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Creating Successful Leaders

I’m willing to bet you are kind to others—perhaps even people you don’t know. But are you consistently kind to yourself?

This is the question we’ll be exploring this week as we continue our “Self-Improvement Goals” series. Being kind to yourself is always important, but it is even more crucial when you’re going through a difficult time (such as the whole of 2020!). If you don’t love, forgive, and take care of yourself, you’ll be in no condition to help others, perform at your peak, or have the energy to deal with life’s stressors. It’s important to rest when you need it and don’t dwell on your shortcomings or mistakes. It’s important to be gentle with yourself.

Here are three areas where most of us could use a little self-improvement:

1. Forgive Yourself

I’m guessing you have a lot of practice forgiving others. You probably excuse others’ mistakes all time—that co-worker who missed a deadline or forgot a meeting, that child who broke your tea mug, that friend who splashed coffee on your pants. If you’re on a Zoom meeting and someone apologizes for their messy house, you likely wouldn’t chastise them. You would laugh and tell them you understand.

Do you have this much understanding when it comes to your own shortcomings?

It’s time to remember that you are human—you’re imperfect and you make mistakes. Instead of beating yourself up over your errors, try to reframe your thinking. Move from an “I’m so terrible” mindset to a “How can I fix this?” mindset. Focusing on solutions can help shift your thoughts from your mistake to a more action-driven frame of mind. And if you can’t fix something? Do your best to move on and pledge to do better next time. There is always tomorrow to try, try again.

2. Rest

Even the most powerful CEOs, athletes, and politicians need to rest. And so do you. Give yourself permission to simply step away from work from time to time and take a few moments for yourself. Take a nap, read a book, work on a crossword puzzle—whatever you need to do to rest and rejuvenate.

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to take an extended break. If you’ve been pushing yourself to the limit for too long, you’ll eventually give out. Before that happens, make a concerted effort to schedule a long break in your busy calendar. You might choose to take a four-day weekend or a couple of weeks off—whatever you can plausibly take. If taking more than a day off of work causes a fuss, you might want to seriously consider a job change (consult a career coach first, of course!).

One last note about rest: Be sure to get enough sleep! Study after study has shown that getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is crucial if you want to stay healthy and high-functioning. Start winding down your night early and get to bed!

3. Focus on Health

Your health is important. I know it’s tempting to eat junk food and sit around after a long, hard day of work, but do your best to resist! Your health is worth it. Instead, prioritize exercise, healthy eating, and stress-reducing activities. Today, there are many ways to get a nutritious meal on your plate—cook it from scratch, use a healthy-eating subscription box, or cook meals in advance and freeze them. You can download any number of apps to track your eating habits and help you course correct, if necessary.

The same is true for exercise. With Fitbits and apps, it’s easy to track how much you move around in a given day. If you’d rather track your fitness the “old fashioned way,” write out an exercise calendar and stick to it! Moving your body is crucial for your health, and it will affect every aspect of your life, from your work to your family.

Lastly, make a conscious effort to reduce stress. Excess stress can lead to health issues and can affect your night’s sleep. Try soaking in a bath, taking a quiet walk, or reading—anything that will lower your heartrate, loosen those tight muscles, and help put your mind at ease.

If you’re like many people I know, you tend to put others first. That’s an admirable trait, but you also need to pay attention to yourself. After all, if you’re not feeling both physically and mentally healthy, how can you help others?


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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