There is strength in a song that compels us to respond with clapped hands, lifted voices, stomped feet, and waving arms. There is power in a song that can pull on our emotions—make us shed a tear or reflect on an old memory. Sometimes a good tune makes us jump up and dance. It reminds us that we have soul, that we know a little something about rhythm and perhaps blues. Meaningful lyrics evoke a response by reminding us that we are human, connected through this shared experience we call life.
But too often the songs we love most—those things that bring us life—are drowned out by screaming kids, packed schedules, and burdensome responsibilities. When our lives are so consumed with meeting expectations, trying to measure up, and fulfilling the needs of others, we lose sight of ourselves. We forget who we are, what we need and want, and where we’re going. This sense of loss can become a dangerous reality in the life of leaders. To avoid this danger, we must intentionally practice personal leadership, or what I sometimes refer to as self-care or self-leadership.
The Art of Self-Care
Caring for one’s well-being is necessary for those who intend to lead for an extended period, and it requires heightened self-awareness. There are personality tests and leadership diagnostics to help determine your personal needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Sustaining healthy relationships and building an affirming community can help ease some of the emotional strain life may bring. Intentionally developing a natural rhythm that brings purpose and significance to your life, however, is perhaps even more important than relationships and self-awareness.
When I was in the Navy, I worked out daily because it was required of me. I didn’t always like the discipline, but I loved the results. Working out increased my daily energy, gave me a good “attack” to start the day, and increased my capacity to enjoy the food that I loved. But after so many years of rigorous training, I needed a break. Five days of workouts every week dwindled to three, then two, and two eventually became none. I had exchanged a rhythm of fitness for a rhythm of desk work. I noticed that the more weekly responsibilities I had, the less I worked out—my physical fitness was the first thing I sacrificed for ministry. Within months, I had gained a few pounds, lacked energy, slept fitfully, and suffered from body aches. In order to gain back the rhythm I once had, my life needed a complete overhaul.