The last two years have been tough for business owners. What do business owners need to do to tackle the new year with enthusiasm, and what practices will ensure they work at their best?
It’s only natural for difficult times to reveal what we really value. Often our greatest challenges become the catalyst for reinvention or changing our direction. In sailing terms, this is known as tacking, changing direction by turning the boat’s bow through the wind. Your tack is also the course you are on relative to the wind (the environment).
As life evolves, so do our priorities. After all, business shouldn’t feel like a chore but a place of energy that compliments life and brings people together for a common purpose.
Many people’s wellbeing and mental stamina have been pushed to the limits over the last two years. And we’re feeling it. The good news is, the latest in neuroplasticity research shows that we never stop learning. Our brains can build new and lasting behaviours that improve wellbeing and performance regardless of age when enabled to succeed.
The key to satisfying your brain is carving out space for a daily check-in, even when you have a lot on. This allows you to face known and unknown obstacles better and to let go of behaviours that no longer serve your purpose.
Good diet, movement, sleep, social connection, gratitude, relaxation, and mindfulness are important energy ingredients in adequately fuelling the brain.
Social connections are important because our brains are a social organ regardless of whether we have introverted or extroverted personalities. It is more than just physical needs; we are emotionally, cognitively hardwired for connection and belonging.
For personal growth and transformation, receiving affirmation is a powerful way for us to grow, particularly in the form of stories describing moments when we are at our best.
There are ways that you activate your best self at work every day. Here are five practices for noticing and capitalising on everyday opportunities for development based on your best self:
Notice Positive Feedback
Most people are well-attuned to critical feedback; it can be jarring, threatening, and emotional, and as a result, quite memorable. In contrast, it is often easy to let positive reflections on our actions subtly slip us by. It might sometimes seem immodest to bask in the sunshine of praise. Therefore, it takes practice to savour moments of positive and to hold them in your memory. Our brains are more sensitive to a threat or something negative than a reward or something positive.
Tip: Create a spot (digital or written diary/folder) where you may preserve any good comments you receive to preserve these moments. Thank-you letters, social media testimonials, and allusions to your work in email threads are all examples of this. Leverage this positive feedback in your marketing and sales communications.
Review your successes
Conduct after-action reviews of your own work to set benchmarks and identify best practices for future work.
If you receive positive feedback, take some time after that interaction to reflect on the experience, creating a short narrative about what you did and the impact it had. Journaling is a powerful practice and can help you see ways to bring out your best self.
Tip: Reflect on how you can do more of this type of work, considering your business and leadership strengths. How might your strengths, for example, complement your weaknesses? Consider the other side of your strengths: how might your flaws overwhelm or cause you to misuse your strengths, and how can you improve this?
Tip 2: Celebrate the wins and milestones along the journey. Identify who you want to celebrate with and how you want to celebrate? Often, we are so busy moving on to the next task, that we don’t take the time to smell the roses. This is important for self-motivation and motivating your colleagues. What does your next milestone look like in the next 30-days and how would you like to celebrate it?
Gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness. It helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deals with adversity, and build strong connections. When we express and receive gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’.
They enhance our mood immediately. When you feel grateful, you experience synchronised activation of many parts of your brain, providing positive effects. Some of my clients and I have incorporated gratefulness into our weekly way of life for a few key reasons; it allows us to reflect on what’s important to us, enabling the good things in our lives to shine bright, regardless of how the day turned out.
It allows us to be present and enjoy the positive things in our busy day without losing them. Another benefit of sharing your gratitude with others is that it helps you connect with and appreciate others. You can stimulate the release of dopamine in someone else (the brain’s happy natural feel-good drug).
During a recent online high-performance training program, one of the attendees shared how grateful she was to be working and have flexible options working from home. In general, people seem to be valuing autonomy and choice.
Tip: Keep a daily reflection journal on the three things you are grateful for each day. Share your gratefulness with others where and when possible. Research by Dr Joe Dispenza shows that four days of gratitude strengthens our immune system by almost 50 per cent.
Organise your daily structure around when you do your best thinking
For decades, work was mostly undertaken in an office between 9 am and 5 pm. But then COVID-19 forced us to work remotely, and many people discovered that they could be more productive outside traditional work hours.
Others noticed that they were most efficient working in small increments of time. Some people realised that a relaxed environment was conducive to creativity and productivity. There is an optimal way to work, but when and how you do your best work differs for every person.
Tip: Identify where and when you do your best thinking (time of day i.e. morning, afternoon, evening, or a combination)? How can you protect this deep thinking time from internal and external distractions to maximise your time and effort?
Practice self-care, especially during times like these
It is vital to maximise time and energy throughout your day to optimise your brain function. The brain is a very hungry organ. It can be likened to a mobile phone; if you have lots of apps and windows open, it slows down, shuts down or needs rebooting and charging. Our brain is similar; it needs the right balance of fuel throughout the day and night to recharge. Back-to-back meetings, continuous emails and multitasking are some things that drain its energy resources.
I liken self-care practices to the ‘plane oxygen mask’ rule. Every time my family fly, we hear flight attendants explain the oxygen mask rule and the importance of putting your own mask on first before helping others. Prioritising your self-care by putting on your oxygen mask first is an important health tip. If we run out of ‘fuel/ energy’, we cannot to fully help and connect with those that we serve.
Tip: Consider what activities you can do throughout your day and week to increase your oxygen and refuel your brain, including activities like mindfulness brain breaks.
Your brain is your supercomputer and the biggest asset you own. How you set it up for success will have an impact not only on yourself but on, how you emotionally connect and influence others.