“Human beings don’t work like computers; they can’t operate at high speeds continually, running multiple programs at once.” This is the conclusion of researcher-author-consultant Tony Schwartz writing about productivity and peak performance in Harvard Business Review (June, 2010). Individuals and organizations perform at their peak when they stop trying to run like high speed, always-on computers and instead alternate between intense focus and intermittent times for replenishing their energy. Employees are more productive and engaged in their jobs when they combine hard work with deliberate times to meet four core needs:

  • Physical health, achieved through nutrition, exercise, consistent sleep, and daytime periods for renewal,
  • Emotional well-being which includes feeling appreciated and able to communicate effectively,
  • Mental clarity–the ability to focus intensely, prioritize and think creatively, and
  • Spiritual significance which comes from “serving a mission” beyond oneself.

Maybe this is old news except that people in many work cultures (including those who work at home) give a nod to the need for renewal strategies but then go back to pushing themselves and others to act like high-memory hard drives.

Well Being, a new book from the Gallup organization backs up this focus on rejuvenation. In a recently-reported comprehensive study, Gallup researchers attempted to define and measure well-being: what lets us thrive and makes life worthwhile and fulfilling. Surprising to me, the Gallup’s “five essential elements” of well-being (career, social, financial, physical and community well-being) made only passing reference to the impact of spirituality and beliefs in the supernatural. The researchers tested hundreds of questions that led to their five elements but belief related questions and spirituality never emerged on their well-being list.

What did emerge was a conclusion that the biggest single threat to well-being tends to be ourselves. “Without even giving it much thought we allow our short term decisions to override what’s best for our long-term well-being” and what’s best for our overall productivity and performance. Well-being research can have significant influence on our personal lives, ministries and work as people builders.

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