Last week I lost my house key. And then a replacement house key. And then my wallet. Yesterday I dashed out to do an errand and upon returning to my car, realized I had left my phone in the car. In the computer bag with my laptop. Next to the car keys. With the car running.
I was equally angry and amused by this complete and utter flake out. Amused by my almost cinematic absent-mindedness, and angry because I had recently made significant changes in my professional and personal life to be more healthy and well-balanced. Here I was, having taken the plunge to live my life with complete purpose and intention. I had a visual in my mind of myself, tranquil and free of anxiety, full of positive energy and wisdom. Instead, I felt like a disheveled, forgetful, impatient mess. What was happening?
What was happening – and is still happening – is that my brain is trying desperately to keep up with the immense change events I have initiated. Even when we welcome change in some aspect of our lives, that change has a significant ripple effect.
Traditionally in our society, when stressful situations arise – be they professional or personal change events, demanding deadlines, high profile projects, or crisis situations – the reaction has been that everyone must work harder, put in more hours, and be chained to their desks or the conference room until the event ends, the problem gets solved, or the crisis passes. The consequence to this response is that creativity, energy, and morale disintegrates. We are left fatigued. Our immune systems are compromised. And most importantly, our brains are no longer functioning at a level where rational, strategic, creative decision-making can happen.
In my situation, during a major life changing event, I was so focused on checking off the many boxes on my “to do” list, I failed to pay attention to something equally, if not more, important: my “to be” list. I didn’t give myself the space to acknowledge the new identity I was accepting, to get acquainted with the new person I was becoming.
The “to be” list allows individuals to mentally and emotionally focus themselves on what is most important to them – their core values, their goals and aspirations, and their sense of balance and well-being. Effective leaders recognize that allowing time for individuals to re-balance themselves actually leads to higher productivity, better decisions and problem solving, and more efficiency in the face of major turmoil.
Neuroscience research indicates the immense benefits of engaging in behaviors that establish this balance – whether it is physical exercise, meditation and deep breathing, or engaging in creative or playful activities. Our bodies are more able to counteract stress and focus our minds, and even increase the production of new brain cells and have better memory retention.
To write a “to be” list, consider the following:
- What are my core values that drive my life?
- What is my personal mission statement (what are my professional and personal goals that I am aspiring to?)
- What are the most important things I need to do today to feel fulfilled?
- How am I going to build in time today to connect with my goals and values?
- How am I feeling in this moment and where am I feeling it?
- What internal “tools” do I need to have handy for today (e.g. patience, conviction, empathy, focus)?
By creating the space regularly to focus our minds on who we are and who we want to be, we can more effectively manage our turmoil-infused conditions and live healthier, happier (and hopefully longer) lives.