What elite athletes can teach us about professional wellbeing.

Think about athletes who are at the top of their respective sports: Misty Copeland, Tom Brady, Roger Federer. They all have a key thing in common: they place as much focus on rest and recovery as they do on intensive training. Athletes acknowledge and embrace the concept of peak performance. They identify moments in the year when they need to be at their best – game day, opening night, the start of the US Open – and they plan around it. They plan for the right amount of work and rest, carefully timed so that they are at the peak of their ability when it really matters.

Us mere mortals can learn from this, and apply this to our personal and professional performance. We all have moments when we need to be at our best: a pitch to a new client, a job interview, a big presentation to the Board. Why can’t we plan our schedules and prioritize our efforts to build in the rest and recovery we need to ensure that when we enter that high stakes meeting, we deliver? We also need to acknowledge that, sometimes, our personal lives need to take priority. If a loved one is sick, or celebrating a milestone birthday, we should allow ourselves time to focus our energies at home, and allow ourselves a little flexibility at work.

Understanding your natural cadence

Everybody’s natural rhythm is different. Knowing yours is the key to unlocking your peak performance. Track your energy and performance throughout the day to better understand your own cadence and preferences. When do you have the most energy, and when do you hit a wall? What environments are most conducive to your productivity? Are you a morning person? Do you need total silence to work productively, or do you do better with background noise? Understanding your natural rhythm will help you to schedule your to do list appropriately. If you know that you are unproductive in the evenings, where is the value in staying at the office until 11pm? If you work in an open plan office, but know that you are at your most productive in total silence, why not book yourself a conference room to develop that Board presentation, or invest in noise cancelling headphones? Take as much control of your schedule as you can, and plan your tasks around your natural cadence. You’ll save time, which will give you more freedom to balance personal and professional responsibilities, and more time for the rest and recovery that will prevent burnout.

Listening to, and controlling, your behavioral scripts.

At one time or another we all feel at the mercy of our behavioral scripts: the voice or instinct that says that if you can’t cope with the pressure then you’re weak, or if you leave work at 5pm sharp to make your yoga class then you’re slacking. These are behavioral scripts that we internalize, and that shape the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to perform. Listen to yourself, and think deeply about how much of the pressure you are feeling is inflicted by external forces or by your own internal scripts. Once you’ve identified the pressure that is self-inflicted, you can start to challenge the beliefs that support those scripts. Testing whether the scripts that you developed (often many years earlier) are still helpful to you now is a key process in creating better outcomes for wellbeing and performance.

The key to all of this is self-awareness

Looking after your own wellbeing, both personal and professional, requires a deep level of self-awareness and a willingness to take control of your time and energy.

Managing your wellbeing means proactively making choices about how you operate on a day-to-day basis so that you are able to sustain the energy you need to maintain the performance you need in your professional life. In all the professional wellbeing workshops I run, a main takeaway that I hear from participants is the realization that they have more control or choice than they previously thought. Professional wellbeing is about creating a sustainable way to get the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, nutritional and spiritual fuel you need to perform at peak when it matters most.

The best way I’ve found for deepening self-awareness is a personality assessment like Lumina Spark, combined with coaching support. Lumina Spark helps you understand how your instinctive behaviors change in different contexts and how you can leverage your strengths and bridge the gaps.  Coaching support helps you challenge your scripts and take action steps to win back more control over your day-to-day performance.

Take a leaf out of the book of elite athletes. Know yourself, know your body, and free up time for rest and recovery so you can perform at the peak of your ability when it matters most.

Interested in learning more about how Lumina Spark and how coaching support can improve your professional wellbeing? Get in touch.