By Stuart R. Levine

Published in Forbes

It’s time to slow down. Before you can truly think clearly and strategically, you must first take care of yourself. In this column, I’m going to try to connect a few dots that will help you to become a more effective leader, have more productive energy and be able to provide more insights to the people you work with every day. Slow is the new fast.

In one of my books, I discussed the fundamentals of success, one of which was called Gain Perspective. Tight deadlines, rising client expectations and internal turf battles all contribute to high-pressure days. Getting to a higher ground so you have a clear view of what’s happening in front of you is a good goal. Sound decisions happen when you can breathe, understand your objectives and focus on the solution. The natural reaction is to access blame to others, become angry and express frustration that is difficult to repair.

This thinking around prioritizing of what’s important was reinforced at a meeting I attended this past year, where the top hundred-plus senior managers received the book Super Genes by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. What is the connection between a book on genetics and leadership? The main concept in the book is that your genes alone do not determine your destiny. Genes create a predisposition, but there is a dynamic relationship between how we eat, move, control stress and love, that impacts our body’s ability to transform and heal. This book is one of the most hopeful messages about the power each one of us has inside to control our destiny.

Learn about what’s good and bad for your body so you can control your destiny and become a strong leader.  When I get on an airplane for long trips to a client site, I don’t engage in unnecessary conversation. I do that because I need time to concentrate, renew and focus. Instead, I listen to music, read and prepare my mind for the work ahead. I prepare my body as well. On one trip when I was overly tired, I ate four bags of peanuts. The next day I didn’t feel as well, it slowed me down and I regretted it. After I got up and worked out to get the salt and heaviness out of my body, I felt better and decided never to eat peanuts on planes again.

You can only sustain constant non-stop action and motion for so long. Take time to sit with no profound thoughts. Find things that make you laugh, whether it’s reading the New York Post or watching the Housewives on television. Make people laugh to diffuse tension when appropriate. Take naps, stand up every hour, exercise whenever you can even if you only have 15 minutes. Consciously do something for yourself that’s positive.  Act upon what’s good and avoid the bad. Ask yourself, will I remember this six weeks or six months from now? It’s a big world out there. It will keep spinning even if you make a mistake.

Make choices about who you choose to focus on and spend time with in your career. Careers are all about relationships and communication.  The smartest, most accomplished people ask for feedback, do their homework, read, learn and share information together. The people who acknowledge shared communication, get in the inner circle, build deeper trusting relationships based upon how they spend their time. If you don’t take the time to acknowledge receipt of content from those important relationships in either your career or your life, your opportunities for success will be diminished. Your mental health is precious. I have come to a point where I am not going to sacrifice my ability to learn and evolve as a human-being trying to stimulate “C” players to become contributory. It’s a bad use of my time. I get these people off my radar screen and out of my head. So if you want to be close to decision-makers, you need to take the time to do the important things that will bring you there.

We all make conscious choices – who we respond to, what we respond to and how we rejuvenate ourselves.   Your own personal evolution to living a healthier, more positive life is in your hands. There are millions of books and articles written on this — whether it’s about getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating the right foods, meditating to reduce stress, getting rid of negative thinking, caring for yourself or making personal choices that suggest delaying gratification in favor of more positive future outcomes — the fact is that making small changes for your health should be on everyone’s to-do list. Not just for ourselves, but for our families, the organizations we serve and the people we touch every day.