How Healthy Are You, Really?
Are you starting this New Year healthy?
I realize that question is quite loaded.
“Health” is a physical, emotional, and spiritual amalgam. On the other side, one unhealthy space can create poor overall health.
When I talk with couples wanting a healthy marriage, I always say, “Healthy marriages are made from healthy people.” No healthy marriage exists with even one unhealthy partner.
This same logic applies to teams.
Healthy Teams Requires Healthy People
If you hope to lead a healthy team, you need to help each individual on the team move toward health.
One unhealthy team member can be like a single drop of poison in a glass of clean water. It only takes a little to poison the entire cup.
It’s impossible to force people to be healthy. It’s nearly impossible to inspire everyone towards health. But as leaders, we do have one solution that always makes a difference: Our health.
I’ve seen it time and time again. The team rises and falls on the leader’s behavior. Leadership is about influence. When a leader moves toward health, the team often follows suit. When leaders ignore their health, the team takes their cue from what they see.
What Do Healthy Leaders Do?
Healthy leaders set the pace and tone for a healthy team. If you hope to move your team toward health, begin with yourself.
Here are a few ideas to help you become a more healthy leader:
1. Engage the “3 Cs”
Every leader needs three people in their life: a Counselor, a Consultant, and a Coach.
- Counselors help us deal with our past,
- Consultants help us organizationally, and
- Coaches help us personally.
Every leader needs a person to help them unpack their past to help keep it out of the present, a consultant to help them see the organization realistically and change appropriately, and a coach to help inspire personal growth. Healthy leaders have others speaking into all aspects of their leadership.
Healthy leaders always continue learning. The act of learning forces leaders to evaluate themselves and their organizations.
Take time to create a learning goal for yourself and your team. Your learning goals should target specific topics directly or indirectly related to your industry and role. But don’t limit your learning to only your day job. The more you can expand your mind, the more you’ll expand your health.
So, make a list of books, conferences, leadership talks, email newsletters, etc., with which to engage this year. To prioritize a learning goal, be realistic but be equally aggressive.
3. Pay Attention To Your Body
You only get on body. Eating, exercising, and remaining active directly affect your leadership life. Leadership is exhausting. Think of it like running a marathon. If you train and your body is prepared, you’re more likely to run strong. If you go into the race already tired, you’re more likely to drop out along the route.
Too many leaders drop out of the race because of poor decisions stemming from exhausted lives. You can’t be physically unhealthy and succeed long-term.
I neglected this reality too much in my early leadership years. I turn 50 this year. Mother Nature is undefeated. I’ve found it more challenging to remain physically healthy with each passing year. I’ve also discovered that getting healthy is much more difficult than remaining healthy. Do what you need to do to get there, and once you’re there, fight to stay there. Once physical health becomes a lifestyle, things get much easier.
Like, literally sleep more. The science is too apparent to ignore. Our bodies, including our minds and emotions, need rest. While every person is unique, we all need rest. Healthy people prioritize sleep and downtime.
So, go to bed earlier and at a consistent time. Put your phone and screens down earlier. Read a book to relax your mind (see #2).
Sleep alone is critical, but downtime during the day, week, and year is equally essential.
If you’re a Christian, you’ll immediately recognize this as “Sabbath.” Religious or not, our bodies are like car engines, but we too often ignore the dashboard gauges telling us to slow down or stop. Great leaders work rest into the pattern of their day by:
- Diverting Daily (Take 30 minutes every day to rest. “Rest” how you recharge, though. I enjoy hitting the gym for an hour. That recharges me.),
- Withdrawing Weekly (Put down your phone and laptop for 12 hours. Or 4 hours if that’s all you can to start.), and
- Abandoning Annually (Get away from it all for a week).
5. Engage a Hobby
Playing isn’t all about play. Having an interest outside of our work is crucial to our health. The activity doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re engaged in something other than your leadership life.
Hobbies help us become well-rounded, introduce us to new people, and allow our minds to function from differing perspectives.
6. Spend Time with Friends
These can be work friends, but it’s often better when your “people” are outside your work life. This is especially true if you’re the point leader of a team or organization.
I spent 13+ years as the lead pastor of a relatively large church. I loved my coworkers, and while we had healthy friendships, these relationships remained at work. Why? Well, I was their boss. In the end, it’s that simple. We are all human. We all struggle to completely relax when around people who hold our career future in their hands. Don’t kid yourself and think this isn’t a reality. There may be exceptions, but they are exceptions.
Prioritize friendships outside of work, even if it’s only for a monthly dinner. Make time for other people in your life.
Combine To Compact
If you’re like me, you look at a list like this and say, “Good luck! I don’t have time for ONE of these, much less all six.”
And I didn’t include everything I could have included in this list, either.
How can you be healthy if getting and staying healthy feels impossible?
Combining several of these helps. For instance, I took up weightlifting as a hobby ten years ago. I’ve done it with friends, and it certainly has helped me remain in better physical shape. For me, lifting weights helps me rest. Spending 30 – 60 minutes at the gym recharges me. I also sleep better when I’ve been to the gym. The gym creates a compounding effect on my health.
There may be a similar solution for you, too.
What I know without question is that your life and leadership can thrive only under a state of health.
Moreover, you set the pace and tone for everyone following you. As you become healthy, your team will follow.
P.S. Start Learning Today!
If reading is part of your learning plan, I have a new book releasing on January 16! You can pre-order it today.