I have a confession to make. I have damaged my car because I didn’t take care of it, mostly due to lack of awareness. My first car overheated to the point of spewing rusty orange gunk all over the engine. I’ve been caught out in the mud with no fluid to clear the windscreen. The oil light on my current car doesn’t work so I have nearly burnt it out from being low on oil. Thankfully, I have never run out of petrol while on the road. By now some of you might be rolling your eyes wondering why I am even allowed to own a car if I don’t know how to care for it properly!
When it comes to owning and operating cars it seems like perfect sense that the owner should know how to take care of one so it doesn’t breakdown. Then why is it that we often take on leadership positions without practicing the same level of care for ourselves? Living out the purposes and dreams that God puts in us can only reach full potential when we are fully functioning.
It would be wonderful if we had little lights indicating that one area of health was reaching low limits. Unfortunately, we have to actually take a minute to check things out in the same way that I have to manually check my oil to see where it is at. Take a minute to reflect on your mental health (ability to cope), physical health (your body), emotional health (sense of belonging) and spiritual health (ability to love). How would you describe them? If you aren’t feeling fully yourself, check out the warning signs indicating dangerously low levels.
Mental Health: Difficulty problem-solving, critically thinking or coming up with new ideas. A perpetual feeling of “being stuck”.
Physical Health: Lowered energy levels and inability to concentrate. Feeling tired a lot of the time.
Emotional Health: Decreased patience and flexibility with people. Yo-yoing emotions or an increase in the belief that you are the only one (who feels this way; who can do this job; who gets it …).
Spiritual Health: God seems distant or demanding. It becomes easy to believe he is a liar. It becomes difficult to feel love for others.
Of course, our bodies send us signals that are difficult to interpret into one category or the other: headaches, illness, cynicism. In the extreme, we experience burnout. Google gave me one of the best descriptions I’ve seen: The reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion. There is literally nothing left!
Compassion fatigue is burnout of the emotions. It comes from caring for other people until our own emotions crash and burn. An increasingly recognised condition called soul-sickness is when our bodies begin to shut down into a multitude of symptoms with no diagnosable cause. This comes from when our ability to cope mentally has disintegrated into pure feelings of hopelessness.
Checking all our tanks is the first step towards knowing which ones need to be topped up so that we live and lead from the overflow. If you were to look at yourself and how you are responding in your leadership roles, how would you describe your health?
Chances are, we aren’t doing too badly and just need to introduce a few things that keep us full. Next week we will take a look at what some of those might be.
Personal Leadership Health was workshop co-facilitated by Liesel Reimer and Joy Winterbotham. For more about Innovista Leadership Workshops visit our workshops page. We also provide workshops for staff teams. Contact us for more information.