Thursday, August 18, 2011

Energy for professional growth

After discussing my own realization around commitment in my last post and the importance of giving 100% I have to say that I have had a really effective and positive week. I have had a few very important work conversations that I had been putting off over the last few months. Having these conversations has got the issues out of my head where they were always previously rolling around in the background. This has given me more 'head-space' and so my mind is more focused on what is really important at the moment. ...its pretty cool from my point of view?!

Im not resting on my laurels. My clients and business partners constantly remind me of the importance of taking action which for me right now involves getting to know more professional people with performance, wellness or leadership problems that they want to address or big dreams that they want to achieve more quickly and effectively. It involves making lots of phone calls, organizing meetings with potential business partners and clients, and writing regular blog posts and keeping my finger on the pulse of this new online community that is developing.

Which leads me into my topic for this week. What am I actually committed to? What is driving me to transition my business completely into personal and professional development coaching? Where is this passion and inspiration coming from that keeps drawing me into the corporate market? Because I can tell you right now that this is a really strong drive.

At university I was desperate to be motivated and passionate about some type of work but had no idea what that was so went out partying to try to find it. When running my business in London I was part of the way there but still didn't know what I really wanted because I kept looking at other industries and other jobs. Its clearly not money that is driving me because I don't have very much of it! Money is important and I want to be making enough money for my business to grow, to be comfortable, to be able to raise a family and live a prosperous life - but have no financial ambitions beyond that.

I have always been interested in performance and well-being. Ever since childhood with a passion for sport where I loved anything, cricket, soccer, basketball, rugby, skiing, sailing, running, cycling etc. And I also appreciated musical performance from my own scratchy violin attempts and banging on the piano to my friend Paul Rhodes who was a real virtuoso violinist and Glenn Gilbert who could turn an electric guitar into a hammer of the gods and literally shake the walls with powerful sound. And I also appreciated academic performance - even though my grades went into a clear decline as I hit age 15 and started to discover girls I held great admiration for my friend Ben Simmons who could answer mathematical calculus riddles while half asleep with his head resting on the desk at the back of maths class because he had worked until 1am the night before after work. And for my other friends who were committed to school work and assignments and really gave it their all.

So I have always appreciated and been inspired by high performance, and over the last 15 yrs I have grown to understand how performance is underpinned by 'wellness' in many ways. What I mean is that if any one of us has the opportunity to really prosper and be well in all different areas of our life our unique strengths, talents and skills will naturally come out and we just seem to be able to 'get the most out of our lives'. Now that sounds all well and good in theory but what are the different areas that we draw energy from to prosper?

Its a topic of much debate and research but I find it easiest to break it down into 4 different categories or energy sources...and what would the 4 sources of energy be? Simply put Physical energy, mental energy, emotional energy & spiritual energy. Now some people might say Whoa back Chris! what is this airy fairy spiritual energy and is it really worth commenting on in a serious article for professionals? but please bare with me here and ill explain.

Physical energy for performance comes from the food we eat and the liquids we drink throughout the day, the physical activity we do from such basic movement as the amount of walking we do throughout the day up to participating in at least 3 - 4 different physical pursuits each week. It doesn't matter what you do, whether its walking or wake-boarding or working in the garden - if you spend 9hrs a day sitting on your tush in front of a computer anything helps!! Physical energy also includes sleep and if you are not getting 7-9 hrs sleep a night it can impact on your energy levels and ability to be alert to opportunities and to maintain a sense of inspiration over time. This was my original passion and is what many people class as 'wellness' but after years of working in health and fitness and getting sporadic results I started to question, is there more to it......

Mental energy is an interesting one. With the great leaps forward in consumer communication technology in the past 20-30 yrs many managers and professionals have become multitasking machines but also overloaded with emails, texts, skypes, beeps, alerts and 24/7 emails. With the playing field constantly evolving mental energy can be greatly influenced by our ability to reduce interruptions by switching off all communication devices when performing strategic tasks and having important meetings. Setting boundaries with colleagues and clients on when you are not working and scheduling in hobbies and regular personal time also has a huge impact on longevity. And conscious decisions to plan your days and and organize yourself to do difficult tasks pay huge dividends. Personally these are things I am always working on and refining and it provides head-space so I don get caught up in the 'tsunami of technology trends'. But Im a people person so refining these tasks alone don't drive me and excite me about work!

So lets consider people. We are not machines and have emotions which play a vital role in energy levels. The irony is that when emotions are annoying us and we think they are stupid and a waste of time we are also being emotional! If we have pride in our work and work in 'high stress, high performance' environments emotional management is essential! You only have to watch the tennis legend Roger Federer in an interview to see how calm and centered he is. Some people are slaves to their emotional state but emotions are a physiological response and can be actively managed! We can fuel positive emotions by expressing genuine appreciation of others - or by simply smiling. We can defuse negative emotions by deep abdominal breathing (which stimulates the Vagus nerve and generates a parasympathetic neural response - for those wanting to understand the link). We can manage high stress events and intense emotions by being physically active or using our imagination to 'put ourselves in other peoples shoes and understand their perspective or by meditating or by simply talking with different people about it (friends, family, trusted coach or mentors) - This was very important for me when going through my marriage break-up (even through us blokes aren't supposed to talk about this sort of stuff) and allowed me to keep my business and coaching practice going. So emotions also are important (even for blokes - although guys and girls do have different management strategies). But I know many people who are very calm and confident but who don't have that buzz about them so there must be something more!

It seems to me that emotions are a personal thing. At a physiological level,a neurological and endocrinological response within a persons body. For many years as a personal trainer I was frustrated because I wasn't sure how to help clients manage their emotions to maintain health and well-being, then after training in emotional awareness and training techniques I was able to address this and as a coaching it has been great to see how clients (and I) have been able to do things they (and I) never thought possible in their personal lives and at work by being able to appreciate and manage emotional responses. It was very rewarding and continues to be very successful!....But....

Having great emotional awareness and managing emotional responses still doesn't explain where the drive comes from. What is a sense of purpose?

What I am talking about is the spirit of performance! That aspect of performance that is people orientated and non-physical. We cant hold purpose or commitment or fulfillment or engagement. But they are very real all the same and drive us to do the seemingly impossible or to maintain a laser like focus through a storm of change. We don't live in isolation, so the spirit of performance isn't personal. Our spiritual energy is affected by our family spirit, our local community spirit, the spirit of the organization we work in, our country, the world as a whole and the environment around us. You only have to notice how people's mood changes from season to season to appreciate this. In the last 15 yrs I have worked in many different organizations in 4 different countries myself and over the last 5 years I have spoken to many people about the spirit of their organization and in the community. Its become increasingly apparent how important it is for a person to have a sense of purpose about their lives and also be be involved with groups that respect peoples need to have a sense of purpose control. We might live in a democratic country but most people spend 8-12 hrs or more at work every day and I would question how many organizations are democratic. We might talk about equality but is our society becoming more inclusive or are the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer at the moment? its important stuff, because research shows how people live longest and are happiest in inclusive societies. At an individual and organizational level performance is intimately linked to a strong sense of spirit and purpose.

So when I wipe away all the superficial stuff - which is important stuff, but superficial, at this stage of my life and career I guess this is what drives me. A passion for wellness, equality, sustainability and democracy and how these core values intertwine to within individuals and groups to allow us to prosper, smile, laugh, have fun and get the most out of life! I've gotta say, its a hell of a journey. I never saw myself as a political activist, but when I get to the core of what drives me I guess I am.

If you want to assess your own energy levels click here to try my Energy Diagnostic

I tell you what though, it took along time to write this...I think ill keep blogs a bit shorter from now on!

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