Monday, June 9, 2014

Maximizing Personal Energy

Recently, I was on a panel at a conference for 250+ nonprofit executives when I suggested that in order to effectively address today’s challenges they need to lead with a sense of urgency because that is what it takes to accomplish important changes required today in the sector.  But it’s not going to happen overnight.  So they also need to lead as if they are running a marathon.

But how do you run a marathon with a sense of urgency?

First we need to maintain a focus on the long term impact our mission will make.  We need to pace ourselves and not try to run a marathon like a sprint.

Next we need to discipline ourselves so that we are able to provide a high quality work effort over time.   In their article, “The Making of a Corporate Athlete”* in Harvard Business Review, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz call this attaining an “Ideal Performance State.”

Applying what they have learned through training world class athletes, Loehr & Schwartz suggest that the discipline required to attain the Ideal Performance State includes focusing on four important aspects of our lives:

Physical Capacity.  Do the healthy things we know we should do.  Exercise at least four times per week – including weight training at least twice a week, eat healthily, drink sixty ounces of water per day, get adequate sleep at a regular bedtime.

Emotional Capacity.  Cultivate a positive attitude, have empathy for others, and invest in quality relationships.  A strong emotional capacity builds resilience in challenging times. 

Mental Capacity.  Enhance focus by setting goals, take breaks every 90 to 120 minutes to refresh and regain focus, consider meditation to quiet the mind and enhance mental recovery, use visualization to picture successful performance.

Spiritual Capacity.  Be ever mindful of your purpose and values, and how you are living these out.  This makes work more fulfilling and fuels us for the long term.

By feeding each of these aspects of our being we can more successfully mobilize energy for quality work over the long term, resulting in a successful marathon run and enhanced Mission Impact.

*The Making of a Corporate Athlete, Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz, Harvard Business Review, January 2001

For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

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