Many talented leaders have accepted a state of perpetual tension and anxiety. They press on with brutal power, day after day, in a condition of constant weariness. According to Executive Coach Jody Michael, there is a radical alternative — and it is available regardless of the circumstances.
Jody claims clearly in her new book Leading Lightly: Lower Your Stress, Think With Clarity and Lead With Ease that each individual CREATES the bulk of their troublesome sentiments and energy depletion. The issue — and the remedy — are our “lenses” or viewpoints on ourselves, others, work, life, and the world at large. We learn to recognise and let rid of our default “impeding” lenses that keep us in low to high degrees of fight or flight by strengthening our mental fitness. Second, we adopt strong new “helpful” perspectives that generate truly happy, generative emotions, behaviours, and energy, resulting in and maintaining overall optimum performance.
What exactly is mental fitness, and how do we measure it?
Mental fitness is your measured capacity to participate in life and work productively and positively every day – no matter what comes your way. You constantly respond to problems with peak performance in the present and minimum recuperation time.
Developing mental fitness is a process of altering the physiology of your brain. You deliberately interrupt neuropathways that run well-worn cognitive and emotional routines. You construct new neuropathways on purpose by “trying on” or adopting different “lenses” or views. Then, by repetition over time, you consolidate these new neuropathways to become your brain’s new norm.
So, two basic criteria may be used to assess your mental health. Both are time-based. The first consideration is your speed: how soon can you reduce your reaction — and move out of your triggered state? Many people are agitated for hours or days. Mental health allows you to get out of such a state in a matter of minutes. Or maybe even less!
The second indicator is sustainability, which you can achieve quickly. True mental health requires you to make these transitions regularly and in a variety of circumstances. It’s the antithesis of a “one-hit wonder.” Mental wellness benefits you regardless of what you face at work or home.
“Mental health begins with acknowledging that the true drivers of your leadership performance are the hidden habits of your mind—the strong, invisible, and ingrained beliefs you hold about yourself, others, and the world.” -Michael Jody
How do we become aware of some of the subconscious tendencies that we are unaware of?
One of the most important mental fitness abilities is the capacity to recognise your thoughts as they arise. You take on the role of a detective to do this. You transform into an objective observer, always on the lookout for important hints.
When you can name your feelings, you can locate those hints (in all their complexity). When you are aware of your body’s physiological responses to stress. When you can read the room and understand exactly how your state of fight or flight is affecting people and results.
Learning to self-observe (or self-assess) requires attention and practice over time, just like any other skill or habit. One method is to use my free Mind MasteryTM app, which changes your brain (iOS and Android). Every day, the app encourages you to conduct a brief self-observation at eight random moments. You’ll be able to notice hints you’d normally overlook when it catches you off guard in a variety of emotional states throughout the day.
This is how you practise for several weeks (or longer) until you can dependably tune into your thoughts – those hidden habits of mind.
“With mental fitness, you can keep yourself out of these unproductive emotional states so that you may lead from a position of peak performance as much as possible.” -Michael Jody
“You choose your responses with a sense of mindfulness; you’re not reactive. You emanate a kind of rare receptivity and can metabolize the negative so that you’re not pulled or weighed down.” -Jody Michael.