Dr. James D. Guy
Executive Director & Cofounder, Headington Institute
Most serious athletes use some form of cross training as part of their daily workout routine. It makes sense to exercise a variety of muscles to keep fit and flexible. Overuse of the same muscle group can lead to all kinds of problems, including muscle fatigue, tearing, stiffness, restricted range of motion, and even immobility. A mix of running, swimming, biking, walking, stretching, and weightlifting is a common regimen.
The same is true in our work. Focusing on a variety of tasks throughout the week stimulates creativity, determination, and enthusiasm. Admittedly, research shows that staying focused wins over multitasking in maintaining productivity and goal attainment. Yet, it is also true that too narrow a focus over too long a period of time can lead to burnout. When possible, it may be best to have a variety of work goals involving several different projects at the same time.
But, that alone may not be enough. Most of us need interests outside of work to stay resilient. Meaningful hobbies, avocations, relationships, and passions unrelated to our job can re-energize us and bring a broader perspective to our lives. As important as our work is, it helps to remember that life is bigger than our job. Outside interests can bring meaning, joy, and zest. They strengthen and nourish us, making it possible to do challenging, intense work.
Members of our institute team take the need for this kind of cross-training seriously. At work, each person focuses on a variety of tasks and responsibilities that make every day unique. They also pursue a variety of interests outside of work, such as sports, mountaineering, music, martial arts, church activities, youth mentoring, and family outings. Some even excel at these, achieving recognition for their abilities. Such pursuits provide balance and perspective to our lives, enabling us to do our jobs with enthusiasm year after year.
If you’re not already using cross-training as a life strategy, please give this some thought. Even just a few changes may bring new vitality to all that you do.