for you to make your best decisions, and to be able to work optimally. If you are out of balance due to mental exhaustion, take a break, even a short break to walk around and simply get moving. If you are out of balance physically and you are exhausted, find a way to take a nap, even just a ten-minute power nap. If you are out of balance emotionally, write down how you are feeling and why, using the writing as a way to process your feelings. If you are out of balance spiritually, it is good to reflect on your sense of your life purpose and to think about what you want to accomplish with your life, a subject more all encompassing than what you want to accomplish with your work. From the perspective of your sense of your purpose and what you want to accomplish, you will find yourself more in touch with yourself and what matters to you. Taking this sense into what you are working on can result in more clarity and strength in a short time.
If it makes sense to you, add growing your capacity with balance into your personal leadership development plan.
About the Developing Leadership Series
We work the Genuine Contact way, nourishing a culture of leadership, applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this learning series, Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership. We'll be inviting you to consider your own experiences in life and business so far, and how you want to further your leadership development with this theme.
In this series, our intention is to offer you unique opportunities to continually develop your leadership. By developing your leadership you expand your potential. Your life changes and you gain greater insights and capacity for leading your life. Your leadership of your team, organization, congregation, and even your family brings about possibility thinking, transcending ordinary thinking and ordinary results.
In each episode, we will be exploring one key principle. You will hear our own experiences and understanding of each of these timeless principles. We'll suggest simple activities you can do to develop your own leadership by working with these principles too. Subscribe to receive future episodes by email.