I had a conversation recently with a highly educated professional--brilliant and successful in his field--who is, as he described it, having a breakdown in his life. His stress levels are sky high, his body is falling apart, he's depressed and discouraged, and his family life is strained. His energy stores are depleted. He's going nonstop at work. When I had him identify his top 5-7 core values--those values most important to him that he believes should inform all of his life choices and decisions--first on his list is what he calls "biology over technology." When I asked him what that meant, he gave a profound definition, "I believe human beings look and feel their best when they move at the speed of biology not technology."
What he is realizing is how far he's allowed himself to unalign with this first core value on his list. And his incongruity with what he values most is causing him to pay a huge price, like it does for all of us.
Moving at the speed of biology not technology.
Challenges of Success--A Double-edged Sword
Highly successful people constantly face a conundrum. On the one hand, they are successful because they get a lot done. They know how to prioritize, they're highly responsible, and they make things happen. And they do it all with passion and excellence.
You've heard the saying, "If you want something to get done, ask a busy person."
So on the other hand, this creates a wave of activity in their lives that often turns into a tsunami, overwhelming them.
Success is a double-edged sword. It produces great things. But it also exacerbates busyness and over stimulation. The pressures and demands increase dramatically with success. And the proverbial "burning the candles at both ends" becomes more and more a reality with painful consequences.
Technology, though often helpful, can contribute to this overload of the human system if not managed and stewarded effectively.
So how do successful people get out of this vicious cycle? Is there an effective way to manage all the demands and pressures short of hiding out in a cave away from everyone and everything?
The answer is Yes. And here's one of the nonnegotiable, indispensable, and effective ways more and more successful people are building into the structure and fabric of their busy lives.
Moving at the Speed of Biology Not Technology
Dr. Daniel Goleman, the father of emotional intelligence (or EQ), in his book Focus, prescribes a framework for success that enables people to develop enough clarity about where to direct their attention in ways that strengthen rather than weaken their systems. This framework positively impacts not only their own lives but also the organizations they lead or work in, including their family systems. This focus begins with themselves, then moves toward others, and then out to the external world--in that order.
Dr. Goleman states that cultivating this type of focus requires
"regular practices that allow your brain to fully relax and let go of the anxiousness, confusion, and pressures that can fill the day."
This is what my client is describing as "moving at the speed of biology not technology." It's strategically utilizing how your body and brain are wired and giving them what they need most in order to develop effective living. It's leveraging opportunities to relax your brain and body.
Practices of Mindfulness
This strategic practice is known as mindfulness. And there are many different forms for it: prayer, meditation, journaling, long walks, jogging and/or physical workouts, in depth conversation with spouses and other trusted people, devotional reading, technology sabbaths that provide more face-to-face time.
The common thread with all mindfulness practices is the intentional choice to create
"regular introspective practices that take you away from your daily routines and enable you to reflect on your work and your life--to really focus on what is truly important to you."
A vast amount of research continues to show the absolute vital nature of these kinds of daily practices for effective living--intentional ways to move at the "speed of biology not technology." Those who engage in these activities experience far more happiness, engagement, fulfillment, and effectiveness in everything they do. Period. You are paying attention to your biology and partnering with its needs.
The outcome to establishing these regular rituals is a dramatic increase in focus, clarity, compassion, and courage--the four qualities needed for successful people
"in order to resiliently cope with the many challenges coming their way and the resolve to sustain long-term success."
Examples of Mindfulness
Jesus deliberately incorporated these into his every day life. As the demands on him grew, the more intentional he became with his practices of prayer and meditation, long walks, intimate conversations with those closest to him at meals and on the road and in boats, weekly worship in the synagogues, acts of compassion. These habitual rituals kept him centered and grounded in what was most important to him. They relaxed both his brain and body regularly so he could stay focused on not the urgent but on the most significant.
Mahatma Gandhi, at the height of his mission to drive out the colonial power from his homeland of India, all the while trying to keep the Muslims and Hindus from slaughtering each other, said, "I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one."
Significantly enough, more and more leaders of today's hugely successful corporations and companies are recognizing the indispensable value of engaging in mindfulness practices. Their response is: "I can't afford to NOT take this time!"
And these leaders are going beyond themselves to also encouraging and providing opportunities for their employees to "take more time to reflect on what's most important in order to create ways to overcome their own difficult challenges and increased pressures."
Learning to move at the speed of biology not technology. It's indispensable to effective living!
So do you have mindfulness practices structured into your life? If you don't, why not? What specific activities could you adopt right away? Will you write some specific times into your calendar right now? This will be the most strategic decision you make.
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If you or someone you know in your organization is looking for a keynote speaker or workshop teacher for events in your company, congregation, or association gatherings, I would be happy to come speak on this theme or others like it. And interested in strengths coaching? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or look at the Speaking or Coaching pages of this site.