Spiritually Healthy Leadership Blog Post Cover, a forest with a bridge and a quote superimposed on Sabbath practices.

Spiritually healthy leadership grounds high-achievers by connecting them with their purpose as they seek to influence the world. In this installment of our “Healthy Leader” series, we examine this idea of spiritually healthy leadership.

Spiritual Health: Connecting With The Divine

I spent nearly a decade in pastoral ministry before fully embracing my call as a coach. Each position led me a step closer in the process, but there was always a sense of, “this is not quite it…” when it came to feeling fulfilled.

Over the course of that decade, I learned a lot about myself, belonging in a community, healthy boundaries, interpersonal relationships, and effective communication. I spent time at every level of leadership.

At every point along the way, and with every “promotion” that was gifted to me (we can talk later about why I hate that term when applied to the church…) I found that I had fewer and fewer people to talk to. My friend list grew smaller, my mentors became fewer, and the circle of close confidants decreased.

When I started working with executives, I found the same was true with them. The higher they were on the ladder, the fewer people they had to talk to. That was, at least in part, their need for a coach. They looked around and realized they had no one to talk to.

Most of the time, I was (or at least felt) alone. The executives I worked with echoed that pain. Maybe you too can relate.

When I wasn’t alone, and people were genuinely trying to support me, we talked about a wide range of topics.

  • Marriage
  • Family
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • How much work I was doing
  • The quality of my preaching

Never once, not once in ten years, did someone ever ask: how are you at connecting with God? Is your spiritual life healthy?

A New Direction

That was part of my journey into both my doctoral school program and hiring my own coach. I needed that accountability. Studies, like one conducted by the Percept Group, seem to echo this, with nearly one-third of Los Gatos residents polled identifying “dealing with stress” as their chief spiritual concern. (1)

This in part explains the rise of contemplative prayer and mediation among leaders. There is a recognition that part of the human condition is wired to connect with something beyond ourselves. Spiritually Healthy Leadership Blog Post Cover, a forest with a bridge and a quote superimposed on Sabbath practices.

I teach an eastern philosophy class. In it, we examine Steve Jobs’ affection for Buddhism and how other great leaders are implementing some of these teachings. These leaders are yearning for something outside of the physical and temporal to belong to.

In general then, here are some practices and guidelines to help you grow and cultivate a healthy spiritual side of leadership.

Cultivating Spiritual Health

Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual disciplines offer a historically rooted approach to healthy leadership. Disciplines have always been an important component for people of faith. Through self-sacrifice, we discover deeper meaning, significance, and a sense of calling.

In his seminal work on the spiritual disciplines, Richard Foster notes their importance when he says,

“The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond the surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm. They urge us to be the answer to a hollow world.” (2)

There are many forms of spiritual disciplines like fasting, prayer, mediation, holy pilgrimages, silence, forgiveness, solitude, and tithing.

The point in each of these is the same: denying some aspect of yourself or your personal will to spend time listening and connecting with God and his guiding power.

“Few things will keep us on course in the exercise of our leadership and facilitate the care of our soul as much as a meaningful prayer when engaged in consistently.” (3)

Rest

Many leaders find it hard to take regular time off. The demands of their job, the joy of feeling needed, and the unexpected crises or tendencies of workaholism can make it hard to pull away from the demands of work.

To combat this, the ancient Jewish people instituted a practice called sabbath. More than a day off, the sabbath is a specific and intentional time to rejuvenate and recharge emotionally and spiritually.

This rest includes the need for extended vacation days as well. Workers operating under increasingly stressful conditions are taking what seems to be a smart approach by working more to meet demand. The problem is that the increased workload does not equal increased productivity. In the law of diminishing return, and most studies show this, maximum productivity happens somewhere around 30-35 hours.

Operating in a job of high demand and need it’s easy to feel needed and guilty for taking time off. But a refusal to take time off can exacerbate the problem of burnout. In addition to regular Sabbath rest, leaders must use their full allotment of vacation time. This is not happening, as a 2019 study found. (4)

Staying Spiritually Fit

Spirituality can be a tough subject to talk about. The common American mantra to not talk about politics and religion has hurt our public decorum. Smart employers, and high-capacity leaders, remain vigilant in their quest for staying healthy in all areas of life.

