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I was on a podcast recently. The person interviewing me asked this thought-provoking question: How do you define success?
I thought for a moment and answered: Contentment.
For many years, I felt like my brain was on overdrive. As soon as I reached one goal, I created another one. I was always trying to grab a brass ring that was slightly out of reach. I prioritized productivity and constant stimulation over rest. I was so focused on achievement that I never thought about how to structure the non-work portions of my life.
I meet many advisors following a similar path. They prioritize work over family and productivity over relationships.
The consequences are predictable: high levels of stress and deteriorating relationships with family and friends, leading to a financially robust yet personally unfulfilling life.
There’s a better way.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the combination of stress and anxiety (your reaction to stress) can cause problems with “your immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems.” It also increases your risk of developing anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses.
The Mayo Clinic lists more adverse effects of stress on your body, mood, and behavior.
One study reached an even more troubling conclusion. It found that “...any level of psychological distress is associated with increased mortality and an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, external causes, and cancer (albeit only at higher levels of distress) ...”
Consider substituting a goal of stress reduction for one focused solely on increasing AUM.
Reducing stress is much like responsible investing. It’s simple but not easy.
Here are some suggestions from the Mayo Clinic:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Avoid unhealthy habits.
- Find humor.
- Improve relationships.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Seek counseling if necessary.
Why isn’t it easy?
Many of those suggestions require changing ingrained habits, which we are often reluctant to do.
Start small. Focus on changing one habit, then move on to the next one. According to some experts, changing one habit takes about 30 days of continuous effort.
Exercise is a good example. Start by setting aside the same time every day when mandatory exercise is built into your schedule.
Move to meditation. You can read about the extensive benefits of meditation here. It should be enough to know that it can “give you a sense of calm, peace, and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and overall health.”
If you are skeptical about meditation, consider this fact: The pre-frontal cortex of our brain manages awareness, concentration, and decision-making. There’s evidence that meditation thickens the pre-frontal cortex, permitting “higher-order functions” to increase and lower-order activities to decrease.
Take a brain break
More AUM. Better Relationships.
My micro-learning course will increase your AUM and deepen your relationships.
If not, I’ll give you a 100% refund of the $29.95 cost.
Volume discounts are available.
Think of the brain as a muscle in your body. You can’t keep exercising it without giving it a break.
Relaxation and rest refresh the brain and often permit us to see issues differently.
A recent study found that short brain breaks (less than 10 minutes) improved outcomes and alleviated fatigue. The longer the break, the better the performance (in some tasks).
Another study found that employees who took a break by walking for 20 minutes (outdoors or even in their office building) improved their creativity.
An earlier study found that a 15-minute physical activity break reduced stress and led to higher levels of enjoyment at work. These breaks also increased the health awareness of participants and promoted healthier lifestyle habits.
By shifting your focus from the relentless pursuit of “more,” you enhance your life and may avoid the danger of mistaking life-threatening stress for success.
Dan trains executives and employees in the lessons based on the research in his latest book, Ask: How to Relate to Anyone. His online course, Ask: Increase Your Sales. Deepen Your Relationships, is currently available.
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