What do world-class athletes know that corporate employees don’t?

I can’t recall a time that I’ve been so starved to relax.

The signs that I was reaching empty began about two weeks ago. I’ve been rising before dawn for months. Preparing for a speaking engagement. And creating what became bigger than a dissertation for the the occasion. In the midst of it, I changed roles, taking on more responsibility and learning a foreign language of another function where I can make sense of every third word.

I new I was in a perilous place when I began to crave…really CRAVE…a fiction book in which I could lose myself.

One night, I found myself frantically hunting down a ‘Too Hot to Hold’ title on the OneDrive app for my local library.

Agitated and slightly panicky, I downloaded five best-sellers…desperate for a fix on a topic that could take me far from the tomes on leadership, management, and HR best practices.

Then…two nights ago, I flew home from the speaking engagement.

The weight of having nothing waiting to fill every spare minute, nothing to guilt me into sacrificing 5-8am on Saturday, nothing but the promise of time with my husband and son…felt AMAZING.

I know why I push myself. It’s because it’s gratifying to see opportunity (or create it) and live so fully with no minute wasted.

It’s also gratifying to enjoy the recovery. To recognize we need it and then claim a victorious Saturday sleep-in (as I did for the first time in five years).

World-class athletes practice. A lot.

Then, they bring all they have and they perform.

Then, they grant themselves a giant reward for all that work and they recover.

What they don’t do is perform constantly. We all know that’d be downright wrong, as they’d grind their well-honed talents into oblivion, causing their muscles to break down and compromising their mental strength.

In the corporate world, we also must watch our energy. And, we must honor the fact that our ‘game’ is running teams, growing people, and inventing the future. If we expect to do it well and do it long into the future, we need to honor the same cycle of practice, perform, recover. Take on new goals (practice and learn the best way to reach them), perform (the new thing it is that you’ve learned how to do), and recover (because all that exertion requires it).

Best ever article on this is The Making of a Corporate Athlete written by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.

I mention this article, a lot, because we’re all dyin’ out there, thinking the path to excellence is perseverance. Until we’ve mixed perseverance with the right amount of relaxation, I will continue to evangelize this concept.

And, role model it every chance I get.

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