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Creating Successful Leaders

To live magnanimously and care about others is, by and large, a good thing. The generosity of people fuels positive change and makes this (sometimes troubled) world a better place to live. Generous people help alleviate hunger, fight for social justice, and help clean up our water and air through environmental initiatives. These actions, of course, are good things. But can a person ever be too generous?

Well, yes and no. Generosity on its own is a good thing, but it can go too far if you’re giving and giving at the expense of your own well-being and health. This is when generosity actually stops being generosity and becomes “self-sacrifice.”

Author and psychologist Adam Grant distinguishes generosity from self-sacrifice by saying that, “Generosity is not about sacrificing yourself for others — it’s about helping others without harming yourself. It’s not about giving to takers — it is giving in ways that nurture more givers.” Self-sacrifice, on the other hand, is one-sided and may not produce the same positive ripple that generosity does.

Grant uses the book The Giving Tree as an example of toxic self-sacrifice. The tree gives and gives of itself to the boy, until there is nothing left of the tree but a stump. Through its self-sacrifice (and eventual self-destruction), the tree is reduced to nothing, and the boy scarcely cares about her sacrifices. A valuable lesson is lost on the boy. As Grant suggests, he might have planted other trees—laying down a better future for his children and amplifying the tree’s sacrifice. But he didn’t.

Applying this metaphor to the real world, it’s a good idea to be cautious with generosity and make sure it doesn’t morph into self-sacrifice.

When you give endlessly, your well will eventually run dry, and that won’t do anyone (including yourself!) any good. Instead, focus on giving in ways that are sustainable for you and others. Instead of completing someone else’s reports, for instance, teach them how to fill out the reports. Instead of involving yourself in programs that occasionally give to communities (without their input or involvement), focus on programs that uplift and involve the people in those communities. For instance, the Urban Roots program in St. Paul, MN teaches young adults valuable life and leadership skills by teaching them how to garden, conserve, and cook.

This all goes back to the old adage, “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; if you teach a man to fish; he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

Furthermore, if you feel yourself burning out from constantly giving to others, that’s a signal that you need to step back, take a break, and evaluate your next steps. It’s possible that the path you’re currently on is too demanding and requires too much self-sacrifice. What could you possibly change to ease your responsibilities? What support do you need?

Evaluating and making changes to your current situation and is not selfish. It’s necessary. Giving and giving can only take you so far—once your leafy branches are stripped away and your trunk is cut down, what then? Instead, be mindful of your generosity, intentionally plan how you will give to others, and make sure you’re not tiptoeing into self-sacrifice territory. Your intentional generosity will make a world of difference.

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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With cold weather right around the corner for many of us, it’s tempting for introverts to give in to their natural instincts and simply spend the next several months in near-hibernation. While that may sound like heaven to some, it could also lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Most introverts need occasional human interaction (even a warm smile or a thoughtful note) to feel connected or help them through tough times. But…they may not seek it when they need it, or even know how to seek it. What to do? As an introvert, how can you comfortably seek companionship or human connection when you need it?

Try these four suggestions:

Dare to ask

Instead of waiting around, hoping someone will invite you to coffee or an event, take initiative and be the one to extend an invitation. If you’re asking an old friend, this may not be a big deal, but if you’re asking someone you don’t know terribly well, an invitation can feel downright daunting. Accept the vulnerability that comes with asking others to do something, and don’t be deterred if they say no. Either aim for a different date on the calendar or ask someone else.

To ease into asking someone to hang out, you could attend a meet-up with mutual friends or see if someone else is willing to arrange a get together (a spouse or a close friend) that involves meeting a couple new people.

Put parameters on interactions

If you know that long interactions with others can be draining for you, try setting a time limit on get togethers. When you invite someone out for coffee, for instance, frame your invitation like this: “I can meet from 9 a.m. to 10:30. Does that work for you, too?” No need to offer an explanation—just provide the parameters.

Alternatively, you could engage in an activity that has built-in time limits. Go to a movie, watch a play, or engage in a couple rounds of mini golf. When the activity is over, you can naturally part ways.

Seek comfortable settings

To put yourself at ease, hang out with new acquaintances in familiar settings. Suggest meeting at your favorite coffee shop or lunch spot, visiting a local book shop, or even meeting in your home (if that seems appropriate). When you’re in a familiar locale, that removes one more “question mark” from the interaction.

Seek anonymous hangouts

Not every group activity involves talking with strangers or mingling with a crowd. Activities such as yoga, community education classes, going to the movies, or visiting a museum allow you to be around others while you comfortably blend into the crowd. You might invite a friend to attend one of these outings with you, or you could choose to go solo.

Being introverted doesn’t necessarily doom you to a long, lonely string of months when the weather turns chilly. Aim for casual interactions in comfortable locales, and dare to be a tad vulnerable. These small interactions will help scratch your itch for human interactions when you need them most.

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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In many parts of the northern hemisphere, winter is right around the corner. While some people enjoy the cold weather and relish the thought of hot cocoa and sweaters, others dread the winter months and see this period as a time of isolation and darkness. Whether you love or loathe winter (or fall somewhere in the middle), it’s probable you occasionally struggle with maintaining a high energy level during a time when days are shorter and we’re more prone to staying indoors for long stretches of time.

How to deal with the inevitable lack of energy? Here are 4 ideas:

1. Find a winter buddy

Maintaining human connections can be enormously helpful when you’re trudging through the winter months. Find a friend (or multiple!) who also has trouble staying energized during winter and plan small outings together. Visit a conservatory (a warm reprieve during chilly weather!), grab a cup of coffee, see a movie, or walk laps at a local mall. These small moments of personal contact can make a big difference.

You might also consider joining a local club or social group (painting, knitting, storytelling, books, volunteering, etc.). Find these groups through Meetup.com or by simply asking about them on social media (Facebook or Nextdoor are great places to start).

2. Reward yourself

If you find yourself with little energy and a full workload, try breaking up your work into small pieces and bribing yourself with a series of mini rewards. For instance, if you have five items you need to accomplish on a given day, reward yourself after each item. Rewards might include reading for 10-15 minutes, working on a crossword puzzle, eating a piece of chocolate or other treat, or playing an online game or browsing social media for 15 minutes. To keep yourself on track, set timers for both your work (to motivate you) and your breaks (to make sure your break isn’t too long). 

3. Exercise regularly

Though it may sound counterintuitive, exercise is one of the best ways to combat low energy. Moving your body not only gets the blood flowing, but also releases mood-boosting endorphins. If the idea of going for a winter walk or hitting the gym feels daunting, start by simply putting on your workout clothing and shoes. This act, alone, can get you in the right mindset and carry you into your workout. Additionally, it’s a good idea to find something you enjoy doing, whether that’s swimming, lifting weights, walking, or doing group yoga or pilates sessions.

4. Take Vitamin D and use SAD lamps

A lack of sunshine can have a very real psychological effect. According to Healthline, “Decreased sun exposure has been associated with a drop in your serotonin levels, which can lead to major depression with seasonal pattern.” To help overcome the lack of sunlight, try regularly taking Vitamin D (which is associated with exposure to sunlight) or purchase a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamp. A SAD lamp produces the kind of light that mimics sunshine and can help elevate your mood.

There are many different ways to ease winter woes and improve your energy. Make a plan, try different approaches, and see what works for you. If all else fails, seek help from a certified professional to help you through the cold, dark months.

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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