Recently, I had to engage in a bit of self-talk. Long hours. Early mornings. Late nights. A move to a new city. It was catching up with me. I was e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d.
That meant the minor task I had to accomplish was becoming a major headache. With all the finesse and grace of an accomplished dancer, I spun around that task and successfully avoided it for hours.
Eventually, as I was sitting on the couch looking for yet another distraction, I finally came to my senses.
Justin!?! What are you thinking? You know you need to do this. If you lack motivation, you lack the vision. Whydoes this matter to you so much?
Clarity Breeds Confidence
At that moment, I acknowledged I lacked the clear motivation of why this task mattered. I verbally began to recite whatever came to mind as to why the task mattered.
Your family is counting on you.
Accomplishing this will provide income to your family.
It builds trust and respect.
I want to provide for those I love.
On and on the list grew. Before I knew it, I had expressed over twenty different reasons I needed to complete the task.
It was done in less than an hour.
Clarity breeds confidence. If we lack the motivation to complete something, it’s often because we lack the vision of why it matters in the first place.
When we remind ourselves what makes a task important, we harness the motivation (and more importantly, discipline) to get it done.
Pulled 1,000 Different Directions
Many of us are pulled in a thousand different directions every day. Our spouse needs affection. The kids want our attention. Our boss wants a report. A parent needs our perspective. Our friend needs advice. The side-hustle needs grinding.
Whatever it is, you know what it’s like to be pulled in a thousand different directions.
When struggling, recite: Confidence breeds clarity. The more clear our goals, the more action we are willing (and able to take).
By gaining clarity on why something matters, you’ll breed the confidence to figure out how.
That’s one big difference between high-achievers and regular performers. High-achievers spend a significant amount of time engaging in the end vision of their journey and then plan intentionally.
One of the common phrases in our house is, “Do hard things!”
It’s a call. A challenge. To our kids, but also to the adults. Life requires, necessitates difficulty. We should rise to the occasion.
Do Hard Things
Life is full of the difficult.
When we’re young, learning to walk is hard. Yet without knowing any better, our natural instinct is to persevere. We fall, we rise again, and we take another step.
Somewhere along the way, however, we get talked out of that mindset. We learn to shrink back, play small, give in, and give up. Ultimately, we end up missing out on some of the greatest aspects of life.
Because everything we’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. Our ability to push through, rise to the occasion, and achieve the difficult things, determines how far we get in life.
Don’t Run From Hardship
One writer from the early church history penned the idea of difficulty this way:
Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking. (The Voice)
We were warned thousands of years ago about the necessity of doing difficult things in life. From cleaning our rooms to forgiving someone who offends us, the message is the same: do hard things!
Got a side-hustle you want to be your full-time gig? Do Hard Things.
Looking to advance in your career and get a promotion? Do Hard Things.
Discovering the need to be a better parent, spouse, or lover? Do Hard Things.
Trying to lose ten, fifteen, for fifty pounds? Do Hard Things.
Convicted to swallow your pride and ask for forgiveness? Do Hard Things.
A Call For Growth
Ultimately, this is a call for growth. For all of us. We are presented each and every day with the chance to grow and get better.
For my son, it’s cleaning his room, engaging in his math homework, and being nice. (Even when his little brother is legitimately being annoying).
For me, it’s putting in the focused effort on the right action items every day. Ignoring distraction, feeding my quest for self-improvement, and growing a business.
For you, it might be something different. Maybe it’s to put the phone down and engage with the family. Perhaps your growth point is to finally start that business venture that has you so scared (I can help). Maybe there’s that small voice that is urging you to show up, to speak up, and to act for justice.
Whatever it is. Embrace the call. Press into that feeling. Rise to the occasion.
The spiritual and emotional health of leaders is a necessary component of holistic health.
We’re in the middle of a series on leadership health. Want to catch up? Part 1 is here.
Healthy leaders engage in ancient practices of development, often called spiritual disciplines. Times of quiet reflection, meditation, prayer, rest, and community discernment are a few examples.
An example of leadership spiritual growth is a hobby. Hobbies are those life-giving activities that serve as a reflection of our unique personality. Hunting, fishing, reading, flying drones, calligraphy.
