Like change management, keeping an exercise routine is hard!
This is especially true when you live in the Netherlands, where during the winter it doesn’t get light until an hour or two after you wake up.
But, after two or three weeks of daily exercise, with a brief break during my coaching visits to Ghana and Nigeria, I have so much more energy and focus to deal with the challenges of leading a global organisation. When I walk into the office each morning, I feel great.
This is the first time I have ever had a daily exercise routine. Getting here has been a four-year process. I’ve run barefoot along the Hudson River, practiced karate in Connecticut, and danced Salsa in midtown New York. Nothing stuck. I couldn’t figure out whyI was doing it — or at least, not a whypowerful enough to get me up before dawn every day.
That started to change in September, when I got locked out of my flat for an afternoon. After about six hours of hanging out with Dima (my teammate from Kazakhstan), I wandered upstairs to visit Petr (my Czech teammate). By then, I was too tired to talk much, so I started to read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which was sitting on his desk.
I took the book seriously.
Now, I’ve written a personal mission statement. I’ve committed to a clear set of values and a clear sense of purpose. It has totally changed my outlook on the world.
I’m an introvert, and I used to have a lot of trouble when the team came up with elaborate social plans. I felt like I was betraying the people I cared about if I didn’t go out, but I often just didn’t want to be in a club.
Once I had a clear statement of values and purpose, though, I was able to see I still contribute to my team’s well-being and success, even if I don’t always “go out.” It’s such a simple realisation, but it makes me much more confident in anything I do. It’s giving me the strength to let go of a lot of things that are “nice to have” but distracting me from the big things. For example, I don’t feel the need to write long emails to please every organization; I can focus on our connections to the World Bank and European Business Summit, which have major strategic implications. More than that, it gives me the courage and capacity to listen better to my teammates. That’s helping me to collaborate with people whom I didn’t understand before. And I’m happy.
In the same way, I can stick to a workout routine now, because I know whyI’m doing it: By making and keeping a daily promise to myself, I am helping build my own trust and confidence in myself.
It makes me wonder:
So often, people in AIESEC are willing to give the association all of their time. We believe so fully in the impact of the work we do for others that we sleep less, eat less, and stress more in order to “get results.”
But by taking the time (days!) to make a personal mission statement, and by taking the time (an hour every morning!) to work out, I have completely changed my ability to contribute as a leader of the organisation.
Perhaps we don’t need better strategies. Perhaps we just need to start by leading ourselves.
Written by Michele Trickey - AIESEC International Vice President 2011 - 2012