Chances are that if you were to place a high-powered corporate executive and a high-performance elite athlete in a room together, you would find that they probably have a few things in common. In each case, certain personality and character traits have allowed them to ascend to accomplished positions in their respective fields. Without a strong work ethic and determination, for example, an Olympic athlete would likely never stand on the podium. Similarly, without such qualities, an aspiring executive would likely never make it to the C-suite.
Dr. Jason Selk, author of Executive Toughness, and former Director of Mental Training for the World Series winning St. Louis Cardinals, writes about the similarities of elite athletes and successful executives. He notes that, generally speaking, both share perfectionist personality traits and must continuously perform under the immense pressure built on their earlier great achievements.1
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz have written about the connection between physical capabilities and executive performance in the Harvard Business Review. Their article, “The Making of a Corporate Athlete,” suggests a strong physical capacity builds endurance and promotes mental and emotional recovery.2 Read their full piece here: http://hbr.org/2001/01/the-making-of-a-corporate-athlete/
Their approach is rooted in the work they have done with world-class athletes. Their research in sports science has confirmed that the capacity to mobilize energy on demand, required in an era when many executives are expected to be on call at all times (responding to emails, fielding phone calls, etc.), is the foundation of what they term the Ideal Performance State.3 That is, the condition that allows for sustained high-performance over time.
Everyone Should Make Time for Exercise
The typical workday of a high-powered corporate executive does not begin and end at the office. Smartphones are virtually ubiquitous in today’s business culture and there is, in many workplaces, an expectation that if you get a work related email away from the office, you will check it and act on it accordingly, especially if it is from a superior. This has bred an environment where you are expected to be on top of your game all of the time.
One of the best ways to avoid burnout and exhaustion is through exercise. There are myriad mental and emotional benefits associated with physical activity and it is incredibly effective at controlling stress. Taking steps to ensure that you are able to exercise during the work-week will go a long way to ensuring that you maintain the capacity for sustained high performance.