I came across the concept that there are rhythms to my life when I was working as a busy CEO of a large Not-for-Profit organisation, with a staff of 40, 1000 members, 3 – 5 public presentations per week to prepare and deliver, 5 overseas trips per year to build strategic national and international partnerships.
I am an introvert. By that I mean I replenish on my own, alone. Being with people is good and important and enjoyable for me, but also exhausting and draining emotionally. (An extrovert is someone who replenishes best with people. It is interesting that most significant leaders are introverts.)
I was passionate about helping people and it was my pattern to throw myself into my work with little consideration of myself or my family. After a few years I found that quite often I would come to days off or free evenings and be too tired to enjoy relaxing with my family. I would sit down to watch television and feel all the energy draining out of my body, often sitting in the same position for an hour or more without moving, almost frozen. I would sometimes find it difficult to enjoy animated dinner conversation with my family.
As you might imagine this state of affairs was not conducive to building a great marriage and family life. In the process of working so hard over 15 years to build an organisation to help people, I had forgotten how to fully relax. Often when I did have time to myself, I would not know how to spend it productively. The only time I fully stopped was on our 3 week annual holidays (and that was not always fun).
I engaged a mentor
The organisation I was leading was going very well but the cost to me and my family was too great. So, I engaged a mentor who introduced me to new ways of thinking about organising my work. His philosophy was that the health and well being of the key leader is critical to the overall health of the organisation. He encouraged me to see the benefits for everyone if I planned my worklife so that it revolved around self care strategies. I remember how strange (but good) it felt the first time I started planning a year by marking down our family holidays.
My mentor encouraged me to become aware of any patterns to my energy levels. I mapped out the high energy times in my week, or month. It took time to tune in and become aware of myself, but over a year I began to become more self aware. I started to reflect more about what I had done if I became super tired. I identified that I found certain situations more emotionally taxing than others. E.g. dealing with difficult people and counselling people with problems.
I began to discover a lot about myself:
- That not every week is the same therefore the energy required was not the same.
- I had established patterns of daily and weekly behaviour which were not all helping me.
- I had no regular commitment to self reflection which is crucial for personal growth and change.
- Only I could change my daily and weekly patterns.
- I did not get much exercise and so was unfit which often limited my capcity to focus.
- I learned a lot about how my work patterns affected my health and relationships.
- I learned that big results can come from seemingly small changes. E.g. I learned that one of the keys to enjoying a good day off was to wind down the night before. So, I cancelled all meetings on the night before my day off. It was amazing how winding down and getting a good rest enabled me to wake with energy so I actually felt like going out and doing something recreational with my wife and family on my day off.
- Much much more
What is Rhythm of Life?
Rhythm of Life refers to the unique natural rhythms that are part of all our lives. The more aware you are and cooperate with your rhythm of life the better you will manage your energy levels for peak performance at work and to enable you to have energy for your family and those you love.
The core of this concept is that each person has capacity to work hard for between 25 and 35 days (assuming one day off per week is maintained and normal annual holidays are planned). After the 25 – 35 day period it is important to have a 2-3 day period where there is low demand so you can relax, disengage and replenish at a deeper level. Without this mini break it becomes harder to replenish in sleep and regular days off, and without doubt productivity at work is diminished.
In a future article I will outline more specifically the way Rhythm of Life has been working for me.
Everyone has a rhythm of life!
None of us is a machine. Even people of high capacity who seem to be always on the go have days when they have less energy and less ability to focus than they would ideally like, while on other days they seem to have limitless energy.
I realise that each of us has a unique journey of self discovery. Your rhythm of life will be different to mine. However you do have a rhythm of life and my belief is that the more you are aware of it and as much as possible cooperate with it, the more productive you will be.
This is a journey of self discovery which will allow you to become more self aware, more emotionally intelligent and more personally present in any given moment.
In my experience this journey requires: a willingness to grow and change, a mentor to assist you, a commitment to self reflection and time. If you are in a busy leadership role it could take you up to 2 years to be able to read and cooperate with the rhythms of your life.
This has been quite a journey, but well worth it for the outcomes I have seen.
I’d love to hear your response to these thoughts in the comment box below….