My mother would often say to my sister, Arianna, and me: “Take care of your capital.” She wasn’t referring to money or power. For her, the real capital was YOU, and you had to look after yourself. She would preach about sleep, eating well, exercising, interacting with energizing and non-toxic people, and taking time to reflect and reconnect with ourselves. She was adamant about it.
Unfortunately, most people haven’t had the luxury of my mother’s advice. Most of us operate feeling depleted, stressed, and overwhelmed. When you type the phrase “why am I” in Google, it automatically suggests, “why am I so tired?” We take better care of our smartphones than ourselves; but just as our smartphones need to be charged, so do we! It has become harder to know when our resources are depleted because we have numbed ourselves and have become very good at ignoring the warning signs.
We have put ourselves on the wrong track, forgetting the essential part of our lives, which is our wellbeing. We have left ourselves behind and allowed the endless demands of work and life — in the form of deadlines, emails and endless meetings — to sweep us away.
Belgian philosopher Pascal Chabot once called burnout “civilization’s disease.” It is a delusion promoted by our culture that we have to shut off our humanity in order to be efficient and it is costing us our health let alone billions of dollars in health care costs. So we have to interrupt the insanity and start prioritizing the core values of what our lives are about. We have to ask the fundamental question: What is a good life and what would we have to do differently to make that good life a daily reality? We all know what we need to do. The question is how to give ourselves permission to start taking microscopic steps and building keystone habits to create the life we want and replace the life we settle for.
What we really value, what defines us, what enhances our well-being, and what really makes us thrive, is often out of sync with how we conduct our lives and what we spend our time doing.
There has been a lot of buzz around the concept of work-life balance, but it is a myth! And if you try to aspire to it, you will always feel as if you are failing. So you might as well delete that phrase from your vocabulary; it might be better to replace it with work-life integration, a concept that Padmasree Warrior — CTO of Cisco — embraces. It’s wiser to start thinking about our lives as a whole with an attitude towards thriving, as opposed to just surviving and start discovering and implementing strategies to get you there.
Creating daily practices that restore us back to ourselves is one of the keys to work-life integration. Implementing new daily habits such as: more sleep, a few minutes of meditation before we start our day, putting our devices down one hour before bed, mindful exercise, prayer, reading (yes — actual, real books), or sharing your talents with others to help in areas where they need support or encouragement. As these habits become part of our daily life, we begin to discover that we have more energy for the day. We become more present, better at prioritizing, better at accessing intuition, making smarter decisions and ultimately have more quality time to spend with the people we care about. All these things are possible because we are giving ourselves the opportunity to operate off a surplus instead of a fight or flight mentality. We will be in the driver’s seat, no longer operating on autopilot.
As we tap into the source of our wellbeing, by reinforcing these habits, we can start to experience as if we are in the center of a hurricane and in the hustle and the bustle of our everyday world we can experience that the center is completely still, like the eye in a hurricane.
It is important to build a support system for people at work to reinforce daily habits to care for each other’s well being and make it hard to fall off course. We can then create a culture that is more integrated. This simple skill of the daily practices becomes a huge performance enhancement because people at work are learning to access more of their whole selves when at work and not leaving themselves behind. As we put the spotlight on how vital it is to recharge ourselves, we find that people can generate more mental clarity, alertness, exercise innate wisdom and know when they need to back off and do the things to replenish themselves.
About 70 percent of our time is spent at work, so we are doing a disservice to ourselves to think it is not our life. And so we urgently need some new blueprints to start taking better care of our human capital and why it matters. They must both come under the umbrella of one principle that we need to look at ourselves as whole human beings, where our personal life and work can no longer be fragmented. In doing so, we will create a healthy environment where people will be able to create, inspire, and prosper.