To stay at the top of their game, the very best challenge themselves with variety. Golfers are in the gym. Football players are in yoga. Elite performers know they need the stimulation that comes from variety to continue to raise their bar. It keeps the edge, but it also keeps enjoyment high. People get bored doing the same thing all the time. They need to keep things fresh. We need to mix it up. We can’t just always do the same workout and expect to break out of a plateau. Fish tanks have aerators to bubble in fresh oxygen. Without them, the system will stagnate. People can stagnate too.
I see many leaders at risk for stagnation. They are so busy they lose track of the importance of keeping things fresh. They are risking a lot: losing out on personal growth they could apply today, being unprepared for the future, and the enjoyment of the job fading.
We need to burst our self-imposed bubble, but it is not just about exposure to new things. There are three keys to keeping fresh. The first may be obvious, but the other two really bring it together.
Make it a habit to actively introduce new perspectives. This could be reading the latest business book. This could be reading that history book. This could be going to a talk from a prominent CEO. This could be starting a new hobby. Find things that get you thinking in new ways and about different things. The key point here is to make it a habit. Don’t just put off for when you are “not busy” because we all know that will never happen.
Create time to reflect. We need to be able to think about and digest what we have seen. Make sure you have time to consider new perspectives and what they might mean. Don’t be that leader that just runs and runs to the next thing mindlessly. Use that whitespace in your calendar (if you don’t have any you need to create some, weekly) and reflect on new ideas you may have surfaced.
Introduce the new exercise. My grandmother enjoyed watching cooking shows, but never tried anything new, so never became a better cook. Don’t just consume new things, try and apply new things. Take what you reflected on and make some changes. If you heard about ways to be a better storyteller, try them at your next three meetings. If a talk inspired you to be a better mentor, find someone to mentor. Try things for 30, 60 or 90 days.
The very best athletes and top competitors thrive by mixing things up and continuing to raise the bar. It’s what keeps people at the top of their game—and it keeps things fun too.