If you’re an overachiever with a solid dose of FOMO (fear of missing out), then join the club.

In my case, it’s meant that I’ve never been good at getting enough sleep or prioritizing my own needs when there’s work to be done.

But after decades of refusing to rest when I was tired, I finally made friends with the concept when I read these four words in an action novel:

“Sleep is a weapon.”
– Jason Bourne (The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum)

If even an action hero like Jason Bourne needed to sleep and engage in self-care, then surely I could squeeze in a bit of it myself.

And these days, self-care is more important than ever.

Just as Jason Bourne needed to take care of himself to keep a step ahead of the “bad guys”, you and I need to focus on our self-care to be resilient and achieve our goals.

Here are three kinds of self-care you’ll need for greater success in your career and life:

  1. Listen to Your Body
  2. Make Movement Your Friend
  3. Expand Your Mind

Let’s start with the first kind.

Listen to your body

The thing is, when it’s time to rest, your body knows it. But if you’re an achiever, then your mind will push you to override the information. Just like in Star Trek where Captain Kirk ignores Scotty in the engine room as he warns that the starship can’t go any faster or she’ll break.

That’s why self-care starts with listening to your body. Stepping back and being still long enough to get in touch with what’s really going on for you. My husband is great at this. When he’s tired, he takes a power nap. When I’m tired, I have another cup of tea and keep going.

But pushing yourself too much leads to being less efficient, less creative and in my case, more crabby and more impatient. My decision-making also suffers. Left long enough, this can lead to burnout.

The science tells us that sleep is when our bodies heal and when our memories are catalogued. And even if you’re not sleepy, it’s important to rest and take breaks. Downtime is not just for introverts who get their energy from internal sources. It’s also what you need to set yourself up for success when you’re ready to focus.

As I learned from Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, it’s best to take your rest and relaxation days, which he calls “Free Days”, before your “Focus Days” when your most important work is done. So it’s about setting yourself up for success and not to recover from being exhausted from all that work.

While conventional wisdom tells us that rest is how we recover from working too hard, the best strategy is to rest in anticipation of times when you want to be at your best.

Which brings us to the next kind of self-care.

Make movement your friend

When I talk about movement, there are two kinds.

Since most of us now do our work in front of a computer and our leisure activities increasingly include being on a device (like watching Netflix series), the first is about physical exercise.

The human body was made to move, not sit at a desk or even on your comfy couch all day. And now that most of us spend our working and leisure hours staring at a screen, it’s more important than ever to be consciously injecting movement into your daily routine.

Whether you’re lifting weights, going for a walk or practicing yoga, the physical benefits are proven. Like strengthening your cardiovascular system, improving your flexibility and increasing your fitness levels so you can enjoy a better quality of life as you get older.

Equally importantly are the mental benefits. Physical activity releases “feel good” brain chemicals, which help clear your mind so you can think strategically, make good decisions, come up with creative solutions, put things in perspective and generally feel better about yourself.

That’s why my “happy place” is being at my CrossFit gym. And during lockdown, it’s being on the Zoom version.

The second kind of movement is about being in motion. That is, taking action of some kind that moves you beyond the inertia of sitting with your ideas or worries. It’s the kind of action-taking that doesn’t require putting on gym gear or getting sweaty.

As one of my mentors says, “motion breeds clarity”

Taking an action step leads to more learning and insight than waiting and worrying. By putting things in motion, you build momentum toward the goals you want to achieve.

It could be taking one small step on the project you’ve been procrastinating on. Or calling and talking to the colleague who sent the cryptic email instead of wondering what they meant and worrying about it.

It could also be engaging in a random act of kindness, like taking out your elderly neighbor’s garbage bins.

For me, it often shows up as changing up my routine or doing something different from “the usual”. For example, I experienced the joy of making dinner for my family last night (my husband is the chef of our household and does most of the cooking).

And joining in on my husband’s daily walk in the woods with our dogs last week gave me a refreshing break from my tendency to sit in my office working all day. Somehow, being in motion outdoors makes me even more productive when I get back to work.

So opt for acts of commission rather than acts of omission. And even if your action turns out to be a mistake, you’ll still benefit from the learning that comes from it.

When in doubt, make a move. Take an action. You’re likely to feel better about yourself and it’ll keep you from falling into a rut that might trap you.

This brings us to the third kind of self-care.

Expand your mind

Just as exercise builds your physical capacity, learning expands your mental capacity. And learning is essential for keeping your mind open and your brain supple and active so you can keep performing at work and making the most of your potential.

As you expand your mind, it’s important to be thoughtful about what information and experiences you take in and the people you are learning from. This is the kind of self-care that will differentiate you in your career.

For example, if you get your news and information from only one or two sources, you’ll have a one-sided view of the world. And if you’re learning from and surrounded by “like-minded” people who think and act exactly like you, you run the risk of becoming narrow-minded and linear in your thinking.

One of my most successful colleagues read widely, connected with people from various other fields and was a great listener. He was masterful at nourishing his mind with different inputs and experiences. And unlike many of us who were too busy doing urgent tasks, he took the time to step back and reflect. All of this helped him become highly successful in his career.

Clients loved taking his calls and meetings because he always had something interesting to say. Our senior management respected his ability to connect the dots strategically. And his team could count on him to come up with a creative angle on whatever problem they were facing and make it solvable.

“There’s an old saying in business that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. The same is true for ideas. Mindset matters.”
– Peter Diamandis and Steven Kottler, Bold. 2015

So expose yourself to different ideas and points of view. Be discerning about who you learn from and where you get your information. Approach situations with an open mind. And embrace learning opportunities.

How can you be strategic about expanding your mind this year?

But what if you’re too busy to indulge in self-care?

Just remember that you are the Golden Goose without whom there would be no golden eggs. And if you don’t make time for rest, activity and learning, something will break down whether it’s mentally, physically, relationship-wise or career-wise.

So don’t view self-care as an indulgence. Taking care of yourself is a necessity.

The best time to invest in self-care is all along the way

But if you haven’t been doing that, then the second-best time is to start right now by doing the following:

  1. Listen to Your Body – get the rest you need in anticipation of times when you’ll need to be at your best, not just to recover from periods of hard work
  2. Make Movement Your Friend – whether it’s physical exercise or taking action on issues you’re facing, being in motion is good for your body and mind
  3. Expand Your Mind – keep learning, keep growing and keep an open mind in order to fulfill your career potential

Which of these three kinds of self-care will you benefit from most this year?

Leave a comment and let me know.

And a great way to expand your mind is to take the time to learn (for free!) from world-class experts the strategies you can use to be successful this year. We’ll be announcing our annual Career Mastery™ Kickstart Summit on Monday, so stay tuned!