Recently I conducted a workshop for managers called Organizational Renaissance™: Choosing the Quality of Your Work Environment whose premise is that, regardless of the situation, each individual has a choice about how he/she experiences the workplace. Given that many work environments have been affected negatively by challenging economic conditions over the past two years, this is great news! However, leaders often struggle with exercising that choice themselves, and teaching others how to do the same, because they don’t realize there is an important pre-requisite: self-care.
Why is taking care of oneself so important? The analogy I use to answer this question is one that’s familiar to anyone who travels by commercial airline. During the pre-flight instructions, passengers are told that in the event of an emergency, they must put on their own oxygen masks first before trying to assist others. While most work environments don’t qualify as “emergency” settings, the lesson is relevant here: if you are gasping for breath (literally or figuratively) and/or losing consciousness, you cannot possibly help anyone, including yourself.
With this point in mind, the workshop focused heavily on self-care as a pre-requisite to being able to lead others effectively. In fact, we identified and discussed 31 tools and practices for self-care. With a nod to the multiple 11s in today’s date (11/11/11), here are 11 of those suggestions. For those who are interested in learning more about these concepts and/or in seeing examples, there are links to some of my articles that provide more details.
1. Watch your self-talk: is it life-affirming or energy draining? The way we talk to ourselves (and others) creates our reality, which is key to being able to choose how to experience the situations in which we find ourselves. You may find examples of affirmative self-talk in my article Transformative Self-talk.
2. Paint a picture of how you want to live your life, and use it as a touchstone for making personal and professional decisions.
3. Surround yourself with people who infuse your life with positive energy.
4. Distinguish clearly and realistically between things you can control and things you can’t. Focus on the former and release the latter. An easy exercise you can use to make that distinction is described in my article Begin to Take Control of the Quality of Your Life. Suggestions about how to release people and things that no longer serve you well, or that you cannot control, are provided in my article How to Release Things You Cannot Control.
5. Focus on your strengths and talents, not on your shortcomings.
6. Make a conscious choice about how you will experience each day by identifying one perspective you intend to take. Using the statement, “Today I choose to ___,” fill in the blank with one intention such as “feel compassion for myself,” “accept myself for who I am,” “be inspired by those around me,” or “feel worthy.” You may find a long list of suggested transformative choices in my article Transformative Choices: What’s on YOUR “To Do” List?
7. Attending to all aspects of your being – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – enables you to ensure you are addressing all the important elements that go into self-care. Just as organizations use a balanced scorecard format to ensure they are measuring all important aspects of their business, so individuals can devise a personal scorecard to keep their self-care on track. You may find an explanation and example of such a tool in my article Creating Balance in Your Personal Life: What’s in YOUR Personal Scorecard?
8. Look for opportunities in every situation rather than obstacles.
9. Be kind to yourself. Imagine your best friend is in your situation. What would you do to support and nurture him/her? Do those things for yourself.
10. Reward yourself on a regular basis. You may find suggestions about how to do this in my article How to Optimize Your Personal Rewards/Recognition ROI.
11. Zealously guard your time. One tool that works exceptionally well in putting things in perspective is a simple question. Ask yourself, “Am I the only person in the world who can do X?” Most the time the answer is “no.” When that’s the case, delegate X (the task) to someone else.
As a leader, you have tremendous responsibility, and often are expected to produce results even in the face of challenging situations. You will be best equipped to rise up to meet those expectations when you take care of yourself first, then teach others to do the same. I invite you to choose just one of the above self-care suggestions and incorporate it into your life. Isn’t improving the quality of your life worth that effort?
© 2011 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.