Americans work a longer workday than many other nations’ professionals. We take less vacation than most others. Our maternity leave is kind of a joke when held up against what other countries offer. These are just some of the facts that show you we put work above all else, including our wellbeing. But it is sort of a form of putting the cart before the horse. We work hard so that we can build a life for ourselves in which we can relax. That can mean many things like disposable income, a growing retirement account, or homeownership. We want to build stability, but in the process, we can make ourselves quite unstable. What good is a nice home or disposable income if, by the time you have it, you don’t have the physical or mental wellness to enjoy it? It’s the catch-22 of ambitious people around the world.
Some people spend their entire lives ignoring the fact that our physical and mental health are part and parcel of our career health. In fact, many think that your overall wellbeing must be sacrificed for a robust career. That’s not only not true, but the inverse of the truth. You won’t have a robust career if you sacrifice your welfare. In fact, Teneshia Warner, author of The Big Stretch: 90 Days to Expand Your Dreams, Crush Your Goals, and Create Your Own Success, interviewed many highly accomplished individuals for her book and learned one thing they all had in common: a respect for the mind, body, spirit, and career connection. She shares a bit of what she’s learned with us here. We felt this topic was particularly important during a pandemic when being spread thin due to work from home commitments can lead many professionals to neglect themselves.
“Even before you’re in a state of emergency, it’s good to develop those principles that will keep you grounded before things are bad. Even when things are good, I encourage business owners and professionals to be aware of, what does a healthy mind, body, and spirit look like for you? Be self-aware to know what that looks like for you and how you achieve that,” Warner says. “In my book, I shared my journey of leading a dream career for two decades. I had an opportunity to interview around 200 iconic dreamers from the CMO of Procter & Gamble to Magic Johnson to Cathy Hughes, I was able to dissect a blueprint that these dreamers were living by every single day.”
Being aware of the messages you consume is very important, says Warner. “Something I found is successful professionals….they’re intentional about feeding their mind positive materials that move them in the direction of their dream. They’re very protective of what they allow to enter their minds. I do that as well. Whether it’s what I’m listening to or even my own conversation that I’m having with myself. Be a gatekeeper of what you’re allowing in your mind. Do that in the good times. In the bad times, you really have to pay attention to that conversation you’re having with yourself. Or the conversation you’re letting in through things you’re watching or listening to.”
“Successful people are intentional to build strong bodies,” Warner says. “You can have the best ideas and every intention to climb that ladder or be a successful entrepreneur, but if you’re not putting a priority on building your body, will you have the strength to run the marathon of your dream for the long term versus just the short term? I’m intentional to make sure I’m working out. Sometimes I fall off. But I have to have that conversation with myself around…if I’m not doing this, I’m not going to be good for my company. It’s a non-negotiable…the building of the body. Great leaders get that this is not the place to compromise.”
You don’t just need the physical energy to do the practical tasks or the mental energy to handle the challenges involved: you also need to energize your spirit. “What is that spiritual practice that fuels your soul? For me, I’m a Christian. So there are certain sermons or leaders that I listen to like Bishop T.D. Jakes and his daughter Pastor Sarah Jakes. In the morning, I put on a podcast and it’s feeding my spirit,” Warner says. “So whatever your practice may be, whether it’s meditation, or prayer…whatever your practice is…I highly recommend that you’re intentional to connect with that source to feed your spirit.”
This formula of feeding your mind, body, and spirit, “That’s the trifecta of putting into practice ‘How do I as a dreamer take care of the mind, body, and spirit of a dreamer?’” Warner says. It’s difficult to have to rise high from a low place to meet a challenge. So this is another form of staying ready so you don’t need to get ready when problems arise. “Make sure that [mind, body, and spirit health] is a priority for you at all times. Then, if something happens that’s threatening your business’ survival, you have strength in mind, body, and spirit to weather the storm.”
Another way you can manage the messages you consume is by managing the people you allow to be close to you. Warner says, “Be aware of who is on your team. I call them Dream Champions. A dream champion is someone you can share your vision with and they’re going to reflect back to you the best of what you’re becoming. It’s like, in the middle of the fight, when Rocky goes back to the corner, his trainer says, ‘You have more in you.’ You need to know who those dream champions are who have the ability to bring out the best of what you’re becoming. You need to keep those on speed dial in the middle of trying times.”
Having put the above practices to work, Warner was able to actually pull some blessings out of this pandemic. “We were able to innovate by being able to channel the pain into purpose,” she says. “There was a moment where COVID-19 was disproportionately impacting communities of color. It really pained my teams. We were able to create this paper on it. We went out to corporations. We were schooling them in real-time, saying, ‘Here’s the impact of COVID to people of color.’ We weren’t being paid to do that. We just did it. It was this notion of, how can we take all this pain and channel it into purpose?”
Warner was also able to apply her trifecta of a mind, body, and spirit mindset to finding new possibilities in what many could see as the limitations of the pandemic. “It removed the boundaries. I interviewed Pastor Touré Roberts and he talked about how prior to the pandemic we were fishing in a pond or a lake. And all of a sudden we were pushed out of a pond and we were exposed to the ocean. We were open to these new boundaries, ” she says. “In my day-to-day business, prior to the pandemic, we would hire mostly New York-based talent. We were limiting ourselves to a New York office. Those boundaries are now removed. The boundaries of the physical office have now been released. We’ve hired talent in Montana. In Washington DC. I have two team members in LA. And prior to the pandemic, I wouldn’t have known that that was possible.”
Because she made her mind strong before the pandemic and ran her company with the wellness-centric beliefs covered here, Warner was also able to break out what she calls the dream warrior in the pandemic. “Unleash the dream warrior within. A dream warrior understands that you have to fight the giants that stand between you and that dream. That could be a pandemic. It might be cash flow. It might be hearing no after no after no. It might be losing a valuable employee or your office. Whatever that is, you need to unleash the dream warrior to fight it.”
If you can get to a mentally strong place, then you can better weather the uncertainty happening now. You can stop yourself from feeling like all is lost, even if it’s all on pause for a while. “For all the readers that may have had to put a dream on hold, it’s the notion of knowing that a dream deferred does not necessarily mean it’s a dream that’s forever denied,” Warner says. “If you had to change directions, slow down, or completely stop, be gracious with yourself. You are going to get to move forward again. My book came out in November of 2019. I had big plans to be on tour in 2020, pushing this book. I had no idea I was going to shut down an office and there’d be no such thing as book tours. I had to trust that in due season it’s all going to work out. We’ll be able to get back to this. Believe that the deferral is not a denial.”