Accelerating Executive Leadership Performance Through Elite Recovery

Even effective leaders may be leaving something on the table – are you?

For executives, the constant desire to achieve results is demanding, and there is increased awareness of how elevated stress levels and burnout are scientifically linked to reduced cognitive and emotional ability, anxiety, or depression.(Kwoh, 2013) The outcomes of professional development are not unrelated to how we choose to recharge and recover the body and mind, and these choices influence our experiences at work, home and play. For optimum recovery, there needs to be optimum brain health achieved through implementing good health habits with proven metabolic, physiological, and psychological benefits.(Ekstrand et al., 2020) As individuals, we can create a personalized approach to achieving peak performance by adopting good habits and routines that have a clear benefit for us.(Berry et al., 2020; Godwin, 2023)

Unlocking your unrealized capacity

To enhance cognitive health through elite recovery, it’s important to understand how to harness your energy to produce optimal performance and results. Personal energy is renewable, and the quality of this renewable energy is determined by how we choose to recover. Just like an expensive car, if there’s poor-quality fuel in the tank, it won’t give its optimum performance. The concept of the flow state was first described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who investigated changes in the brain when individuals are absorbed in activities that elevate contentment with life.(Csikszentmihalyi, 1997; Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2009; Oppland, 2016; Vinney, 2019) Achieving a flow state for leaders in high-level executive positions relies upon the energy and capacity within the individual, and importantly, the basis for maintaining this flow state must be elite recovery.

There are three vital lifestyle choices we can control:


  • Scientific evidence shows that we can promote brain health by releasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is exercise-induced and contributes to the learning and memory processes during neurodevelopment.(Lima Giacobbo et al., 2019)


  • Adequate nutrition and hydration positively affect the body’s response to stress and cognitive ability with good brain function reliant upon adding specific health nutrients to the diet.(Polverino et al., 2021)


  • An established link exists between good leadership and good sleep habits.(Lazzerini Ospri et al., 2017) Sleep deprivation occurs when the body clock is pushed outside its normal rhythm, e.g., long commutes, the flight-meeting-dinner routine, and with the demands of home and family sharing responsibilities. Circadian rhythm setting is critical to how light impacts our quality sleep experience and getting as many light photons into our eyes early in the day is crucial to obtaining optimal alertness and better sleep.(Rivera & Huberman, 2020)

People can identify a fourth element as Element X – the thing that brings you joy and clear benefit in your life. For some, this might be faith (religious or non-religious), gratitude practice, meditation and mindfulness, or perhaps yoga practice. There are many more. These personal experiences are events that bring a positive benefit to the individual.

The power of habit formation cannot be underestimated, and incorporating meaningful habits into your daily routine can improve productivity depending on your approach;(Keller et al., 2021) good sleep, nutrition, and exercise, are fundamental to optimum mental health and well-being.(Wickham et al., 2020) There is also strong evidence to show that healthy habits in these three important categories may play a role in reducing cognitive decline, and as habitual behaviours are interlinked with the stress response, this association affects cognitive ability and leadership performance. What is important is having the tools to recognize when stress levels are increasing and implementing a personalized plan of action to address the problem.(Graff-Radford, 2022)

There are modifiable behaviors that promote good brain health, and we need to practice good habits to form better default behaviors. Through better diet, habits, exercise, and sleep, executives can elevate themselves as whole humans, capable of elite performance through consistent elite recovery.


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Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. Basic Books.

Ekstrand, B., Scheers, N., Rasmussen, M. K., Young, J. F., Ross, A. B., & Landberg, R. (2020). Brain foods – the role of diet in brain performance and health. Nutrition Reviews, 79(6), 693-708.

Godwin, R. (2023). Eat Fermented Foods and Fast Overnight: Professor Tim Spector’s Rules for Healthy Eating. Men’s Health. Retrieved 9 September from

Graff-Radford, J. (2022). Alzheimer’s prevention: Does it exist? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 19 September from

Keller, J., Kwasnicka, D., Klaiber, P., Sichert, L., Lally, P., & Fleig, L. (2021). Habit formation following routine-based versus time-based cue planning: A randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Health Psychology, 26(3), 807-824.

Kwoh, L. (2013). When the CEO burns out. Wall Street Journal.

Lazzerini Ospri, L., Prusky, G., & Hattar, S. (2017). Mood, the Circadian System, and Melanopsin Retinal Ganglion Cells. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 40, 539-556.

Lima Giacobbo, B., Doorduin, J., Klein, H. C., Dierckx, R., Bromberg, E., & de Vries, E. F. J. (2019). Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in Brain Disorders: Focus on Neuroinflammation. Molecular Neurobiology, 56(5), 3295-3312.

Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009). Flow theory and research. Oxford University Press.

Oppland, M. (2016). 8 Traits of Flow According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Retrieved 22 September from

Polverino, A., Sorrentino, P., Pesoli, M., & Mandolesi, L. (2021). Nutrition and cognition across the lifetime: an overview on epigenetic mechanisms. AIMS Neurosci, 8(4), 448-476.

Rivera, A. M., & Huberman, A. D. (2020). Neuroscience: A Chromatic Retinal Circuit Encodes Sunrise and Sunset for the Brain. Current Biology, 30(7), R316-r318.

Vinney, C. (2019). What Is a Flow State in Psychology? ThoughtCo. Retrieved 22 September from

Wickham, S. R., Amarasekara, N. A., Bartonicek, A., & Conner, T. S. (2020). The Big Three Health Behaviors and Mental Health and Well-Being Among Young Adults: A Cross-Sectional Investigation of Sleep, Exercise, and Diet. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 579205.

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