Today’s approach to “leading with our best self,” is entirely practical. Biologically so.
In January I began my fourth semester of teaching “Holistic Leadership” to law, public policy and other graduate students at UC Berkeley. With the three prior runs, I have struggled to find my rhythm. I’ve poured over feedback. I even met with one of the assistant deans to go over the written feedback. And I’ve been slowly improving it. Then a week into this semester, I had this earth-shaking realization. I was listening to Martin Seligman’s book Flourishing: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being* and these lines jumped out at me:
“Basic Rest and Activity Cycle, or BRAC, is characteristic of human beings and other diurnal -that is awake during the day — animals. On average we are our most alert in late morning and mid-evening. We are at the bottom of our cycle – tired, grumpy, inattentive, pessimistic – at mid-afternoon and in the wee hours of the morning. So very basic is this cycle that death itself occurs disproportionately at the bottom of BRAC. (emphasis added)
OMG! People are dying disproportionately, because their energy is literally depressed. So, when do I teach this grad school course? From 3:35 – 5:25 PM. Siesta time! It was so obvious in retrospect that they weren’t just somewhat cynical law students, they were TIRED (and somewhat cynical) law students. And I realized that my energy was nowhere near what it is at other times that I step in front of an audience or class. I’ve been running uphill, and of course, not very fast!
I changed. I told my students that I would be doing a power-walk in the 10 minutes before class and they were welcome to join me. I can’t tell you how much more energetic I feel after this stroll up the hill and around Memorial Stadium. And, I now begin — and punctuate the middle of class — with simple yoga stretches and/or simple meditative breathing to awaken energy and alertness. Students volunteer to lead, so we learn different stretches. (I also brought the same practices to my 12:30 – 2:00 undergraduate class, because half the students haven’t eaten yet, or their bodies are starting to digest food instead of digesting ideas about leadership. Bottom line: the brain is just another part of the body. Energize it.
Maybe you’re ahead of me on this stuff. If not, try it. Schedule a 10-minute walk around 2:00 each day. If you have a key partner — boss, peer, or direct report(s) — invite them to walk quickly. You think differently. More fluid – literally and figuratively. Or throw some Nerf balls around your corporate board meeting at 2:00. 🙂
Alternatively, download a meditation app and give it a whirl. Or, here’s a post on the best 10 meditation apps for iPhone and Android if you’re drawn to that. Give it a spin to
Lead with your best self!
* Seligman is considered the “father of positive psychology.” This book offers a retrospective of his 30 years of helping create the field. The research is utterly fascinating and there are extremely helpful ideas. If you’re interested in positive psychology, and I am a zealous convert, I’d suggest starting with Learned Optimism by Seligman. It’s a shorter book with some very practical ideas on — as the title suggests — consciously building more positivity and resilience into your life.