This includes spiritual health, however, the leader defines that.

In future posts, we’ll continue to intertwine areas of health and explore how creative outputs like hobbies contribute to a well-rounded leader.

How do you remain spiritually healthy?


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.


Sources:

(1). Source: Ferguson, Jane K., Eleanor W. Willemsen, and MayLynn V. Castañeto. 2010. Centering prayer as a healing response to everyday stress: A psychological and spiritual process. Pastoral Psychology 59 (3) (06): 305-29.

Original Study: Percept Group. (2004). Ministry Area Profile 2004 Compass Report for Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, 219 Bean Avenue, Los Gatos, CA 95030, Study Area Definition: Custom Polygon 1990–2004. Rancho Santa Margarita, CA: Percept Group.

(2). Source: Foster, Richard J. “The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation.” Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 1. Rev. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

(3). Source: Rima, Samuel D. “Spiritual Self Leadership.” Leading from the Inside Out: The Art of Self-leadership, 138. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2000.

(4) Source: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/unused-vacation-days-trnd/index.html

 

The angel tells Elijah to go take a nap

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to tell yourself, “Go take a nap!”

This is a continuing series. Today’s post is “Go take a nap.” In this series, we are examining leadership burnout and the steps you need to implement as a leader to avoid (and recover from) burnout.

Contain within the Hebrew Scriptures is one of my favorite stories of all time. Written like a great movie blockbuster, this story has it all.

Murder.

Betrayal.

The beginning of a revolution.

Drama.

Rebellion.

Intrigue.

The Backstory

Elijah, a prophet to the nation of Israel is confronting the King. The wicked ruler Ahab has ravaged the lady with wife, the cruel and anti-God Jezebel. Elijah, the one urging the people to remain faithful to God, can only do so by confronting the King. The angel tells Elijah to go take a nap

In 1 Kings 18, he does just that. After years of prophecy, it is time for action. Elijah emerges from a foreign town called Zarephath (which means ‘melting pot’, probably a sign that it had economic ties to military arms production).1 Elijah, a prophet of Israel, emerges from his hiding place, located inside of Israel’s enemy, from a town producing tools to destroy Israel, to tell the king it’s time to face the music. The nerve of Elijah. 

Yet as we shall see, this will also set the stage for his coming burnout.

Elijah confronts the king, his evil wife Jezebel, and her wayward prophets of Baal in a showdown to determine the true ruler of Israel. A comedic set of circumstances follow.

Elijah seemingly gives the prophets of Baal every advantage. They get to build their altar first, perhaps ending the confrontation early if Baal shows up. They get to pick the best bull for the sacrifice, and they can have as long as they want to win the showdown.

After hours of worship and devotion to Baal, the prophets begin to tire. Elijah starts taunting them. Here, many translations limit the effectiveness of this passage by saying that perhaps Baal is busy traveling, deep in thought.

A better and more literal translation has Elijah taunting the prophets of Baal that perhaps they caught him while he was going to the bathroom. Baal would surely come to their rescue just as soon as he could finish relieving himself. How embarrassing!

Elijah’s Response

After taunting the prophets, Elijah changes his tone. Now, he gathers the watching Israelites and begins to instruct them in the proper way to live. The drought the nation is experiencing is because of their inability and lack of desire to follow God. The drought will end when they realize this.

He rebuilds their broken altar, has the bull sacrificed, orders water poured on it, and prays to God to accept the sacrifice. Immediately, fire from heaven consumes the offering, the altar, and the water. The people are astonished.

Elijah orders the false prophets killed and murders over 400 people. Because of their faithfulness, the people will be rewarded with rain.

Elijah warns the king to prepare. After three years of no rain, it is about to become a torrential downpour!

The Burnout

At the conclusion of this story, Elijah is exhausted.

The teaching.

The sacrifice.

The murder.

