Self-awareness helps us answer one of life’s big questions, one that is foundational for leading our people: What makes us truly happy? This question should be front and center for any leader. Being self-aware of what constitutes true happiness helps in better leading pep/e and tapping into what really drives them. True happiness bolsters feelings of fulfillment, engagement, and commitment. Because of this, it’s time for the practice and science of true happiness to enter basic leadership knowledge.
True happiness is…
True happiness, in contrast, can’t be so easily located or pinpointed in the brain. It’s not in a specific region, and it can’t be found in a single hormone, neurotransmitter, or molecule. True happiness is a long-term experience of a meaningful, purposeful, and positive life. It’s a deeply felt existential experience that can be maintained irrespective of the ups and downs of life, not a fleeting sense of gratification like pleasure. We’re chasing pleasure in new business successes, more praise, and better pay, hoping it will make us happy. But it doesn’t. It just puts us on the treadmill of wanting more and more. This is not to say pleasure is wrong. Pleasure is great. It adds flavor to life. But pleasure is like eating honey from the blade of a knife. It tastes great, but if we’re not careful, we may hurt ourselves by craving more.
Mindfulness training helps you increase your self-awareness and thereby become more aware of what makes you truly happy. It helps you avoid your compulsive reactions and replace them with more useful behaviors. And it helps you stay true to your values. These are foundational skills for effective leadership, for being authentic, and for increasing team engagement.
Care for your body and mind
Taking care of your mind and body includes the basics of finding times to exercise and making a commitment to a healthy diet. Being physically active and eating properly are foundations for high performance and improved well-being – a fact well understood by most leaders. Through our own research, we’ve found additional factors critical to a healthy mind, which are less appreciated by busy leaders: the need for quality sleep, the need to disengage from compulsive technologies, and the need to make time for mental breaks.
Get enough quality sleep
According the American National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of sixteen and sixty-four should be getting between seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If they don’t, they pay a steep price. Scientific studies have conclusively shown that sleep deprivation is a key issue underlying a long list of mental and physical disorders. Even light sleep deprivation has been proven to negatively impact logical reasoning, executive function, attention, and mood. Worse, severe sleep deprivation can lead to depression, anxiety, and symptoms of paranoia. In the long run, sleep deprivation is a main contributor to the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now the most surprising fact: while humans can survive multiple weeks without food and up to a week without water, they can only go a few days without sleep.