Once I get through this week
Once we get a bit of breathing room
Once this project is done
Once we get through to the end of this year
Once I get the house organized
Once the credit cards are paid off
Once we get to our summer vacation
Once the kids are older
The destination is always different but the sentiment is the same – we must endure our current situation until some distant point in the future when things will be better and we will find happiness, joy, contentment or peace.
While in some respects I appreciate the “light at the end of the tunnel” mentality of these statements, my struggle with them is that happiness is always found later and when things are different than they are now. Leaving us surviving the present, always waiting for better things in the future.
This past week, we kicked off our first leadership program of the year. We have 23 engaged and inspired leaders who are starting 2022 off focused on honing their skills, developing their leadership and mentoring their teams. As we kicked off our first session and reviewed the course syllabus for the next four sessions, one topic got more response this year than in programs of the past (though, to be fair, it is always a topic of great discussion): Going inward daily. While this leadership course is highly focused on developing the tactical skills needed to effectively and meaningfully be a leader within an organization, it also brings to light another part of leadership that is crucial for success, the importance and responsibility of taking care of yourself as a leader. Leadership demands high levels of emotional intelligence (especially self-awareness and self-regulation), skill development, futuristic thinking, multitasking, empathy, reflection and recalibration. All of these skills require high levels of attention and energy. Simply put, in order to lead others effectively, we must take care of ourselves. We won’t cover “Go Inward Daily” until our last session, but based on the reactions that I saw in simply introducing the topic (and the frequency in which my coachees discuss this topic in our coaching sessions), it’s clear that leaders are feeling the effects of these busy and stressful times. They are feeling the need to charge their batteries and to take care of themselves as much as they are taking care of their teams, though often finding little time and energy to do it.
If this (seemingly never-ending) pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that we have no idea what the future holds and that all we have is the here and now. It’s made me ask myself, how much happiness have I missed waiting for things to be different than they are? How often have I told myself things will be better once something else happens? How many times have I sat in the stress of a situation feeling overwhelmed and burned out waiting for the magic day when things will feel better?
The simple answer is too many and never again. No more waiting for “once”. Instead 2022 will focus on the “during”.
I will stay focused during the busyness
I will stay rooted in the good during the difficult times
I will focus on peace during the stress
I will focus on the recharging during chaos
We spend far more time in the “during” than we do in the “once”, so no more wasted time waiting for – someday – when the opportunity to stay connected and grounded is here every day.
As leaders, how we show up impacts our teams whether we like to admit it or not. How we engage in our day, the energy (or the burnout) we bring, the mood and mindset we have, has a direct effect on how they show up and how they work. Do they sense you are simply surviving until your “once” or do they feel your energy in the “during”? Because I assure you, whichever one you arrive with, has a large impact on how they spend their days as well.
So here’s to a year filled with more “during’s” than “once’s”, for both our teams and for ourselves!