The secret to career success isn’t your productivity methodology. It’s not the fact you’ve read Getting Things Done forty times. It’s what you put in your mouth.
what does it mean to have career success?
Career success means many things to many different people and if I’m going show how you can eat your way to a promotion then I think it’s fair that we try to define what this means, to ascertain a benchmark. So I’m going to turn to old faithful, ChatGPT to define it.
Career success can be defined as achieving one’s professional goals and aspirations, which may include factors such as job satisfaction, financial stability, recognition, personal growth, and work-life balance. It is subjective and varies from person to person.
As you can see, career success has many pillars. One may feel that by finding a job where they are their own boss and be financially independent is enough to be considered successful. Others may be looking to climb the ladder into senior leadership to even consider that they may be successful in their chosen profession, despite having a large mortgage and eye watering car payments.
There are dozens and dozens of books that are available on career progression, success and financial independence. I’ve read a fair few over the years and honestly, most of them come down to using your time wisely, don’t waste your money and be nice to your staff.
My point being is that though I’m going to show you how to achieve career success through food, how you define your own career success is subjective.
the importance of optimal brain function
As we develop in our chosen careers, one of the areas where being proficient is advantageous is the practice of decision making. These decisions can fall into several categories depending on the role itself and also the industry. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to focus on two; operational and strategic.
Operational decisions is day-to-day management and problem solving, whereas strategic decisions are longer term.
When making operational decisions that effect others around you and the workflow that you employ, it’s important to be able to assess many different factors such as available resources, time constraints, potential risks, and the impact on stakeholders. These decisions need to be effective and inline with the overall company strategy.
When making strategic decisions, it's important to consider factors such as the organisation’s goals, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, market trends, competition, and available resource. The outcome of strategic decisions are longer term and will affect the entire business direction and it’s output.
I work for an IT company that when I started would put private servers into enterprise and public sector business facilities. We were very good at it. Then I woke up 6 years ago and suddenly we were no longer selling racks. We were going to be throwing everything, including the kitchen sick, into cloud. It was a risky move at the time, but using data from Gartner and a plethora of other necessary strategic ingredients, the CTO at the time made the strategic decision and took the risk. And it paid off, massively.
It’s therefore important when making these decisions that we are able to consider many different data types, both a qualitative and quantitive.
Therefore, it is important that our brains are acting as optimally as possible when making these types of professional decisions. As the brain is a muscle we need to feed it correctly to support its function. If you’ve had a heavy night of drinking, or are dehydrated or have had little sleep (or all the above), or live on a diet of pizza and fried food, you may not be in the best mental state to be making decisions at all, and career progression requires us to make the right decisions.
the ingredients for improved brain function (and a long life)
There are many things that the body needs to enable it to concentrate and think clearly. These are obvious, such as exercise - this increases blood flow to the brain allowing it to function optimally. Short breaks allow the brain to reset, If you read the book Hyperfocus, the author, Chris Bailey talk about the attentional space that our minds have, often referred to “working memory capacity” by cognitive psychologists. Mindfulness meditation has been proven to allow us to focus and not allow distractions, and stray thoughts to hinder our concentration. In addition, we need to look after our telomeres.
Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences found at the ends of chromosomes that protect them from degradation and fusion with neighbouring chromosomes. The length of telomeres is associated with cellular aging and the potential for cell division. As cells divide, telomeres gradually shorten, and when they become too short, the cell enters a state of senescence or apoptosis. Therefore, longer telomeres are generally associated with increased cellular lifespan and a lower risk of age-related diseases. (ChatGPT)
In the 2015 study Current Directions in Stress and Human immune functionit was found that positive thinking and a reduction in stress levels can help slow or reverse the degradation or shortening of telomeres, which will protect the ageing of cells and therefore ensure they function optimally. When we think of mental wellness, I’m not talking about sitting in a park with your legs crossed and eyes closes hoping that whilst you meditate someone doesn’t steal your handbag. Joking aside, mental wellness can be improved by meditation, but also a healthy diet. And diet can also help to reduce stress. (Though don’t underestimate the superpower of combining this with exercise). Both exercise and consumption of vitamin B and D is the perfect starting point, as these vitamins act as a great mood stabiliser. By stabilising our moods and we are able to reduce the degradation of the telomeres that sit at the tip of our chromosomes. Also, doesn’t hurt to smile a little more often too 😊
In addition to the telomeres, our brains are made up of neurological frameworks. These frameworks are made up of neurotransmitter pathways and these pathways also require animo acids and stabilised blood sugar levels. By creating new neurotransmitter pathways we can come up with new ideas as we make connections. We also are able to develop ideas and create new pathways, biologically, by exposing ourselves to new experiences, ideas, people and environments. This is why a lot of successful people encourage reading non-fiction. However, with a diet of protein, dairy from poultry we are able to help develop these new healthy pathways.
This all helps us to make better informed decisions in our careers, we react calmly to stressful environments and we can be more efficient in our task management, making us more productive, informed and though optimism, more pleasant to be around. Simple daily habits like this can help you to innovate and deliver recognisable value each day.
Creative thinking, coupled with organisational skills and evidence based decision making is central to career progression and a healthy diet can support this. There is an article in Forbes that offers advice on planning for your next role and seeking advice. Certainly worth a read.
the right food
The following foods are rich in vitamin B:
- Whole grains (such as brown rice and oats)
- Meat (such as beef, pork, and chicken)
- Fish (such as salmon and tuna)
- Dairy products (such as milk and cheese)
- Leafy green vegetables (such as spinach and kale)
- Legumes (such as beans and lentils)
- Nuts and seeds (such as almonds and sunflower seeds)
Though the best source of Vitamin D is sunlight, if like me, you live in the north of England, that is in short supply. I personally take a vitamin D supplement. However, the following foods are rich in vitamin D and worth adding to your diet:
- Fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel)
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods (such as milk, orange juice, and cereal)
For stabilising blood sugar levels the following foods are recommended:
- Whole grains (e.g. brown rice, quinoa)
- Non-starchy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, spinach)
- Lean protein (e.g. chicken, fish)
- Healthy fats (e.g. avocado, nuts)
- Legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas)
- Low-sugar fruits (e.g. berries, apples)
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