For a long time, I woke up every day feeling exhausted, low, and tired to even start. I just wanted to rest longer but my job and responsibilities drove me out of bed. I used to force my exhaustion to the back of my mind and to me this was the need of the hour. I believed, as a Leader, I need to push back my own concerns and emotions to be the best version of me. I would speak to my colleagues to only realize this is what everyone does to survive, making me push it back even more. I have always observed my mother doing so too.
With time many questions started emerging,
– “Why am I always so exhausted at the end of a work day?”
– “I am feeling so frustrated that I behave like a bad mother”
– “Is this all I have been made for?”
– “Why do I feel like I am in a race”?
– “Is all of this worth it?”
And after many years of reflection and exploration, I realized that this exhaustion didn’t just come from the physical body but rather from my negative emotions and thoughts. Research has found that 30% of one’s energy comes from physical sources but the rest come predominantly from emotions.
Experiencing emotions is inevitable and makes us human, however, the way we acknowledge and manage them is what differentiates us as a Leader. Many of us, including me, have learnt a pattern to rely on our habitual stress response system to feel the adrenaline rush by overworking and calling oneself “PRODUCTIVE”.
But is productivity our only definition of Success?
I was exactly here asking this question to myself in 2012. I entered the corporate race in 2000 and rose up to become a Leader. I held a senior position in an Indian conglomerate with a team reporting directly to me. The responsibilities were immfense, no doubt, but I experienced myself fulfilling them with tension, struggle and stress. I moved from achievement to achievement, but never felt fulfilled. I never celebrated. My duties towards the organization were definitely being fulfilled but at the cost of myself and at times even my team.
I realized that Leaders experience many emotional demands:
- Always on the grind to perform
- Navigating other’s perception
- Resolving inner and outer conflicts
- Trying to manage the feeling of “Am I good enough?”
- Guilt of not giving enough time to Self and family
In 2012, when I couldn’t take the stress anymore, I decided to quit, pause, reflect and walk towards fulfilment. I realized the importance of “Self Care” and embarked on the journey to find the “Authentic Leader” in me. I engaged in many self-care practices and observed the main reason of my fatigue and drain.
We can look at emotional energy being stored in a container.
When it is full and without leaks, energy is conserved and can be utilized for the best cause.
Imagine, the container is filled, but there are many holes in the pot. No amount of filling up would matter then because the energy is draining continuously.
Similarly, Leaders often find it hard to lead authentically because they either push away or deny their emotions. This probably comes from a myth that “Leaders should always be strong and not let emotions get in their way”. Well, research has shown otherwise that the higher the Leader is emotionally aware and uses both their Head and Heart to lead, the higher the chance of True Success. This success is balanced, not compromising self and other stakeholders.
As a Leadership Coach, I witness that The container’s of many leaders are leaking. There is a sense of overwhelm and energy drain all around. People are resorting to various “self-care” practices but they do not seem to sustain them for a period of time.
We have lost consciousness of why we do what we do, are we conserving or draining energy? Are we getting closer to Self or getting away from Self?
It is time we as Leaders,
- Befriend Self and observe the leak, if any,
- Label the leaks – physical, emotional, thoughts clutter,
- Identify which areas of Life are being impacted by these leaks,
- Plug the leak by not focusing on the leak but by focusing on the fulfillment without any leak. What we focus on grows.
Let us PAUSE, BREATH, REFLECT, AND GROW.