Are you firing on all cylinders?

Christopher Paterson runs through the six cylinders of wellness, and shows how they relate not just to balanced health and wellbeing but career success, too.

Ever wondered why some people have accelerated careers and others seem to stall? As career coaches, we see a number of variables at play here from personal branding to market opportunities.

However, one element is consistent across all of the ‘accelerated’ clients that we work with – It’s the personal decisions that they make regarding their individual wellness, or wellbeing.

In 2009 we took a closer look at this issue and our findings identified two types of people.

‘Person A’ thinks clearly, quickly solves problems, takes on new challenges with confidence, is resilient to inevitable setbacks and rapidly progresses in their role and career.

‘Person B’ actually has the same level of intelligence and experience with a similar personality profile so you would anticipate a similar outcome, right? Wrong.

In contrast, person B demonstrates circular and hazy thinking, they lack poise and decisiveness and take a long time to recover from setbacks. As a result, their objectives take a lot longer to achieve and their success is less predictable.

So what does person A do differently? Our own observations and the supporting research show that person A simply makes better decisions across six areas of their individual wellness. We call them the six cylinders of wellness and they now form a fundamental part of our career coaching.

As long as our clients have a strong six cylinder profile we know that they’ll be at their very best and that this facilitates superior career outcomes. So that you can benefit from the same insights and action plan, we highlight the six cylinders here. 

1. Nutrition

Our advice is don’t listen to any advice. What your body needs and how your body processes each unit of food is not only specific to you, it changes over time. So any fad diet is just a guess, no matter which celebrity chef is endorsing it. The smart thing to do is to have a detailed conversation with a qualified practitioner of evidence-based medicine or nutrition. This way you can make sure you are fuelling your body with what it specifically needs.

2. Activity

Humans are not designed to be sedentary, we’re built for movement. In fact, we are not designed to sit still for longer than 45 minutes at a time and, in the 46th minute, our brain starts to slow down and our body starts to shut down.

Contemporary workplaces understand this as evidenced by the spike in flexible desks, walking meetings and warning lights on your desktop that remind you to get moving every 45 mins. Even if you are in a more traditional work environment, don’t allow this to hold you back. Get moving so that your brain and body get the blood flow that they need to consistently operate at a high level.

3. Sleep

We can’t fight our body clock (circadian rhythms), but we can work with them to access the energy that we need. One common mistake is choosing to take technology to bed as this will stimulate the brain when the body is on the down cycle toward restorative sleep. The result is a disturbed sleep pattern and not nearly enough quality restoration. This can result in ‘sleep debt’ that is equivalent to being above 0.05 blood alcohol.

Therefore, regular patterns and a good old-fashioned alarm clock is a great investment in quality and restorative sleep.

4. Social connections

Regardless of personality, we are a social species and our brain chemistry benefits from connecting regularly with positive people face-to-face. A recent study showed that when our digital friendship group increases and it’s not paralleled with good old fashioned face-to-face contact, our stress levels actually go up.

While the wellness and happiness benefits of socialising are well founded, the additional career element to this is networking with our first, second and third degree contacts to facilitate our career objectives.

5. Time out

Many people we work with who have a stalled career feel that they are too busy to take a break. Travel however is a vital life sustainability measure that just happens to be pleasurable as well. Whether it is a family holiday or just a weekend mini-break, book it in now and make these events part of your life.

6. Outlets

Your outlet is simply any activity which engages your mind and body to the extent that you lose track of time. From a neurological perspective you’re ‘in the flow’ operating on a different brain frequency that is a lot more efficient. This switches the brain from ‘running mode’ to a neutral state that we need to reboot and refresh. We are not built to run from one adrenaline fuelled situation to the next and to attempt this creates an ‘illusion of effectiveness’ that’s not sustainable.

Yoga, meditation and surfing are good outlet examples, as are gardening, golf, cooking and walking the dog. If you don’t have an activity in mind, then finding one to do individually or with friends is a top priority.

Now take a look at your own scorecard and think of something that you will do differently to improve your low scores. This is your practical action plan.

The research clearly demonstrates that if you can improve your six cylinder profile, you will be more mentally alert, have more energy, higher self-esteem, better memory, feel less stress and pressure and experience greater focus and concentration. Overall, you’ll also feel happier and more fulfilled.

It’s not difficult to see why people with all of these factors have accelerated careers. You owe it to yourself and your career to be at your very best. By making good decisions across your six cylinders of wellness you’ll give yourself the best chance of success.

 

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Christopher Paterson is the managing director of Alchemy Career Management, a firm of coaches and business psychologists who support the career success of individuals, assist companies adapting to organisational change and deliver wellness programs for any organisation wanting to help staff be at their best.