The mid-year slump – those long, grinding winter months when we often need extra motivation to pull ourselves out of a rut. During this part of the year, it’s not uncommon for business leaders, and extensive parts of the workforce to feel like they don’t have enough energy, motivation or pep in the tank to keep going.
We all know the benefits of time off and the much-needed kickstart that rest and leisure time can bring. We’re readily able to extol the benefits of long weekends and annual leave — a warm afternoon on the beach; the freedom to connect again with those we love; to sleep and rest; to start exercising again (“Oh, I needed that”); to camp; to read (“Oh, I love that”); to maybe even tackle that project that got shelved way back when.
But halfway through the year, there are growing murmurs of low energy levels, a feeling of flatness, and a tough outlook ahead. We’re struggling to find the energy to sustain ourselves and short holidays (if you can fit it in) and weekend breaks feel increasingly insufficient.
Working with hundreds of leaders and teams over the years, I’ve realised that it is often not a lack of knowledge or awareness but a lack of action that renders us susceptible to burnout and creates periods of bad leadership, poor performance, or missed opportunities. We understand the concepts needed to support our performance supply chain (that is, the alignment of body, heart, mind and spirit) but very few of us take the steps to implement and sustain these concepts in our day-to-day lives. This year alone I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve found myself asking leaders, “Yes you know what to do, why aren’t you doing it?”
Before we run our tanks to empty, we need to practice reflection and self-awareness, asking: Where am I now? How am I feeling? Where do I want to be next week or a year from now? What needs to change – and what do I need to do to change it?
This kind of reflection and awareness requires a daily practice of thought – something many of us consider a luxury (and the more sceptical among us, a waste of time). Daily practice of thought means taking the time to sit and reflect, to coast without our foot on the gas, without agenda and without trying to fixate on a pre-determined outcome. It is these periods of quiet contemplation that can often offer clarity, highlighting a clearer path that we may otherwise have been too distracted or overwhelmed to recognise.
Often, all we need is to take a simple, small action – a slight shift of the dial, but action nonetheless. In other cases, however, this time of reflection can be an effective way to prepare, act and adapt to a larger transition. It might be transitioning into a new career, taking on a new challenge, enacting difficult decisions, preparing for large-scale change or perhaps retiring. These transitions are challenging and often require us to consider and act upon what is most important to us.
If we are unable to top up our tank, making the decision to step down or aside takes deep reflection and self-awareness of our current state. Too often, when meeting the demands of leadership and the requirements of everyday life, we don’t realise our tank is running low until it’s completely empty. We suddenly find ourselves exhausted and burnt out, and as a result, we can become frustrated, disengaged from our work and unable to be of service.
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As we approach the second half of 2023, and endure the remainder of the chillier, darker mid-year months, my hope is that none of us will allow our tanks to run empty before we act. That instead, we will make time to sit and reflect, check in with ourselves, listen to our needs, and take the steps required to top-up, re-fill, and get where we want to be, wherever that may be.
Peta Sigley is the co-founder and chief knowledge officer at Springfox.