When was the last time you got enough sleep? (I have a nine and a six year old. I figure I haven’t slept in 9 years.)
When was the last time you truly relaxed? Turned off your phone, your email, your Wi-Fi, and did something just for yourself?
When was the last time you breathed really deeply and turned down the volume on the noise in your head?
Great leaders are awesome at taking care of other people: thinking about their needs, adapting to be more effective, helping others to be successful. Yet few also know how to take care of themselves. In our culture, we tell ourselves we need to be strong- we don’t need help, we can go it alone, we need to do more. But the truth is that in order to be strong we have to renew our energy. We expend energy all day long- solving crises, dealing with conflict, influencing others to come along for the ride. And if we are not recharging our batteries, eventually we begin to wear down and become less effective.
It’s common sense- our bodies, our minds, our emotions, and our spirits need fuel to function, yet we believe we can run on empty and still do a great job. We feel guilty for taking time for ourselves, or we feel lazy if we aren’t constantly running from one thing to another. I am speaking from experience- I typically run around at 90 miles an hour with a jam packed schedule. There is a cost to all my busy-ness: in relationships, effectiveness, and of course, my own well being. But I can’t seem to stop- and don’t really want to.
I know (logically) that I need to renew my energy. As I work with leaders, eventually we will come to a point in the discussion where I ask if they are well fed and well rested. It’s amazing what a decent night’s sleep and a good meal can do for the effectiveness of a leader. Yet I’m human and have the same sort of self-limiting beliefs that hinder many of us: if I take time for myself, others will think less of me and I will lose something. I’ll be out of job, I’ll lose my house, my wife will leave me, and the kids will be calling some other guy dad by the end of the month. A better belief would be that if I take better care of myself, I can be a better leader (and a better dad and a better husband).
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz describe four sources of energy including mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual and recommend that we develop daily rituals for renewing our energy. Rituals could include things like reading for pleasure, or working out, or eating well, or praying, or meditating, or spending time with people who fill your bucket, as opposed to those who punch holes in the bottom.
Like any leadership development, the path to renewing our energy starts with looking in the mirror and making a choice. I know the choice I need to make, I just need to figure out a way to change how I see the world, and slightly alter those beliefs that are holding me back. It will probably require baby steps- like going for one walk, outside, in the fresh air. Or getting to bed by 10, no excuses. If I can make these small changes a ritual, I can make a habit of renewing my energy. Or I can just keep running on fumes, and hope that when I crash it won’t be the fiery, world altering kind.