"You are honouring yourself by pausing and taking action for nurturing yourself. It's a precious gift and only one that you can grant yourself. You are being proactive. You are saying YES to YOU and that's really important. Imagine my hand on your back when in doubt."
These are words I shared with a client recently. If you are a leader you might relate.
You are feeling burnt out, discouraged, fatigued or overwhelmed. Yet, you are a leader. You put the needs of other people first - always. Your care and concern for the mission of your organization, the clients you serve, the team you lead -- they all get the very best of you. Add on top of that the needs of your family, the organizations you volunteer with and your friends. Eventually you hit a wall.
You have lost connection with YOU - your wants, needs and choices. You are consumed by responsibility for everyone else to the point where you are no longer in touch with your responsibility to nurture and care for yourself. Your gas tank is perilously low and you've been ignoring the signals to fill up.
The wall may come in many forms - an overly emotional outburst, you get sick, you dread going to work or another meeting, you feel anxious, you start procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities. These are all signals. The question is - what will make you pay attention?
Leaders get tired. Leaders get overwhelmed. Leaders are vulnerable. This is a normal part of leadership and quite frankly one that is ignored and not discussed.
All leaders need a break; a purposeful pause to restore, re-vision, re-imagine, re-boot.
There is no shame in needing a time out and yet many leaders feel awkward and vulnerable declaring their need to pause. This is a place of shame for many leaders.
When I coach leaders who have hit the wall, I invite them to make a choice of self-compassion. It's a strategy for saying YES to YOU.
10 Tips for fully and completely saying YES to YOU:
What Am I Yearning For? Identify what you need and want most right now. Make a list and savour it. Imagine what it will feel like to live the activities on the list. What impact will that create when you gift yourself the time and space to do so?
Declare - I am Worthy: You are the only person who can grant yourself the gift of taking a pause. Dig deep and ask yourself if it is important for you to honour your needs; to respect your inner voice of wisdom. This is critical. You must be willing to grant yourself permission to do what you know you need to do.
Clear Space: Identify what you can pause or delegate so you can free up your agenda. Giving over responsibility to others may be an edge yet it will ensure key elements move forward while you take time off.
What will I say NO to? Identify what you can say NO to in the short term. This will give a sense of freedom. Even one or two clear, decisive NO's will make your heart soar.
Activate Your Plan: Clarify how long you will be away and how you will be in contact - if at all. Take a purposeful technology break. Turn off your phone and do not check work emails. This will require rigour and discipline and is essential if you want to set work aside.
Create a Support System: Define the support you need to do your restorative work. Consider people who will be strong allies in supporting your need for pause and restoration. They must be willing to champion your vision for the pause and respect the boundaries you put in place. Options to consider are your coach, a counsellor, family and friends. You may also want to seek the support of body or energy workers, yoga or meditation instructors, or other practitioners who offer healing work that will get you back in touch with your body, mind and spirit.
Change Your Scenery: If it's possible, go away. A change of scenery can do wonders. Even if you can't leave town do find time to go to nature. The healing energy is profound and offers up an opportunity to ground yourself.
Do Nothing: Seriously, make a plan to do nothing. It's the antedote to the busy, overwhelming state of being that got you to hit the wall. Give yourself the gift of absolute free time - to rest, wonder, wander, explore. Lean into quiet and solitary time to be just with you. Read books. Listen to music. Watch clouds. Sit in a room lit by candles. You'll get in touch with parts of yourself you've lost connection with.
Journal Daily: Take time to process and record your feelings in writing. It will reveal emotions and desires that have been living in you that need to be acknowledged and/or released. It's an opportunity to vent. It is also a powerful opportunity to start focusing on what is life giving and fulfilling to you. An opportunity to practice active gratitude for what you value and enjoy. Bringing this more into focus is a conscious way of tapping back into the fuel that makes your heart sing.
Make Conscious and Intentional Choices: As you get back in touch with what is most important to you, start to articulate choices that will sustain you in your life and leadership going forward. You may want to set some boundaries, clarify what you will stay YES and NO to going forward, define new ways of working to ensure a better balance and greater fulfillment. Focus on what you can control and build your plan around that. Making your plan before you return to work is essential. It's a proactive stance to help you establish a new structure for going forward.
Savour saying YES to YOU. It's a delicious gift. It is also an imperative of brave leadership.
A leader's role is to ensure sustainability and direction for their organization and the people they lead. Therefore, taking an intentional pause is a powerful stance of leadership. By taking care of yourself, you are creating conditions to assure the continuing creativity, strength and vitality of the organization you serve..