Personal Development

5 self-care habits of successful people

“Sometimes I wish I had a moment for myself.”

Have you felt that recently?

Busy CEOs are pushed to a high stress level and often feel they lack the time they need to get everything done. Leadership demands hard work, creativity, and long hours, but science shows us that lack of rest and relaxation leads to diminished focus and productivity as well as the likelihood of burnout.

A growing number of executive leaders and business owners are prioritizing self-care habits. Successful people know that rejuvenation is paramount for maintaining their performance and overall well-being. There are a variety of ways to replenish your energy—it could be 30 minutes of exercise a day, reading for pleasure, spending time outdoors or a meditation practice.

To get a glimpse into the self-care habits of highly successful people, read on. Below, five business leaders with broad and deep experience in the business world share how they take the time to recharge.

1. Keep a journal to reflect on your purpose.

I keep a daily gratitude journal using The Five-Minute Journal from Paper Source. Each day has a page that starts with an inspirational quote. For example, today’s quote is:

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.”
GOETHE

It then asks three questions to be answered as soon as you get out of bed:

  • 3 things I am grateful for…
  • 3 things that would make today great…
  • Daily affirmations, which is some application of my personal Purpose Statement: “Listening, Learning, Loving, Leading from Abundance.”

At bedtime, I answer two additional questions:

  • 3 amazing things that happened today…
  • How could I have made today even better?

The practice only takes about 5 minutes a day and keeps me connected to my purpose with a positive mindset. As Brené Brown says, “There is no joy without gratitude.”

Brian Davis, business and talent management leader, Vistage executive coach | Minneapolis, Minnesota

RELATED CONTENT: Vistage Speaker Luke Carlson explores exercise as part of the self-care habits of successful people

2. Switch up your activities to enjoy the spice of life.

My favorite ways to recharge include reading novels and participating in a book club, road biking, skiing, swimming, Pilates, meditation, spending time with family, listening to my favorite music, travel and outdoor hiking.

I come from a musical family and enjoy a rich variety of genres, including blues, soul and jazz. Some of my favorite artists are Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, Laura Nyro, Brandi Carlile and Lake Street Dive.

I read all kinds of novels and biographies. Lately, I would recommend “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin and “Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin, a Nebula Award-winning science fiction novel exploring a world where we become the other gender on a regular basis.

Travel is how I grew up. Other cultures remind me of my limited perspective and expand the possibilities of the world. Recently my trip to an Ecuador cloud forest sustainable lodge exposed me to the world of interdependent biodiversity, and it has changed my perspective. All of this makes me more humble as I continue to discover how little I know.

Jan Salisbury, 30 years as president of Salisbury Consulting, Vistage executive coach | Boise, Idaho

3. Unplug from technology and reconnect with nature.

Recharging is an important part of my practice. Something that works for me is being in nature, and more specifically, bird watching. To go out with my binoculars and just BE in nature observing our flying friends grounds me like no tomorrow. And just about anywhere is a good spot!

When I was 11 or 12 years old, a family friend took me out watching birds in our surrounding areas in Holland, and I was hooked. I’ve bird-watched ever since, and I can often be found with my binoculars.

In California, I was involved in rescuing Hawk Owls and falcons (Ojai Raptor Center) and administering first aid for birds before bringing them to the rehabilitation center. My favorite birds are the raptors, and I love ocean birds and getting on a boat to travel far offshore to watch albatrosses and petrels. In North Carolina, I watch the cardinals, bluebirds and barred owls in our backyard—such a magical place!

Niels J. Lameijer, former CEO, executive consultant and senate lobbyist in the Netherlands, Vistage executive coach |Chapel Hill, North Carolina

4. For the mind-body-spirit trifecta, give more time to the needs of the body and spirit.

I meditate daily and swim laps during our summer months.

I’ve been in a pool since I was a kid. I always loved the water. I guess being a Pisces helps that. Every day, weather permitting, I will swim 100 lengths of my 30-foot pool. It takes me about 30 to 40 minutes. It is a time when I can burn off energy, get great exercise, and it simply helps me clear my head. I am always re-energized after a swim.

Over the years I’ve tried meditation with simply using some of the smartphone apps. I never thought I was doing it right because I couldn’t focus my mind, like I know many other people report. Because of this monkey mind, I would give up, thinking I was just not meant to meditate. Then I took a course from a local practitioner who allowed me to realize that my overactive brain was not a sign of meditation failure. So I stuck with it.

I’ve been meditating 15 minutes every morning in total silence for six months. I used to have two or three insomniac nights each week. In the past six months, I’ve had two. Is it because of the meditation? I guess I can’t be 100% positive, but for a very simple investment of time, I am going to stay the course. It gets my day off to a great start.

Joni S. Naugle, former banking executive and Vistage executive coach | Reading, Pennsylvania

5. Harness the power of sleep

Sleep is the cornerstone of how I recharge, and of my health in general. The best way I find to ensure a good night’s sleep is to bookend my night through these three ways:

  • “Letting the day out” by disconnecting from all work and electronic devices by 9 p.m. and engaging in other wind-down activities before going to sleep at approximately the same time every night;
  • Aiming to sleep for seven to eight hours; if I wake up in the middle of the night, I use mindfulness techniques or get up and read something (on paper and non-work related);
  • “Letting the day in” through allowing my day to start calmly before it’s overtaken by events and the agendas of others.

Great sleep can literally transform your life – and it’s free!

Giles Watkins, Vistage executive coach and speaker, author of Positive Sleep | London, England


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Vistage Staff About the Author: Vistage Staff

Vistage facilitates confidential peer advisory groups for CEOs and other senior leaders, focusing on solving challenges, accelerating growth and improving business performance. Vistage member companies grow 2.2x fa…

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