In fact, I found that is often the case for high performing leaders. Engrossed in work and personal development (for the sake of further accomplishment), high performing leaders have a hard time unplugging and engaging in activities with no real goal or purpose other than enjoyment.
I’ve used comments like, “I have fun when I’m winning.” That’s enormously frustrating to people who are playing to have fun. (And vice versa).
Other similar phrases include:
I don’t know what to do with downtime.
I’m not bringing too much work with me, I’m on vacation.
My hobbies include winning and getting better.
(I may or may not have said all of these….) 😬
But spiritual health is rooted in calling and it is about the full development of a person’s humanity. Below, is a partial list of spiritual practices and disciplines to help you grow.
Practices for Spiritual Development:
Gratitude and Thankfulness
Have others? Leave a comment and let others know how to grow in spiritual health.
Emotional Health in leaders
Emotional health is the next step to fruitful and productive leadership. In my experience, this is the most neglected area of health. The emotional health of a person sits in the unique field of being almost completely internal in nature through past experiences, while also being almost completely externally visible through actions, perceptions, and relationships.
Peter Scazzeo notes the concerns of emotional health:
Emotional health is concerned with such things as: naming, recognizing, and managing our own feelings identifying and having active compassion for others initiating and maintaining close and meaningful relationships breaking free from self-destructive patterns being aware of how our past impacts our present developing the capacity to clearly express our thoughts and feelings respecting and loving others without having to change them clearly, directly, and respectfully asking for what we need, want, or prefer accurately assessing our own strengths, limits, and weaknesses, and freely sharing them with others developing the capacity to maturely resolve.
For the emotionally healthy leader, effective emotional health requires a previous recognition and engagement with the emotional traps, snares, and shortcomings at earlier stages of life. Family dynamics, addiction triggers, and shortcomings all need to be worked through and reflected upon.
But it is important to remember that emotional health may start internal, but presents external.
These are a few outward signs that something is wrong internally. Healthy leaders, by contrast, are generous. With their praise, with their affirmation, with their encouragement and desire to see others succeed and grow.
Because this is such an important topic, we are going to examine how to grow in emotional health and intelligence next week.
I learned the necessity of emotional intelligence like a child learning to walk. There was lots of hand-holding, many more tremendous crashes (often public), and more than a few bumps and bruises.
The Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is like playing the piano. The greater the range, the greater the player.
As a pianist, my musical accomplishment is limited to chopsticks. On a good day, I might be able to find middle C.
For my wife, after some tinkering, she can learn to play fairly complex songs. She can tune her guitar, sing along as she plays, and is good enough to teach our children.
A world-class pianist can play amazing complex songs. The piano seems to come alive in their hands. Every technique is mastered. Each hammering of the keys is intentional. Everything ringing with a divine sound.
Emotional Intelligence works the same way. Emotionally immature people have a very limited range of keys to play from. Usually, they are the basic emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. A situation arises, and their keystrokes are limited. Everything triggers them to respond in simplistic ways.
I knew a man like this once. Though physically mature, the emotional range was limited. Within a split-second, he could go from happiness to anger. Worse than that (as someone who claimed to be a leader), there was little desire to change.
“I’m just this way. I’ve always been this way, I’ll always be this way. “
This limiting belief and limited emotional capacity will limit his leadership capacity.
Expanding The Emotional Range
Expanding emotional range happens with practice. Like each new key on the keyboard that a pianist can play, emotional range equips the leader for more situations.
Think of a strong emotion like anger. Those with limited emotional capacity experience lots of anger. The lack of self-awareness leads to them repeatedly pounding the same key over and over again.
They get cut off in traffic and are angry.
The restaurant takes too long to cook their food and they are angry.
Their child leaves their shoes in the middle of the floor and they are angry.
They are passed over for a promotion and are angry.
Their favorite team loses in the championship game and they are angry.
Bothered by the amount of trash in the local park, they are angry.
Like a new piano player, they keep hitting the same note. Always angry, always looking for a reason to explode, always at the ready to let everyone know how they feel.
In contrast to this, there are ranges of anger: annoyance, frustration, furious, exasperated, and bitter are a few examples. Each is a different key to more adequately express the current emotion.
