Balance: Are you investing in your emotional bank account?

Published: November 23, 2017
Author: Steven Thomas

Being busy takes its toll

I caught up with a pal yesterday who I would describe as a high achiever.  We have a mentoring agreement where we speak regularly about business challenges and try to help each other gain perspective.  We hold each other accountable, ask difficult questions (and silly ones) and offer reflections that prompt a different kind of thinking for the other person.  We're also in different industries (and locations, he's in Texas) which really helps on a number of levels.    He recently moved jobs and is making good trouble in a business that is desperately trying to adapt to market challenges (like most of us).  This is a guy who takes ownership, is quick to help others and goes after the hard problems.  Which, in itself, can take its toll.  But he's also generous and is quick to take up opportunities like industry speaking engagements or to write and publish content that will help others.  In short, he's a talented but busy guy.   This weekend is Thanksgiving in the US and he admitted to me he's exhausted and really needs a rest.   Sound familiar?  Well, read on.

Two questions to help assess our emotional balance

As a friend and mentor, I felt the need to ask two things.

Firstly, what are the pillars and practices that you come back to when things get tough?

By pillars I mean the things you do to switch off and allow yourself to regenerate.

Secondly, what is the state of your emotional bank account?  What do I mean by this?  Think of it this way - just like your financial bank account you can invest or withdraw from your emotional bank account.  And if your anything like me and the vast majority of others, then you're probably withdrawing more often than your investing emotionally.  A withdrawal is effectively each time you come up against a stressful or difficult situation, big or small.  One that challenges you and makes you feel discomfort.  Now, in order to grow and develop we need these kinds of situations but equally, they are not sustainable in the long run.  In-between times this is where we must consider investing in ourselves.  In our balance and state of mind.

How many stressful transactions have you made this week?

Consider this.  How many 'transactions' have you made this week?  Are you in credit in terms of the things you have done to relax and taken some time for yourself? Or are you creeping ever closer to overdraft?  It's important we pause, ideally each day, to ask ourselves this kind of question.  To check in and to adapt.

When coaching others I often refer them to this insightful HBR article on managing your energy rather than your time.  It helped change my thinking a few years back when I was going through a challenging period at work.

Also, more recently I read this from Canadian artist and fellow altMBA alumni Katie Brennan who talks about using creativity to find your flow and as a way of meditating.

I've also written regulalry about meditation and mindfulness as effective techniques for coping with the challenges of modern living.

p.s. My friend who I mentioned above.  He found that regular visits to a flotation tank have really helped him find a new balance.