“I have to tell you,” my client said, “when we first met, and you told me I needed to look at this, I thought you were crazy. I told my friend later that day that you were crazy. I mean, a 90-minute conversation on this one silly thing?”

“And?” I asked.

“And it’s made all the difference,” she finished. “I didn’t believe it, but it’s made all the difference.”

What was the one silly thing I spent nearly a full 90-minute coaching session talking about with my (then) new client? Sleep.

Good news/bad news – I learned a lot about sleep a few years ago when I went through a horrendous (and long) bout of insomnia. It knocked me flat on my back – literally at times – like nothing ever had. That’s when I realized that there’s a reason that sleep deprivation is a form of torture, and that it’s impossible for any of us to be at our best when we’re depriving ourselves of sleep.

Taking care of ourselves – especially as leaders – is somehow seen as a weakness. Many of us are somehow convinced that we’re somehow better if we’re busier. If there’s less time for us, if we have more unanswered emails, if we’re rushing from meeting to meeting, if we don’t even have time for lunch – somehow we’ve come to see this as a badge of honor.

Put that badge down.

When we don’t take of ourselves – physically, mentally, emotionally, and yes spiritually (from a higher purpose perspective) – we run ourselves down and/or out. We’re operating at a negative; we’re depleted.

How do we ever think we can lead, manage, and relate like that? How do we think we can be a good friend, boss, colleague, partner, parent, spouse?

We can’t.

By choosing to put ourselves first, we allow our best selves to come through. It’s as simple as setting your alarm 30-minutes later or making sure you’re eating (and eating well). It’s as simple as making time to exercise or at least scheduling walking (or standing) meetings. It’s as simple as taking 15 minutes to reflect or relax, or to connect with a friend or someone you love. It’s as simple as finding reasons to laugh and play, to smile and enjoy, to bask and metaphorically put your feet up and smell the roses.

As a client said to us years ago, it’s simple but it’s not easy. It takes discipline, and the willingness to put yourself first, at least a little bit for a little while.

But as my client remarked the other day, it can make all the difference. In your leadership, in your relationships, in your life.

How have you learned to take care of yourself, and how have you benefited?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in putting yourself first – really first – contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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