Do your child’s shoes in the middle of the floor really make you angry or are you annoyed because you tripped over them?
Does the missed promotion make you exasperated because you worked hard and thought you earned it?
The more keys that are available to us as leaders, the better we can navigate the situations around us.
The thing about leadership is that it is never a finished journey. New experiences and new insights lead to new emotional experiences.
Over the last several months, it has been a series of two steps forward and one step back.
Exciting progress met by a frustrating setback.
The subfloor was installed fairly quickly and easily.
But then, it took three orders of the shower to get one delivered undamaged, followed by three visits of the plumber to get it installed fully.
But after six weeks, we finally had a shower. So we put up the drywall and painted.
Progress, Setback, Repeat.
That, as it turns out, is much like life.
Slow, Steady Growth
Healthy leadership is a series of growth events. Each is the opportunity to take a step forward. Unfortunately, we also experience moments of setback.
For every successful meeting or mentoring moment, we belittle an employee.
Every time we set healthy boundaries and engage in personal development, we scream at someone in traffic.
For every trip to the park with our kids or a date night with our spouse, there’s the emotional binge eating for temporary relief.
It’s this continual cycle of growth and progression that encapsulates the leader’s life. It’s also the reason that I started intentionally focusing on seven key areas and aspects of healthy leadership.
Over the next couple of weeks on the blog, we are going to be covering each of these seven areas. In each area, we’ll examine the process of opportunity, growth, and reflection.
First up, let’s talk about calling.
Calling – Leadership Health and Integrity (Part 1)
The foundation for all leadership begins in a calling. God has been calling and shaping people since the beginning of time. Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul are a few examples. All have unique and personalized call stories that led them to live a life of mission.
There are two levels of calling that need to be identified. First, is a general calling. The second moves from general to specific.
The general call focuses first on the development of leadership skills.
For me, it came as a freshman in college. Unhappy with where I was, how I felt, what I was looking forward to, and the classes I was taking, I remember the feeling of being alone, unloved, and unimportant.
I had gone to college because it’s what I was supposed to do. However, I didn’t arrive with any real sense of purpose or direction. Having spent a semester as a science major, the only thing that I was certain of was that I couldn’t spend any more evenings in the lab staring at a microscope.
I entered into a time of dedicated study, prayer, and reflection. I looked at transferring schools, changing majors,and dropping out and getting a job. After weeks of prayer and study, I was renewed with a sense of purpose and direction. I was reminded that I had once been called into leadership positions and that it might be time to explore that calling again.
I began to argue with God about what that might look like. In my brokenness, I also listed the reasons why I was unfit and unqualified for leadership.
I suffered from extreme shyness and public anxiety.
I had a lack of public presence and a huge fear of the unknown.
In a sense of divine irony, I sensed the call to read my Bible. I randomly opened my Bible to the story of Moses in Exodus three and four. My reservations and fears had been calmed when I saw that I raised all the same objections Moses had. I became convinced that God delights in using our weaknesses in unique and exciting ways.
General revelations can happen at any time and force future leaders to have open hearts and minds about how God is calling and shaping them.
Specific call stories take on a more detailed tone. If a general calling echoes my own idea of, “I’m not sure what this means, but I think I’m called into leadership;” specific call stories can fill in the blanks of to whom and for whom.
Originally for me, this meant youth ministry, but it didn’t take very long as a youth pastor to see that this was not what God intended for me!
Over the last decade, I have continued to define and refine my leadership skills and capabilities.
I now work with leaders, empowering them to get the right things done. My time is spent with success-oriented individuals helping them reach peak performance, accomplish their goals, and transform conflict into opportunity.
Let’s wrap up today’s discussion by providing discussion plans and growth points for the leadership journey.
These questions are designed to help you gain momentum in your journey towards leadership health.
To whom have I been called to serve?
What energizes me?
How do I want to give back?
What gifts and talents do my closest friends and family see in me?
Have I experienced a general calling? What did that look like?
Have I experienced a specific calling? What does that look like?
Who am I trying to become?
Next week, we are going to begin our look at the four internal aspects of leadership health and continue towards our final destination.