In one of my prior articles, I mentioned in my article that if we want to become better leaders, we have to start with being a leader of ourselves. It means we have to lead by example. We have to have values that match our words and actions. We have to step of our comfort zone to grow to become a better version of ourselves.
To me, self-leadership also includes something important: self-care.
Self Leadership = self-care
We cannot inspire, motivate, help or support others if we are not healthy. And when I say ‘healthy’, I mean ‘mentally and physically healthy’.
The doctors told me I recovered so well because I stayed positive throughout this whole experience.
When I had my car accident 21 years ago, I had to stay in the hospital for 3 months. During these 3 months, I had to stay and lie in bed for 6 weeks, without being able to stand or even sit. This accident made me realize how precious life is, how precious our health is and that without it, we are of no use to anyone. The doctors told me I recovered so well because I stayed positive throughout this whole experience. They also said I recovered quickly because I was in ‘good shape’ i.e. not overweight, or having some health issues such as too much cholesterol, or diabetes. We often take our health for granted until something happens, our life changes within a few seconds and we realize that our health is the most important thing we have.
The second time I realized that we also need to be mentally healthy is when I had a burnout. I was doing a job I did not like. I had nice colleagues, but the job was challenging me in the wrong way. So I was stressed and brought my stress home. Because I was stressed, I did not sleep well. Because I did not sleep well. I was more and more tired. So I no longer went dancing (which used to help me get rid of my stress). I was in a vicious circle. Until I was forced to break it. I could no longer work and stayed at home for 2 months. Here again, I realized that even if I was physically healthy, I still was of no use to anyone, not even myself, as I was no longer able to think properly or even relax! I had stretched my resources too thin… This was another powerful lesson.
What I learned from these experiences
We need to learn to take time for ourselves to exercise, to meditate / pray and to eat healthy. We need to take some time to relax. Getting enough sleep, spending time with our family and friends, and doing things we like are necessary activities so that we can recharge our batteries. When the battery of a phone is close to empty, we are quick to recharge it as soon as we can. Why don’t we recharge ours when we are tired, feel drained, cannot concentrate, or start having all kinds of issues (such as headaches, backaches, stomachaches, etc.)? Why do we often wait until it’s almost too late? I’ve learned it the hard way with my burnout. The body is a powerful machine. It tells you everything that is important if you take the time to listen to it.
These 2 experiences are the main reasons why I dance salsa 💃🏽. With salsa, I found my passion. Salsa is not only my workout, it’s also my (mental and physical) stress relief.
When I dance, I can let go of everything and focus on myself, the music, and what my dance partner wants me to do. Salsa gave me confidence. It gave me some ‘me time’. It helped me become a better leader and a better follower. The list goes on and on…
So what does that mean?
That means we need to continue learning new things and unlearning others. We need to develop and improve our skills. This means also starting new habits and getting rid of others. Getting rid of people who put us down, are jealous or criticize us and surround ourselves with people that support us, encourage us and motivate us to become a better person.
Finally, this means to be aware of ourselves, of our body, and our emotions. Any negative signal we get (even if it’s just a headache) is a sign that we need to take care of ourselves more.
Taking care of ourselves is NOT selfish. It is the right thing to do. If we are not (physically or mentally) healthy, we, as leaders, simply cannot help ourselves and others.
Our mental and physical health should always be our number 1 priority.
You have found the sweet spot right here inside your essay: “That means we need to continue learning new things and unlearning others.”
Both of these seem simple but can also rub against some hard edges of our own thinking. Unlearning takes intention, mindfulness and an openness to new perspectives. Our brains are hardwired and been trained with years of patterns. The practice of unlearning is a powerful compass to our healthy emotional self. #selfcare