How Are You Taking Care of Yourself?

They say that it's lonely at the top and there is a wisdom to that.  Leaders are the ones who have to look you in the eye when bad news is on the horizon.  They are also the ones who bear the burden each night as they go to sleep, worrying more than anyone else about the health of the organization.

That "organization" can be a business, a church or even a family.  Ask any parent (leader) and they can easily share a story of a time when they went to bed, worrying about their child.  When everyone else can turn work off, the leader endures a constant chatter in his head about how to fix and improve things.

Leaders also get credit for the big wins, but in my experience, this kind of back-patting is extremely rare.  The day to day grind can easily consume whatever internal passion that was once a driving motivator.

This is what I call The Pull.  The Pull is that feeling you get when everyone wants a piece of you.  It's that sense you have that others aren't fully pulling their weight and their constituents turn to you to help fill the void.  It affects you physically and emotionally.

The Pull can destroy a leader if you let it.  It can make you cynical, quick with your words and physically exhausted.  Worse yet, it only increases the "loneliness factor" of being a leader.

About a year ago, I was confronted by a colleague of mine who looked me in the eye and told me to slow down.  He said, "Mike, if you don't take care of yourself, you're going to burn out.  The rest of us would like to see you here for the long haul."  His words stung because I knew he was right.

In order to counter the sucking effect of The Pull, you must ensure that you're being fed.  Here are some good questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you a member of a faith community that you enjoy and gives something back to you each week?

  • Is your marriage in a healthy place?

  • Do you regularly visit with friends simply to hang out, share a meal or do fun things?

  • Are you taking time each day for prayer and devotions?

  • Are you doing something, 2-3 times a week that is good for you physically?

It is possible to head The Pull off at the pass. Just remember that it will come back so you'll need to ask these same questions again in the future.  Great leaders take care of themselves because they know that God can get more out of them when they are in a healthy place.

One of the best ways that I know of to counter The Pull is to get away.  This may be a retreat or a conference as Michael Hyatt posts on his blog.  It may also be the practice of meditation as Bradley Moore posts on Shrinking the Camel.

One way that I get away is to work from an alternate location.  My friend Gene Monterastelli is a master of this.  He may work from home one day, from a Starbucks the next.  He keeps fresh by avoiding a stale work environment.

If you feel inadequate at times, remember the words of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, "God doesn't call those who are already equipped.  He equips those who are called."

*photo by E. Carton