Leaders need to have a sound mind and positive energy. Research suggests that our ability to deliver those two things diminishes primarily because we fail to do one thing: adequately care for ourselves. That’s why we must prioritize self-care. It’s not about treating ourselves or acting selfishly. It’s about bringing our best self to the leadership table. In this time of crisis, our families, our organizations, our communities, our nation, and our world need us to be at our best. As we start our week, let’s carve out 20 minutes each day to show ourselves some CARE using the principles below.
- Consider our whole self. Let’s pause for a moment and take inventory of our core. Let’s ask ourselves questions like: how am I doing – mentally, physically, and emotionally? When was the last time I talked with my best friend? When was the last time I laughed? How many hours of sleep did I get last night and the night before? Have I prayed or meditated lately? When was the last time I did something I enjoy? How would I describe my feelings during this challenging season? By considering our whole self, we engage all the parts we need to live and lead well.
- Act, don’t just explore. Based on our answers above, there’s one looming question – what are we going to do differently? An old Hebrew proverb states, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” That was ancient Israel’s way of saying “talk is cheap.” Merely reflecting on our current state is an important step, but we have to DO something. Depending on our core inventory answers, we may consider small steps including: call or video chat our best friend, watch the latest comedy special on our favorite streaming service, go to bed a little earlier tonight (even 20 minutes can make a difference), reach out to a spiritual leader, take a walk, practice deep breathing, or read a chapter in a book. The key in this phase is action.
- Repeat consistently. Research indicates that while most leaders engage in some self-care and renewal practices, we’re not getting enough of it. It’s like quickly dipping a steak in a marinade, we may get some flavor but not nearly the flavor we can get by allowing it to marinate for several hours. Let’s consider the action steps we identified above and ask a simple question: how can I get more of that practice into my life? It may be as simple as scheduling a weekly recurring call or video chat with our best friend or using a guided meditation three times a week. The principle of repetition reminds us that whatever helps us feel hope, compassion, mindfulness, and/or joy is worth doing more often.
- Evaluate periodically. Because personal well-being has a direct correlation to leadership performance, we believe leaders should regularly assess our self-care approach. Let’s take one month to consistently practice the activities we identified and then evaluate whether they’ve made a difference. We can ask questions such as: would it help if I did more or less of this activity? Would changing the time I do this activity improve my experience? What do I get most out of this activity and can I find other activities that bring that same quality to my life? The activities that bring renewal to our lives may change over time. By evaluating periodically, we can enhance the quality of our self-care.
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