The Strategy of Self Care
Why do we work so hard doing what we do every day? We’re driven towards success, as we’re creating a better, smarter, more skilled version of ourselves. The most visionary business leaders agree that self-care practices are a must. But who has time for yoga retreats when you’re working 60+ hours a week?
In my conversations with corporate, nonprofit, and small business leaders, I see a lot of self-care misconceptions derailing initial attempts or deterring us from trying: Self Care is expensive. It’s overindulgent. It will take too much time away from my primary responsibilities. And what I’ve learned from these conversations is that wellness and happiness are often closer than we thought and might be a matter of perspective.
Adding a few simple self-care practices can inspire a feeling of centeredness, embolden your inner strength, sharpen your skill set, and differentiate you as an industry leader.
It’s easy to celebrate big wins. They’re visible, often by a wide audience, and with success and visibility comes recognition. The problem is that there might be a long period of time between these significant career achievements. By acknowledging and celebrating the smaller wins, we’re feeding ourselves a steady diet of the stuff we deliver to our reports, teams, and stakeholders every day – positive reinforcement, encouragement, and support. Small wins can include:
- A difficult conversation that goes well
- Completing a project
- Meeting a goal
- Pushing into unfamiliar territory
- Asking for what you want
Celebrating yourself initiates new mental pathways for self-appreciation that you’ll continue to build on throughout your career, and influence others about their own wellness routines.
The Unapologetic No
Boundaries help clarify our capacity and identify how we want (or don’t want) to spend our time. The problem, of course, is that we don’t say no often enough. And saying yes and meaning no can cause resentment for the work we never had time for in the first place. Another problem is how we feel about saying it. How often have you said no and then felt guilty about it, apologized profusely, or changed your mind? An authentic, mindful, compassionate no does not need any apology. In fact, it works better without it.
Successfully managing no in a business context requires practice, courage, and a little finesse. Start with something small and with little risk of consequences. To a request for an airport drop-off in the middle of the workday, you could say, No, but I’d be happy to book you an Uber. You’re exercising a schedule boundary while offering a helpful solution. And to the colleague who tries to pull you into their latest project, No but I really appreciate you asking, and I’m excited to hear about your progress! Boundary + gratitude + support. Check.
Respecting our own boundaries requires at least some comfort level with disappointing people. But in so doing, we’re prioritizing our own needs, which will ultimately allow us to better meet our ongoing commitments. In this way, saying no can potentially be your most powerful self-care practice, because you’re honoring your time, respecting your capacity, and creating space for the things you want most.
Permission to be Imperfect
Perfectionism, on the surface, might look like a need to control, an unwillingness to fail, even a sign of low self-worth. Although comfortability with failure is lauded as an essential leadership trait, the reality of it can evoke fear of being perceived as incompetent. Why does this matter so much? Because reputation, or the reputation of a company, is based on both quantitative data and qualitative factors. While competency can be easily measured by success metrics and KPIs, the qualitative variables are less obvious. Whether or not we view failure as leadership equity, a constant drive towards perfection can be toxic to our well-being. An awareness of these patterns and a conscious move towards self-care can start to shift how we see ourselves in the world, in our companies, and in relationships. Giving ourselves permission to make mistakes means challenging our perceptions of the consequences and identifying the benefits of taking a worthy risk. Putting more focus on meaning than perfection could open up all kinds of possibilities.
Strategic self-care means being intentional about prioritizing our own needs, and occasionally slowing down long enough to ask “What do I need right now?” and listening for the answer.
Written by Lisa Towles.
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