Why Leaders Must Prioritize Health and Wellness

Prioritize Your Health

Leaders are especially vulnerable to stress. Often leaders put others first and sacrifice their own wellbeing in the process. That’s not a recipe for long-term success and often results in failure.

Danielle Harlan, PhD is the Founder & CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential. She completed her doctorate at Stanford University and has taught courses at both Stanford Graduate School of Business and U.C. Berkeley Extension’s Corporate and Professional Development program.

After reading her book, The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who Are Redefining Leadership, I asked her about her research and experience in leadership health and fitness.

 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” –Antoine De Saint Exupery

 

Your Health and Your Leadership

When did you realize that prioritizing health was linked to leadership?

Leadership is fundamentally about being able to set a vision and persist over the long run as you lead yourself and others to take on big challenges and work toward the finish line, so it seems like making health a priority would be a no-brainer, right? I mean, it’s pretty obvious that taking care of ourselves affects our energy levels and stamina in the long run.

However, in my experience, this is the one aspect of personal excellence that leaders are most likely to struggle with—and this is true across industries, types of organizations, and roles. As the work piles up, self-care often takes a back seat to other more “pressing” priorities, which almost never leads to good outcomes in the long run.

 

“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” -Booker T. Washington

 

More often than not, leaders who don’t prioritize their health either become unbearable to work with because they they’re dehydrated, or tired, or stressed, or “hangry”—or they start to get sick. I’ve worked with people who’ve developed diabetes, pre-diabetes, and even heart disease because they’ve put work ahead of their health. I’ve also known people who’ve gained or lost too much weight because of work and even someone who eventually had an aneurism. I’m not saying that there weren’t other factors that played a role in some of these cases, but all of these examples are of people who put work ahead of self-care, and I think they (and their teams and organizations) suffered for it.

After seeing this pattern of behavior and outcomes over and over again, it became clear to me that managing your health is a key component of being an effective human being and a successful leader.

Copyright Kate Haley Photography Copyright Kate Haley Photography

 

 

“Tomorrow belongs only to the people who prepare for it today.” –Malcolm X

 

The Dangers of Putting Work Ahead of Self

Why do you think so many people miss this important link (leadership / wellness) to their detriment?

I think putting work ahead of self-care actually comes from a good place—a desire to put forth our best effort and do as much good as possible, and people can be very effective in the short run by working this way (I’ve definitely had moments, for example, where I’ve sacrificed sleep in order to meet a big deadline).

The problem arises when we consistently put “achievement” ahead of our health and wellness, which simply isn’t sustainable in the long run—and I think The New Alpha gives people permission to re-prioritize their health and wellness, even if it means perhaps being slightly less effective on a few short-term tasks.

 

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” –Winston Churchill

 

4 Steps to Improve Your Health Today

How to Navigate the Maze of Health and Nutrition Plans

Develop Your Personalized Health Plan

 

69% of adults and 33% of children struggle with their weight.

An estimated 50% of adults have pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Health care is an increasing financial burden for many people and businesses.

And every leader wants to be more effective, have more energy, sleep better, and make a bigger impact.

David Nico, PhD, affectionately known as Dr. Healthnut, wants to inspire all of us to live healthier. His new book, Diet Diagnosis: Navigating the Maze of Health and Nutrition Plans is a recipe for health. In his book, he patiently walks through all of the various confusing diet plans, explaining them in an easy to understand way that will help you make the decisions that are right for you.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about his research.

 

“Health is not valued until sickness comes.” –Thomas Fuller

 

Decoding the Diet Myths

There is so much conflicting news about health and diet. Your new book indicates each person is unique and needs a different plan. How do you know what is right for you?

Diet DiagnosisYear after year I walk into bookstores and see the same methodology in terms of diet and health book approaches to the lifestyle disease epidemic. It goes something like this, “Here’s my diet plan. Do my plan. It will work for you. I have testimonials to prove it.” Our society focuses on scales and pounds and we look for quick fixes. This only lasts for a short time in most cases. Once you finish the diet, you can just go back to your former lifestyle or take a magic pill.

The myth in diet and nutrition and the health industry is that one specific diet plan will work for everyone instead of a personalized approach for each individual based on their interests, preferences, situation, and lifestyles.

I go opposite of every other prescriptive diet and health book and encourage a lifetime personalized lifestyle approach which is much easier on the mind and healthier for the metabolism! Everyone needs a blueprint that works individually for their unique lifestyle. I show how to create an action plan, to listen to your body, add the right foods, and avoid problem foods or ingredients. Instead of giving you the fish, I teach you how to fish, so you will fish for life.

 

69% of adults and 33% of children struggle with their weight.

 

Weight gain. Our whole society is struggling more than ever before. Why? 

