Leadership Library Review: A “20-20-20” Resiliency Practice

April 2017

A “20-20-20” Resiliency Practice

What are the big take-aways?

Last month I was interviewed by the executive director of Vermont’s nonprofit network, Common Good Vermont, in a live call-in show on community television as part of a series called #worklifebalance. One of the strategies that was highlighted in the interview is a “20-20-20” daily renewal practice for maintaining long-term resiliency, which I developed early on in my leadership coaching business many years ago.

Why do I like it?

I am a fan of what some have called work-life integration, as an alternative to the concept of work-life “balance.”  This is the idea that you can craft ways of integrating the major parts of your life so that your personal activity energizes and propels your ability to make contributions at work; and reciprocally, so that stretching yourself at work enriches the development of your mind, body and spirit in ways that serve your personal growth. The goal is to generate a virtuous cycle of renewal as opposed to “managing” competing demands.

So what is the 20-20-20 resiliency practice, and how does it support this cycle of renewal? I recommend a simple formula: strive to spend a minimum of 20 minutes every day doing one positive thing outside of work for your body, your creativity, and your spirit (by which I mean nurturing your connection to someone or something larger than yourself).

In my own 20-20-20 practice, I keep my standards loose and flexible, and adjust them according to my schedule. Sometimes engaging in three separate roughly-20-minute activities is ideal. However, on my most hectic days, I might bring the kind of upbeat attitude to my one-hour dance fitness class that covers all three bases. (Another example: if you have young kids, fully immersing yourself in playing with them for an hour can certainly cover all three bases, too.) Other things I do for my body besides cardio-vascular exercise are visit the chiropractor, indulge in a special meal, or take a long soak in the tub. Things I regularly do for my creativity include outdoor photography, solving word puzzles, following my curiosity and making new connections (via museums, documentaries, reading, etc.), and writing. These physical and creative enjoyments can also count toward feeding my spirit. So can having fun with good friends, doing volunteer work, composing a thank-you note, walking in nature, or getting absorbed in a performance (music, theatre, dance, sports…), all of which help me to connect with someone or something larger than myself.

In what situations would this be useful?

I believe it is useful for everyone to lead an integrated life. Perhaps it’s especially useful for leaders. Whether it’s this 20-20-20 practice or other strategies, any habits or routines that keep leaders healthy, fresh and agile elevate their effectiveness as well as that of their organizations and the larger systems in which they operate.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

If you want to hear more about the 20-20-20 resiliency practice and/or my other “life hacks” for leading an integrated life, you can watch the entire #worklifebalance interview here.

For additional exercises and activities that support happiness, resilience and kindness, I highly recommend the Berkeley-based website, Greater Good In Action. If you like it, consider signing up for the Science Center’s weekly newsletter containing links to well-written articles about the latest research into “the science of a meaningful life.” One recent piece – related to the 20-20-20 resiliency practice – discusses the role of creativity in fostering a sense of well-being.

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