Did you hear the news?! The world is reopening! Are you eager to grab your flip-flops, hit the beach, and jump back into the social scene, or are you having a harder time with this transition than expected? Let’s face it, it’s been one helluva year and after working nonstop and not seeing your friends, stepping out from behind your desk, and suddenly swapping your work hat for a party one can bring on anxiety.
If you’ve been overworking, overstressing, under-socializing, or just plain feeling out of whack, this blog will help you to find your flow. Hey, transition can be tough, and reactivating your sense of adventure or restoring calm is going to take a bit of soulful work. Let’s ease into this, shall we?
It’s all about balance
In the yoga and healing space, it’s common practice to look to the elements to help you find and maintain a sense of balance. As a yogi, I would describe being in tune with your energy as paying attention to when you feel depleted, when you feel energized, and mindfully working to keep all aspects of your life in harmony. This means making time for family and friends, prioritizing your health, working toward your personal and professional goals and having a whole lot of guilt-free fun! It’s true that this balancing act isn’t easy, but using nature to guide you will help.
The 5 Elements
What do you think of when you hear “earth, wind, and fire”? If the Hall of Fame band that brought on some of the grooviest music to bump to in the sixties, seventies, and eighties comes to mind, we can dig it! But before you dust off that old record, squeeze into your bell-bottoms and pick out your afro, let’s have a quick chat about what all five essential elements represent and how they impact your leadership.
Looking to fire, earth, water, air, and the less talked about element, space, can help you to achieve balance in your life right now! You may be thinking that this all sounds a little fluffy and abstract, but science tells us over and over again that practicing mindfulness and balance leads to better health, greater work happiness, goal attainment, positive work culture, and all kinds of yummy goodness. As a leader, you have the responsibility to look out for the wellness of your team and this means setting a good example of a healthy work/life balance. Since life’s been kind of spicy lately, we’ll start with fire and learn how this element may be affecting you and your team.
Do you feel like you’re always busy? Like you’re being pushed around by life rather than cruising through it? If so, you’re not alone. Study after study shows that people are overworked across the globe. Logging in to work before hours, working late, checking in right before bed, and sacrificing personal wellness to meet work goals were common practices even before Covid-19, and have only increased since. If this time of transition finds you feeling burned out or stressed, too much fire could be the reason.
Often, people wear their busyness as a badge of honor; viewing productivity as a sign of accomplishment. Such was the case with Adam, a senior-level executive who came to us for help.
Adam was exhausted and stressed out and his energy was hot. He was overworking and spending very little time doing non-work-related things. He got a high off of checking tasks off his to-do list and felt guilty any time he sat back, relaxed, and tried to take things easy. He didn’t outright pressure his employees to work outside of work hours, but what message do you think he was sending when he emailed his team at odd hours? Actions like these promote (even subtly) a go-go-go environment.
While the fire is necessary to stay driven and goal-oriented, too much of it can cause a breakdown of health, communication and stand in the way of your ability to effectively lead others.
To find his flow, Adam participated in our 5 Elements Exercise. Let’s see how he managed to cool things down.
Earth is a grounding element. When life gets to be a bit too much, kick off your shoes, walk through a grassy field, or bury your toes in the sand. No, seriously, dooo it! You’ll invite a sense of calm into your life. Whether you’re up for trying this or not, the idea behind it is to look to the earth as a means to slow you down. Take a beat before you start your meetings. Adam did this and found that it helped him to connect with his team and ease his foot off the gas pedal.
What happens if you encourage your team to maintain a healthy work/life balance, but don’t practice it yourself? Leading by example is imperative for building a positive work culture. We encouraged Adam to tamp the fire by holding back on those late-night emails (even if he never expected a reply until morning). Also, he implemented team check-ins, where gratitudes were shared and discussed at the top of the meeting to set a chill and supportive tone. Appreciation guru and work culture consultant, Stephanie Pollack, says that “acknowledging the thoughts and efforts of people with gratitude shows that those people matter.” We couldn’t agree more!
Head down to the beach, take a walk along the river, have a picnic by a creek, slide into a warm bath. Still on edge? Probably not. Chances are that even just imagining those activities is enough to bring on a sense of calm. Why is that? Science, that’s why! Marine Biologist, Wallace J. Nichols, calls this phenomenon the “blue mind” effect. Studies demonstrate that exposure to bodies of water has a calming and stress-reducing effect on humans. It makes sense, then, that water represents a sense of ease.
Once Adam participated in the 5 Elements exercise and applied our coaching tips, things started to flow for him. Communication amongst his team improved significantly; a few even commented on how the vibe has changed. The gratitudes and regular team check-ins have created a sense of openness, boosted morale, and has led to authentic communication.
As for Adam, whenever he feels an inclination to work more than he should, he practices his breathing and breaks the work cycle by stepping away to do something else for a little while.
Ever feel like your head is in the clouds? Air represents creativity, ideas, and exchange. Too much air can leave you stuck in a state of dreaming or perpetually brainstorming and envisioning without moving forward to other very important stages: planning, implementation, and follow-up. On the flip side, not enough air and you might find yourself suffering from writer’s block, closed off to inspiration, or unable to take part in an upbuilding interchange of ideas at work. Ideally, you’re well balanced in that you’re able to put great ideas into action.
Adam had adopted the thinking that he might as well work because he was home and technically available. Once his thinking shifted, tensions loosened up around the office and his employees began to contribute more openly in meetings. Of this shift, Adam said, “There’s a renewed energy on the team now. They may not be working more, but their work is consistent and of high quality. I feel like they want to be here.” Ahhh…Let’s take a moment to breathe that success story in.
So what happens when your fire, earth, water, and air energies are balanced?
When your elements are aligned, you’ll hit your stride and open up much-needed space in your mind and in your life. This means more room for fun, rest, family, hobbies, or whatever “time well spent” looks like for you.
No one wants to go through life blowing through stop signs, dividing their attention, and missing out on the things that are most important, but when your elements are out of balance and your plate is too full, this is exactly what happens.
It’s well known that a fast-paced life leads to poor health, poor judgment and worn down relationships, and simply put, it’s exhausting! Because time is one of the most precious commodities we have available to us, being mindful about where you apply your energy as a way to make more time for the things you love would be the best gift you could give to yourself and your team.
Want to invest in your wellness?
If you’d like to balance your energy and make room for the things that matter most to you in life, join our upcoming November Conscious Leadership Experience program.