Weight gain is NOT the problem! We need to change how we THINK about our food and lifestyle behaviors. The truth is, we are gaining the wrong type of weight (fat). For example, an athlete may gain muscle weight but is fit with less inches compared to a dieter who weighs less but is unhealthy. Muscle weighs more than fat. Ultimately, we want to feel great and look great, and my self-leadership approach with coaching methodology shows how to think about food correctly which results in a lifetime lifestyle transformation.

 

“Everyone needs a blueprint that works individually for their unique lifestyle.” -David Nico

 

Eliminate these 3 Ingredients Now

Look and Feel Better Once and For All

Have you struggled to lose weight or stay fit?

Do you dream about being locked overnight in a delicatessen?

How do you sustain success?

What can you learn about goal setting when trying to stay in shape?

 

Finally In Shape

 

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ken Blanchard, one of my favorite authors and speakers about his recent personal transformation, losing weight and getting in shape.  Ken is one of the most influential leadership experts in the world.  He is the cofounder and Chief Spiritual Officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies. He is also the author or coauthor of fifty books that have sold more than 20 million copies, including the iconic The One Minute Manager®.

Ken recently wrote about his weight loss in a new book, Fit At Last.

 

“People who produce good results feel good about themselves.” –Ken Blanchard

 

An Early Relationship With Food

 

fit_at_last_covWhen you were young, you describe your life as fairly centered around food.  What impact did that relationship with food have on you?

Controlling my weight has always been a battle.  My mother, like many other mothers, nurtured her family with food.  If we were happy, we ate; if we were sad, we ate; if we were worried, we ate. When you grow up that way, it becomes second nature—that’s where “comfort food” got its name.  I used to have dreams of being locked overnight inside our local Jewish delicatessen.  I can smell a piece of cheesecake a mile away!  And at times I’ve been my own worst enemy—I believed that if I worked hard during the day, I could eat anything I wanted at night.  My wife Margie used to call that a “lousy belief.”

 

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” -Ken Blanchard

 

Everyone who has struggled with weight has experienced the ups and downs.  You’ve lost weight before.  What happened?

Many times when I would have some success at getting fit, there would be a point where I would get complacent—then I’d forget about my original commitment, get distracted, and shift to other priorities.

 

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re commited to something, you accept no excuses – only results.” –Ken Blanchard

 

Sustainable Goal Setting

 

What makes a goal sustainable?

A goal is sustainable when you have a few people in your life who help you stay committed to your commitment—they hold you accountable, praise your progress, and redirect your efforts when you get off course. In my experience, most goals are hard to sustain without a support system.

 

“A goal is sustainable when you have people who help you stay committed.” -Ken Blanchard

 

What role does individual personality or behavior style have on personal fitness?

Is Your Brain the Fountain of Youth?

Image courtesy of istockphoto/firstsignal

Dr. Amen first came to my attention a few years ago. I was flipping through channels and landed on my local public television station.  There was Dr. Amen showing an audience how his brain research could transform lives.  I couldn’t stop watching and immediately ordered his books.

Before they came, I wanted to know more about him.  His background is impressive.  He has had over thirty years of experience as a clinical psychiatrist.  He’s a New York Times bestselling author and the director of the Amen Clinics.  In addition, he is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine.

When I heard that he had a new book coming out, I couldn’t wait to read it.  Here is an interview with Dr. Daniel G. Amen, M.D., author of Use Your Brain to Change Your Age: Secrets to Look, Feel, and Think Younger Every Day.

Most people think of youthful looks and they think of all of the magazine covers at the checkout stand.  We think of fad diets and strenuous workouts.  But you say “The fountain of youth is between your ears.”  How is the brain the key to making us look younger?

I am grateful for the opportunity to appear in your blog!  Thank you.

Your brain controls everything you do, including how you think, feel, act and interact.  Your brain is the organ of personality, character, and every decision you make.  The quality of your decisions is the number one predictor of longevity.  It is your brain that makes good decisions that keep you healthy and alive for a long time, or it is your brain that makes the bad decisions that kill you early.  If you want to live a long, productive, happy, vibrant life the first place to start is by having a better brain.

After performing over 72,000 brain SPECT scans at the Amen Clinics (SPECT looks at blood flow and activity in the brain) it is very clear that as we age the brain becomes less and less active.  See the chart below.  Now that I’m 57, I hate that.  But, our research has shown that with your behavior you can accelerate the aging process, making your brain look and feel older or you can decelerate it.  That is one of the main reasons I wrote this new book. I want to teach people the lessons I have learned to slow or even reverse the aging process in the brain.

Your book is so loaded with practical tips for your health.  Specifics on diet, supplements, exercise, sleep, massage, breathing techniques…what to do, what not to do.  Where do you start? 

Brain health is really very simple.  It starts with 3 strategies.