So many executives aren’t living intentionally with the long-term in mind and as a result, aren’t living the best versions of themselves.
Unlike the five to 10-year lifecycle of an athlete, the career of an executive spans decades. This means that to consistently perform at peak level you need to develop long-term, sustainable habits. In reality, so many executives aren’t living intentionally with the long-term in mind and as a result, aren’t living the best versions of themselves.
However, among the many are the few – those who have built the right habits that ensure consistent output in all areas of their life. We refer to these outliers as Executive Athletes.
The Executive Athlete is an individual that plays a significant role in driving value within their organisation, but also approaches their own life with the same rigour and consistency. The Executive Athlete understands that competence is important in business, but the key to true self-mastery is to create long-term impact in all areas of life and that ultra-habits are the foundation to success.
Here are the top five ultra-habits to create long-term success in your personal and professional lives:
Exercise plays a crucial role in overall wellness and productivity, but when it comes to carving out time for exercise, we often think we need to set significant time aside. While this is ideal, it’s not always the case. Dean Karnazes is one of the world’s most prolific ultrarunners. As a marketing executive in his early years, he didn’t always have time to get a workout in, but he kept a workout mat and some equipment close to his desk. He would often do circuit training on breaks or between meetings to make sure he had the opportunity to exercise throughout the day when he could find some time. The point is if you have 10 minutes, you have time to exercise.
A healthy dietdoesn’t need to be a regimented food scheme like Veganism, Paleo or Keto, but a conscious awareness of what you are putting into your body. Does this mean that you can’t enjoy food or guilty pleasures at all? Absolutely not. A significant number of Executive Athletes do daily physical exercise so that they can enjoy their varying style of food preferences. As Matthew Barbuto, an Australian business builder and investor puts it, “you need to ask yourself if you are eating simply for pleasure or fuel”. Whilst the two are not always mutually exclusive, having a grasp of this question is key to your long-term wellness.
Energy Managementis the platform that launches our cognitive power. This covers all restorative activity including sleep, naps, and relaxation. In a conversation with Sara Mednick, we discussed the topic of her newest book “The Power of the Downstate” and in it we dove into the criticality of downstates. Her work explains that we operate in various energy states throughout the day and that by developing a seamless rhythm that oscillates from heightened upstates to restful downstates is key to longevity. Operating with this level of connection to our body and honouring this irrespective of who or what might be pulling at you, requires strong awareness with deep intention. Understand that as an Executive Athlete you are focused on an ultramarathon not a sprint, and that sustainability for the long game is your priority.
As an executive you have constant demands for your attention, energy, and time throughout the day. Having the discipline to focus on your essential priorities with a firm grip on your schedule should be an absolute priority. You either manage this or others will manage it for you. Having clear guard rails on time allocation will enable you to focus on strategic activities and will also allow you to create space for reflection. Not only that, but you ensure you keep important time for yourself and other areas of your life. In an interview with Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author and time management coach, we discussed how our culture is addicted to busy. How we have lost our ability to be centred and have grossly misdiagnosed extreme “doing” as being productive.
Purpose is about living with direction and finding meaning in your life’s endeavours. Joe Desena, founder of Spartan Races calls this having a “true north,” and yes, purposeful living is a habit. Life can be challenging. Without owning your “why”, sustaining optimisation is hard. The previous four habits help support you as you live a mission-orientated life. Every single executive athlete that I have met has had a greater sense of purpose. This has ranged from a profound belief in their work, a burning desire to be of service or a deep sense of spirituality. Whatever the flavour, find your purpose and become it.
Remember, we all serve the master of habits. You choose which.
RJ Singh is a corporate and ultra-endurance athlete and the creator of Ultrahabits. Find out more at Peak Performance with RJ Singh: Ultra Habits for Ultra Performance