So, how do you bounce back and stay inspired and motivated?
This is one of the questions I have been asking CEOs as part of the Purposeful CEO series for Fast Company. Their responses provide insights into how CEOs succeed and some key lessons applicable to everyone on resilience and staying motivated.
The key to staying positive at work is regularly connecting to something bigger than yourself.
Our research at Imperative reinforces what these CEOs shared with me. Resilience and fulfillment are all about connecting to something bigger than you. It is what helps us bounce back and remember what really matters. Here are three specific ways CEOs have found to stay positive by putting their work in perspective.
1. Connect to Purpose
It is so easy to get caught up in problems at work. We have to pull up and look at the impact that our work has the lives of other people. Take the time to think about the ripple effect of your work on colleagues, customers and the community.
When I was the CEO of the Taproot Foundation, I regularly read emails from our members to get inspired and remember why my worked mattered. It turns out this is a very common practice for organizational leaders.
Nearly every CEO I interviewed regularly sets aside time to read positive customer emails and letters. It gets them fired up and reconnects them to their purpose. Some CEO’s, like Athleta’s Nancy Green, turn this into a ritual where they share their favorite customer emails to kick off their leadership team meetings to share the love and purpose.
Tara Russell, the President of Fathom Travel, has brilliantly taken it one step further. She has passengers record video memories from their trip in a booth on board the ship. It then sends that video to the passenger via email to cherish later. When Russell has a tough day she is actually able to watch her customers share how her work impacted their lives.
How do you reconnect to your impact regularly in your work?
2. Connect to Nature
Nothing puts our work in perspective like nature. It puts our toils in perspective and has the added bonus of helping us take a deep breath and re-center our mind. Mindfulness has been shown over and over again to drive positivity and resilience.
When he has a hard day, REI’s CEO, Jerry Stritzke, has found a little trick that helps him reconnect to the outdoors and get the perspective he needs to be present. “I have picked up river rocks and rocks from around the world that are memorable to me, or significant to me. I have them in my office and I’ll pick one up, carry it around if I’m struggling. It just grounds me.”
Jim Keane, the CEO of Steelcase, regularly takes time between meetings to step outside into their corporate garden. He will re-center himself, perhaps take a short walk, and then return the office. He admits, it occasionally makes him late to meetings, but he reports being more present and focused on the people in the room when he arrives.
How do you reconnect with nature during your work day?
3. Connect to Wisdom
You are not alone. For thousands of years people have struggled with relationships and work. Tap into the wisdom of others to be inspired by their journeys and unlock doors that help you move forward.
David Blake, founder, and CEO of the start-up Degreed, shared that “On a busy day, when things haven’t gone well, sometimes I just give myself permission to take 45 minutes, go sit down and go find a great article. Take a little “me” time. Watch a great TED Talk.”
Some CEOs rely on revisiting a favorite quote to inspire them and keep them focused on what matters. McGraw-Hill Education’s CEO, David Levin, shares my love of the work of John Gardner, an architect of the Great Society under President Johnson and prolific writer and political philosopher. Levin keeps folded in his wallet his favorite Gardner quote:
“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.”