I started swimming laps for exercise in my 20’s when I met a man named Lou Stein. At the time, Lou was in his 60’s and was one of the top rated 60+ tennis players in the United States. Lou was about 5’4″ inches tall and weighed in at a rousing 120 pounds. He was lean and strong. Fit as anyone I knew. His tennis game was built around fitness. He returned everything, and back then, with the smaller rackets and the clay courts, he was almost unbeatable. I used to hit with him once a week and he ran me ragged.
As we got to know each other better I asked him what he did to stay so fit. He said one word- swimming. At the time I knew how to swim but the idea of swimming laps was not one I ever would have considered. I was a big runner, bike rider and had just started jumping rope as exercise. But Lou convinced me that swimming as an exercise was the best and it was something I could do for the rest of my life. Looking at how his fitness level was crushing me on the tennis court every week I decided he may have a point – so I started swimming.
My first time in the pool was a nightmare. I could barely make three laps- so I rested a bit and swam three more. Rested and swam. It was grueling but I did 40 minutes of that. My arms were sore- my legs were weak and I felt completely rejuvenated by the experience. Each time out I got a bit better until now I can swim for an hour without any rest. This new “habit” has stayed with me for 30 years. It got me to thinking what an impact this has had on me and my health, but also on my work.
We have the power to change our habits- to reinvent ourselves as business people and as leaders. I did some research on this idea and talked to some experts who agreed with me. Better habits can change how we work- how we live and how we are perceived. Here are some ideas that I found- try one or two and see how it changes your practice.
- Readjust your typical morning routine– If you are jumping out of bed, heading to the shower and racing out the door- then you are stifling your potential creativity. Set your alarm a few minutes earlier so you can take some quality time each morning to plan your day.
- Introduce yourself to three new people every day– Don’t stress if you’re shy- it is easy to introduce yourself and start a conversation if you keep the conversation about them. Ask questions about them and their work- it works believe me.
- Write down your goals– Enough said. Without goals we are lost so do this now.
- Take a walk– According to a 2014 Stanford study- if you’re feeling stuck or you need inspiration, pounding the pavement for just 10-15 minutes will help increase your creativity by almost 60%. (I believe swimming works the same way!)
- “Power Pose”- Yes. Pose. A Harvard business study in 2010 recommended that we all adopt a “power pose” for 2 minutes every day. It sounds different but according to the study, if we stand straight, shoulders back and fists on your waist for just two minutes a day- you will feel more confident as you face the challenges of the day. Try it and let me know how it works for you.
Better habits will up your game, but they take time to establish. Take the time. Start today.