Additionally, the text tells us that Elijah then flees the scene and runs to another town that was twenty miles away.

It is here that Elijah falls victim to burnout. He has started to believe his own hype and self-importance. One author comments

“Elijah, in fact, is a vivid biblical example of Freudenberger’s observation that burnout “is the letdown that comes between crises or directly after ‘mission accomplished.’”… He expended a great deal of physical, emotional, and spiritual energy in his conflict with the prophets of Baal…His success caused the Israelites and their king to come back to the worship of the only true God. Shortly after that incident, he expended more energy by climbing to the top of Mount Carmel, spending an intense period of time in prayer… and, when that prayer was answered…outran King Ahab’s chariot.”2

The story then tells us that Elijah is overwhelmed and wishes he were dead. He complains to God. To him, death is better than continuing down this path.

(On a side note, we see this in burnout all the time. It’s one leading reason why the highest spike in suicide happens on Sunday night as people start preparing to go back to a job they hate).

God’s Response

In words that I have come to use often on myself and others when they are feeling overwhelmed, I love God’s response.

After listening to Elijah he gives his two commands: eat something and take a nap.

Elijah, you just did something important. You accomplished a big goal. Then you ran twenty miles. You’re tired. Exhausted. Spent. Have some meat. Eat some bread. Drink some water. Then go take a nap. We’ll talk after that.

Elijah follows these commands, and wouldn’t you know it, he wakes up refreshed and ready for the next challenge.

We too need to hear these words. After significant challenges, we can fall victim to overwhelm.

Don’t listen to those voices!

In future posts, we’re going to look at specific ways to prevent and fight against burnout. For now, it is enough to know this: if you’re exhausted, eat something and then go take a nap. We can talk after that.


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.


Sources:

1.) Brueggemann, Walter. 1 Kings. Knox Preaching Guides. John H. Hayes. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.

2.) Minirth, Frank B. “Unfulfilled Expectations: The Burnout Burden.” In Beating Burnout: Balanced Living for Busy People, 41-42. New York: Inspirational Press, 1997.

Street arrow with work on purpose text overlay

One of the most frequent phrases I tell myself is to, “Work With Purpose.”

Every day, I am given the chance to do something meaningful and make a difference for others. Through coaching and consulting, I help my clients break through their mental barriers and experience a real and lasting transformation.

But there’s more to it than that.

I remind myself that working with purpose affects every area of life.

The way I parent.

How I interact with my spouse.

The type of community member I am.

Where I spend my free time and volunteer hours. Street arrow with work on purpose text overlay

Each and every component of who I am gets run through the grid of what it means to work with purpose. To help me stay focused, I ask myself three primary questions.

Question One: Does it bring meaning and purpose?

Behind this question is the idea of joy in the work I do. It reminds me to engage with work that I deem as significant.

It eliminates distraction.

Gone are the days (mostly) where I feel like I did a lot of work without getting a lot done. Instead, now I make sure to plan my days and do fewer tasks, but each with intentionality that gives meaning and purpose to the work I do.

Question Two: Does it bring long-lasting consequences?

Want to live a wasted life? Think only in terms of short-term, instant-gratification results.

Want to work with purpose? Think long term. Now thing longer.

I’m not talking about six months or a year. I’m talking 10, 20, or 50 years from now. Some of the decisions I make today are because I’ve intentionally thought about the effect this may have on my grandkids when they are working.

My actions are filtered through an eternal perspective.

To work with purpose, I think less in terms of what feels good now, and instead how good discipline in the moment, however unwanted, produces long-term fruit that can be harvested for several generations.

Question Three: Does it help someone else?

This last question is about service. I don’t want to engage in work that is only (or even predominately) self-service. I want to help others. One of the clearest calls and commands in my life is that I am here for the benefit of others.

It’s why I coach, teach, consult, podcast, parent, write, speak, and volunteer.

I want my work to be filled with meaning and purpose.

I want it to bless those that come after me

And I want it to have an immediate impact on those around me.

That’s what it means to engage in work with purpose.

 

Attend the 2021 Building With Purpose Conference on April 1.

