In the classic O. Henry story The Gift of the Magi, the wife has beautiful long hair, the husband a treasured pocket watch. She cuts and sells her hair to buy him a watch chain. He sells his watch to buy her a hair comb. Many people make a similarly well intentioned, but ultimately futile and unwise sacrifice. They mistakenly believe that by compromising their health, they can promote the health of the business. They routinely overextend themselves and disregard their own essential needs, all in the name of success.
And I was just like one of them.
A while back I was running a company that I built from zero in my younger days. Had offices and partners around the world, I was riding high. I made lots of mistakes and crashed.
One of the mistakes when it comes to working we think entrepreneurs are ‘supposed’ to work 24/7. I worked full straight months, zero days off, and averaged 16 to 18 hours a day. At the time, I was proud of that, wore it like a badge of honor.
However, it took a massive toll on my health. I went to lots of nutrient poor food – I was never home to eat, I was eating for stress. Burned out and constantly in energy debt.
And one day I realized I was sacrificing health for success. I decided to make the necessary changes. The point is this. Your success is not worth your health. Don’t end up sacrificing your own health on your path to success.
In recent study conducted it was found out that 40 percent of Fortune 500 executives are obese and 73 percent have a sedentary lifestyle, placing them at risk for diabetes, coronary disease and other life-threatening conditions. Many also have elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure. One-in-five employees worry about their boss’s health.
There’s no business case for sacrificing your health. Even a company that views its people as business assets would want employees to take good care of themselves. Healthy people perform better and cost less. As the company’s most expensive human assets, whether you are leader or a entrepreneur you should be in peak condition.
When you neglect your health, you are actually vastly increasing the odds that you can’t perform at your best—or at all—at a critical time. That puts the business at risk. The best leaders view taking care of themselves as a business priority.
Maintaining your health is very vital and a must in this performance oriented world. We are constantly driven to push ourselves hard here. If we don’t get enough sleep or we’re not in shape or laden with nutrient poor foods, we’ll get fatigued more easily and likely won’t think as clearly. When you commit to keeping physically fit and eating healthy nutrient rich superfoods, it brings a rigor and a focus to everything you do.
I love to bike and take part in bike tours which is very physically demanding. So I need to stay in shape. And when I am in that mode, I have to concentrate completely on what I’m doing. It’s about the only time I’m not thinking about something business related. It cleanses my mind and gives me a total break from the everyday stress of running a company. I believe it makes me a sharper CEO.
As you take on stressful responsibilities, you need to develop habits that prepare you to deliver high performance over time and that can only happen when you bridge the gap between optimize health and success known as Performance Lifestyle.
Here are some keys to staying healthy, while working a high-stress, demanding job:
• Don’t sweat the small stuff : Having a lighten perspective is very important . This is just business, so let’s be smart about it. Most decisions aren’t about life and death.”
• Moderation. Common activities that are benign in moderation can sap your vitality if carried to excess. Avoid compulsive use of computers, mobile phones, and social-networking sites. If you use alcohol, be very conscious of how much you consume, and why.
• Alertness. Pay attention to mild symptoms like heartburn, headaches, blurred vision or sluggishness.
• Energy. Your energy isn’t inexhaustible. It must be managed and replenished. Take responsibility for managing your exertion. Heed the signals your body sends. Maintain sufficient reserves to care for yourself as you respond to your work’s ceaseless demands.
• Exercise. Exercise for 30 minutes at least, do what works for you. Then, lock it into your schedule. Consider it essential maintenance on a precious asset: your body. You can also build many forms of mild exercise into your daily activities even sitting at your office desk. Stroll rather than cab to that meeting across town. Take the stairs. Get in the habit of doing mild isometric exercises and stretches while you’re talking on the phone. Experiment with gentle movement practices such as Tai Chi and yoga to keep toned and flexible.
• Diet. Eating 90% or more plant based nutrient rich superfoods is the best way to prevent any type of lifestyle induced chronic diseases. Business dining is an important—and often unhealthy—part of many executives’ days. Search for restaurants that offer the right atmosphere and menu items that are good for you which have options to customize your meals. Try shifting some of your business conversations from the dining table to the golf course, tennis court or athletic club. Make sure healthy snacks are available in meeting rooms.
• Weight. If you need to drop more than five pounds, craft a realistic plan for making it happen, just as you would when pursuing any important goal. Using energy drinks or getting trapped in another weight loss only program isn’t going to help you nor will endless hours of working out. The only way to lose weight naturally and in healthy way is by switching to 90% or more plant based nutrient rich eating style
• Rest. Insufficient or irregular sleep compromises mood, performance, and alertness, while cumulatively wearing down your body’s defenses. Commit to giving your body the rest it needs.
• Values. Make maintaining your physical health as much a priority as fulfilling quotas and meeting deadlines. If you sacrifice your health, no one wins.
Invest in Your Future
The best reason for caring for your health is that the body is a temple—a wondrous, irreplaceable gift. You need not sacrifice your health to fulfill your leadership obligations. It’s your solemn duty as a person and as a leader of others to proactively safeguard your physical well being.
Watch for these danger signs: Out-of-control diet, constantly feeling tired, trouble sleeping, sudden weight gain or loss, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, inflexibility or immobility, prolonged lethargy, frequent heartburn, chronic pain.
Ask yourself: What signals is my body sending? What consequences might I suffer if my health fails? Do I conscientiously safeguard the investment my business makes in me?