Stop Feeling Guilty for Resting
Like many of us, I started working when I was pretty young (14), and for over a decade I held some outdated belief systems that didn't serve me or work to create the life that I wanted.
Here are some of the (mostly subconscious) rules that I had for myself:
1. If you are not making a lot of money you are not allowed to rest or have fun.
2. If you don’t work 40+ hours a week you are not allowed to rest or have fun.
3. If you are starting to feel burnt out, work harder because you don’t want that weakness to permeate your being and ruin your life.
4. You are allowed to take vacation, but only if you work so hard before you go that the entire vacation you are just recovering from the double-time work you did the previous week in order to go on vacation.
When I would run into someone who was ‘taking time for themselves’ and living a balanced life, and I would judge them fiercely. At work, I would pride myself in never taking my breaks, and even sometimes working off the clock to finish the job. It was clear to me that I was a ‘better person’ because I could work 8 hours straight without even going to the restroom.
Then, in 2010, as I started to shift my life and I went back to school to become a Life Coach, I realized that these are common belief systems that many of us hold. There is an entire culture of people running on this hamster wheel, racing to prove to themselves and others that they are worthy (worthy even of rest, or of having fun).
It was hard for me to escape this hamster wheel because it comes with its own reward systems. Not only from upper management, (of course they love that you are giving your life for their dream!), but also from our American culture. We live in a culture, for the most part, that does not hold life-balance as a high value. We, as a whole, define people by what they do to make money. It goes even further that than that too. When we hear of someone taking time off, working part-time, or god-forbid going on unemployment while they figure out their next move, we disparage them. We think, “Ugh, they are not working, so they have no value!”.
While I was giving up my life to meet the standards of being a 'good hard-working American', I was praised for my "work ethic" and so I continued to over-work so that I could feed my praise-addiction. Now, I realize my naivety. At the time, I didn't understand work ethic. I thought it meant: to work as hard as you can for as long as you can, until you fall down exhausted with no energy left for yourself, your hobbies, your friends, or your family. I was wrong. Work ethic is about integrity, responsibility, quality, discipline and teamwork. It is about showing up 100% and using all of your skills, gifts and energy to create the best results. You can only really do this if you are living a balance life.
You can only bring your best self to the table if you prioritize what it takes to sustain your best self.
So, I realized I had to make a choice. Was I going to live by my culture’s values, or by my values?
I took a chance, and I chose balance. I chose to rest. I chose to have fun. It was challenging to give myself permission to do these things. It took work to change my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. At times I had to grit my teeth to make a different choice than I had up to that point. It also didn't happen overnight. Just like I've had to train my physical body at the gym or on the track, I had to train my mental and emotional body to choose new thoughts and actions.
It takes intention and attention to be the leader of our own life.
Fast-forward 10+ years, and I can tell you, it was the greatest choice I ever made. Life is not about working and paying your bills. Life is about enjoying every moment. Life is about feeling like your optimal self as often as possible.
If you are feeling burnt out, then leave your desk immediately. Psychosis is defined as: a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. I know a lot of people who work so hard they have lost contact with reality. They have lost their health, their friends, their families, and their dreams. So if you feel guilty about leaving your desk immediately, take a sick day. Take a psychosis day. Give yourself back to you, and then create a life of wonder and awe.
Becoming a good leader is more nuanced that most of us assume. Sure, we all accept that leaders DO great deeds, but the part that we don't discuss (or praise) as much in our culture is the required BEING and presence that a leader must have to be successful. Strong leaders know who they are, and they know how to access the courage required to take bold action. These leaders then hold that space for others, challenging them to step into the most authentic, bold version of themselves. When a team has each individual living big and playing full out in life and business - that is when we witness extraordinary results.
Just take a quick moment and think about someone you love to be around. Now think about someone who you personally know who inspires you. Finally, think about someone that you have great respect for. Now take a moment and consider, how do these individuals make you feel about yourself? Most people report that when they reflect on the people in their lives who they hold in high regard, their inner experience is that:
Now pause, and reflect on the areas of your life where you show up as a leader. This could be as a parent, and employee, a team captain. Ask yourself: How do you make people feel about themselves? Hint- this is partially what you say and do, but it is more about what you don't say.. it's what you think and the energy you transmit. When you think about those you are leading, be it your family, employees, or team, are you thinking negative thoughts? I often hear leaders talk in frustration about how those they lead are frustrating, stupid, incapable, lazy, or childish.
When was the last time that you were inspired to work hard for someone who thought you were stupid or lazy? Yeah, that's what I thought.
Here are four things you can do to become a better leader:
1. Assume everyone is doing their very best
You can choose what you believe and what you assume. Program yourself to assume that everyone is always doing there very best, and if you are not seeing their very best it's because something is getting in the way. With this assumption, you can help someone discover what is getting in the way, and brainstorm solutions on how to remove it. The people you are leading want to do their very best. Everyone does because all humans feel good when living to their highest potential and producing their best work. No one got up this morning and said, "I hope today I can do a really shitty job that makes everyone disappointed in me." Of course not! They want to do their best, and you want them to do their best. So, if their best work isn't getting done, help them discover the obstacles in the way of their best work. This is true service, and as we all know, the best leaders are servants first.
2. Find what they are doing well, and celebrate the heck out of it.
Praise begets more praiseworthy behavior. Praise is the humans like water is to flowers. Have you ever seen a wilting, drooping flower stand up tall just hours after watering? Humans work in a similar way. If you have people on your team who are apathetic and low-energy, I bet they are not getting enough praise and celebration in their lives. As a leader, one of your jobs is to help individuals celebrate all the things that they are doing right. You are a human, so I don't have to tell you that humans are great at self beat-up, self-criticism and the allowing the monkey mind to re-hash the negative at 3am. We are not as good at finding, acknowledging and celebrating the good about ourselves. As a leader, be conscious of watering your employees with praise. However, please note, this praise MUST be authentic for you to stay in integrity with yourself, and for you to be taken seriously. Taking the time to find true appreciation in your heart for those you are leading is a prerequisite to delivering praise.
3. Discover their uniqueness, and help them live authentically.
It's not just a cliche, each person has unique gifts, strengths, and a way of being. Living your gifts and strengths by honoring your unique way of being is called authenticity. When we live authentically is when we will really shine. This is where the magic happens. Think about those who you are leading, can you easily describe each of their individual authentic expressions? If not, this is an area where you can transform you team. When you discover (and help your team discover) what makes each one of them unique and special, you will be able to use those gifts to produce incredible results. To read more on how authenticity impacts success, check out this article in Forbes.
4. Hold them as able
When you hold someone as able, you set a high bar for them, you don't take excuses, you have firm boundaries and accountability and you don't hover or over-manage. When you hold someone as able, you recognize the capacity in that individual to achieve the goals and tasks you've agreed on. Holding your team as able builds a culture of engagement, trust, and creativity. Holding someone as able is a gift and a service. It is you recognizing their greatness and holding the space for them to fulfill that greatness.
Mindy Amita Aisling