Blog Post Cover - Week in weak out text over car on road.

Now that we’re through Christmas, and with 2021 firmly in our sights, I wanted to reveal my guiding phrase for the new year: Week In, Weak Out.

A Quick Year in Review

For many of us, 2020 has provided some tremendous growth opportunities. The changing world of remote work has given us commute time back while adding the stress of working around children.

The political discord in our country has given us the opportunity to listen and empathize with others.

The ongoing quarantine has revealed just how much we were wired for community, social gatherings, and physical contact.

Along the way of each of these national and global issues, have been the individual issues of our own stories.

Some of my personal notes from this year include:

  • Helping business owners transition to the quickly changing world of HR needs in the midst of a pandemic and forced shutdowns.
  • The selling of one house and the purchase of another.
  • Home renovation projects (here’s looking at you broken water pipes!).
  • Cancelled vacations, family visits, and social gatherings.
  • Kids entering puberty and leaving toddlerhood.
  • Elise starting a new job and her master’s program

All of this has revealed to me some of my next growth opportunities. As a success-oriented high achiever, I need my life to be at peak performance.

My guiding phrase for 2021 to help me achieve that is to get better: Day In, Day Out, Week, Weak Out. Blog Post Cover - Week in weak out text over car on road.

Future Growth Opportunities

2021 presents the next great growth opportunity.

Already, my coaching schedule is filling up. The new year always brings new challenges, HR laws, marketing campaigns, and growth strategies. Business owners are looking to turn the page on 2020 and start fresh in 2021. To help them (and all success-oriented leaders) I need to be at my best.

Leaders are hurting. Many are hurting. Most are facing burnout. All are tired.

Helping leaders stay healthy is why I started coaching in the first place, for me to do that well, I need to be healthy myself.

Here are some of my next growth opportunities in the new year:

  • Read and implement the knowledge from 100 books.
  • Take an extended work-free family vacation.
  • Help 100 business owners grow and expand their businesses.
  • Take Elise on a date at least once a month.

Some of these goals are continued extensions of daily habits, some are drastic increases in my thinking and mindset.

One personal project, however, is consuming a large portion of my time and mental space. It is the main thrust of my idea to grow Week In and Weak Out.

Parenting Well

One of the biggest failures American society has done for men is to provide significant and meaningful markers for manhood. We’ve largely left our boys to figure out puberty, manhood, emotional maturity, and personal development to themselves.

I decided to do something about it, starting with my own kids.

Starting at age 8, and continuing every three years until age 21, each of my boys will take a trip with me where we talk about growing into responsible manhood.

For my oldest son, that starts this year. We’re taking a trip to talk about his coming puberty, self-care and hygiene, service towards others, mindset, and selfless love.

Each and every trip will build on the last. We will spend time in the wilderness, examining what it means to be a well-rounded man.

The only way I can help him do that (and any others that join our journey) is to first work on myself.

Habits, routines, and discipline are built in the daily execution of small, repeatable, success steps.

Day In. Day Out. Week In. Weak out.

That’s how we grow. Every day, do something to get better. The next day, repeat that task and do something else. Next week, you’ll notice a small improvement. Soon, you’ll notice your weaknesses leaving.

Mindset improves.

Grit is stronger.

Compassion is amplified.

Love fostered.

Maturity achieved.

But only through consistent and deliberate attention. Done every day.

Day In. Day Out. Weak In. Weak Out.

 

I’ll be posting about this journey constantly. To keep up to date, find out more, and be a part of the journey, click any of the links below.

Subscribe to my newsletter and receive a FREE 5-day course on productivity: 

https://mailchi.mp/0b828bba9f13/emailsignup

Blog Post Cover Picture with lightbulb, day planner, and a team at work.

If I ever find my eyes wandering aimlessly over my computer for more than five minutes, I know something is wrong. That’s when I tell myself: create, define, act.

Deeper Magic

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who wanted to know how I fit so much in. A partial answer is that I use the Full Focus Planner. Over the last several years of use, that continues to be a big reason. I schedule everything meticulously. 

(If you want to see exactly how I use the planner,  I walk you through every page right here).

But there’s another truth at work. Deeper magic, if you will. I mean deeper magic much in the same way C.S. Lewis does in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the book, after Aslan’s death and resurrection, the lion is explaining to Susan and Lucy how he was able to come back to life. He explains that in many ways, the witch was right. The circumstances dictated that a sacrifice be made. The witch, operating under the belief of how ‘magic’ works in the world knew that the laws had to be accounted for.

But, Aslan explains, there is deeper magic at work. Something that the witch knows nothing about. She doesn’t know about it, because it was created before her. The laws of deeper magic were in place long before the witch arrived on the scene. The magic that the witch knew about (the laws of the universe) were satisfied and yet, a deeper magic freed Aslan from the curse of death.

The Full Focus Planner is great. There’s a reason I’ve used it for the last three years and will continue to use it, but tools are only as good as those using them.

If all I own is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Blog Post Cover Picture with lightbulb, day planner, and a team at work.

If I have a security system but never turn it on, it will fail to protect my home and family when it’s needed.

Having a planner and failing to use it isn’t any better than not having a planner at all.

Wandering Aimlessly

Over the last several years of using the planner, I’ve noticed that I’m still ineffective at times. To remedy this, I had to set up a new ritual that helped me get back on track.

I noticed that at certain moments of the day, I’d lose efficiency and productivity. This wasn’t failure based on exhaustion or overwork. Instead, it was because I lacked a proper plan. I knew I had things to do, but didn’t know how to go about doing them. Instead, I’d spend time looking at social media, scouring the depths of YouTube, or looking for new dad jokes.

None of which will help me reach my goals.

To change the drift, I created the ritual to create, define, act whenever I feel myself veering off course.

That mantra has helped me get back on track with my goals, accomplish meaningful and significant tasks, and free my mind to focus on my work.

Now, telling myself to create, define, act is more than a mantra, it is a call to arms. A battle cry that gets my body moving. It breaks me free from the monotony of mindless action and issues a challenge to my mind. It is a call to greatness.

I drift when I fail to have a plan. As has often been said, I was then planning on failing.

Whether you use the Full Focus Planner or some other calendar management system, the idea behind create, plan, act can help you too.

Create. Plan. Act.

Create

The first idea is to create. Create a goal. Vision. System. Plan. For me, this means to actually get into the planner and start to outline tasks. I drift when I don’t open my planner and put things into timeslots. My life drifts off course when I don’t intentionally plan my steps. Work fails to get done when I fail to put significance on my time.

Step one is always to create the plan. If you notice that you are having trouble focusing, begin to ask questions of insight: Do I know what I’m working on? What’s next? Who do I need to connect with? What is most important to me? How can I make progress?

Creating your plan of action is what breaks you free from drift. By creating a plan you free your mind up to focus on what it sees in front of you. When you create your goals, you connect the logic of your brain with the emotions of your heart and are inspired to take action.

Plan

Once your goals are created, write down the steps to the plan. This can honestly be as simple as first I will…, then I will… For me, it follows this system of progression:

1.) What are my larger goals for the quarter?

2.) What steps did I take to accomplish those goals last week?

3.) As a follow-up, what goals do I need to accomplish this week?

4.) Which of those goals can I accomplish (or make progress on) today?

First, you create your system and belief for success. Write down your goals and visualize your success. Then, write down the plan to accomplish those goals.

Only one step left!

Act

The final step is to act. I’ve discovered that this usually ends up being the easiest step. The irony is that before I began this planning phase, that was the one thing I couldn’t do. The acting was hard because I didn’t have a plan. By creating the vision and building the plan, I gave myself the freedom to act appropriately.

I can cure my aimlessly drifting in just a few minutes by following the simple plan to create, plan, and act. By following this formula, I bring clarity to my projects and eliminate brain fog, confusion, and misguided wastes of time that prohibit me from reaching my goals. Wherever you’re and, and whatever you’re working on, just remember to create your goals, make your plan, and then act with intention.

Need help? Reach out and see if coaching is right for you.