On January 1st, 2020, I gave the year a name that would be its theme for the following 12 months.
I chose that word, because I felt that the lack of mindfulness was the root of why I felt stuck. I was so used to walking around in a daze, just going through the motions of my day-to-day. I didn’t need to think about any of the daily tasks, because they were deep rooted routines and habits.
So, I decided that I wanted to be more mindful of my habits, my emotions, my reactions, my perceptions, but most of all, I wanted to be more mindful of my self talk. It is AH-MAZING how poorly our internal dialogue can be. We would never let someone else say the things that we can often say to ourselves. What’s surprising, is that a lot of the time, we’re not even aware of the internal negativity, or the fact that it gets worn on our sleeve for everyone to feel, no matter how much we try to stay positive.
What I also realized was that my self-talk was at its loudest when I would deliberately try to immerse in external distractions. This came in the form of cleaning, or putting my head down and ‘working’ on my business, or scrolling on social media to try and numb to name a few. However, distraction also came in the form of the need to try and help someone else with a problem they may have had. To a certain degree, it was like I was telling myself, “Well, you can’t fix yourself, so let’s try to fix something for someone else.” Definitely, a noble ‘cause’ but from somewhat misguided intentions.
Then our world turned upside-down. The year started off with mindfulness as a theme, and then turned into ‘finding a new normal’. Most of us could have never anticipated how different our lives would become in a very short amount of time. As a result, the needs of so many people abruptly changed, and it became a matter of survival. Brene Brown shared the similarities between dealing with the fallout from the pandemic, with the coping mechanisms when dealing with trauma.
If ever there was a time to get me out of the monotony of daily habits and routines, the pandemic definitely accomplished that.
All of a sudden, it became shockingly apparent that so many people were struggling with the the lack of routine, and I realized that there were many lessons that we needed to learn this year. I don’t necessarily know specifically what all those lessons are, but I know that there is a profound message from this year and that I wanted to show others that they were stronger than they realized.
Maybe you are someone who also sees the potential of people around you. You know that they could accomplish so much, and you just want to help them realize that.
You want to share what you have learned and hope that it resonates with them. You want to show them alternatives to their desperation so that they know they have more choices. You want to show that you care because they may have experienced something extremely tragic, and you want them to feel that they have your support. You want to be of service to them—to lead them out of the uncertainty.
I just want to let you know, that you have such a kind heart for feeling that way, and that makes you an exceptional person.
So, before you make yourself available to serve others, you need to take a step back and take stock of what’s happening to you internally. There are ton of articles and books that can give you suggestions on how to be an effective leader, but it all starts with being mindful of your own thoughts and feelings.
Here is a list of 5 things you should ask yourself to help you focus on being the best servant leader you can be.
- How am I feeling right now?
You need to sit down with your own thoughts and emotions to figure out how are you feeling at this exact moment. What is happening in your life right now? What reactions do you have when you think about elements of your life? Are you scared about finances or worried about sickness or excited by the new possibilities that the next year will bring? Are you happy about new changes that are happening or sad, angry, content, grateful, etc.? Remember, how we are genuinely feeling shows up in our energy, so if we’re not mindful of our own feelings, this can affect those around us, especially if it’s someone we’re trying to help.
2. Is there something I need to do to fill my ‘proverbial’ cup first?
If you’ve flown on a plane, you would have experienced the safety video, specifically the situation where you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others. There’s a reason for that. You can’t help others unless you take care of your needs first. Make a list of what makes you happy and do something from that list, daily. My friend, Shannon Smith, a mental health nurse, shared a little tip—if you can’t think of things that genuinely make you happy, think about your 7-year old self and what made you happy at that time, as a starting point for your list.
3. WHY am I wanting to be available to help others?
Of course, there are an infinite number of responses, and be connected to your big why (For more info on your ‘big why’, check out “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek) . Some of your reasons for wanting to help others may indeed focus on the greater good. Or, maybe the motivation is based on being avoidant of something in your own life.
Sometimes it’s easier to deal with other people’s issues and challenges before dealing with our own. As such, we have a tendency to put our own needs on the back burner, often because we think that we can feel energized by helping someone with their needs, therefore giving us the strength to deal with our own challenges. So, take a minute to make sure that the reason you want to be available to others isn’t because you’re avoiding things that you need to deal with in your life first.
4. Have I truly listened to what they need?
The topic of active listening is discussed often, so I’m not going to draw it out here. However, as it relates to mindfulness and listening, you may not realize how often we don’t really listen. Sometimes we hear some of the conversation, but then we are thinking and waiting until we can share something from our knowledge in response.
Yes, they may be looking for an alternate stream of income, but right now, that doesn’t mean that you have to tell them about how your business venture would be a good fit. Yes, they may be trying to figure out how to drop some inches and pounds, but at that moment, it doesn’t mean that you need to tell them about the meal plan that worked for you. Yes, they may be figuring out how not to cry at every commercial because they are so depressed, but that doesn’t mean that you have to console them or say anything at all .
Most of the time, you just need to listen. Just BE THERE, with them, fully present. It’s not just about actively listening. It’s about mindfully listening. Then you will be able to hear what they actually need.
5. Am I being the best leader for myself?
The idea of being a ‘servant leader’ isn’t really about leading people to do something amazing, make changes or challenge themselves. It’s about inspiring them to be the best version of themselves by showing them how you do this for yourself. You need to be the walking proof of your ‘success’ so that others can see that it is indeed possible. It’s not about proving that you’re not scared to do what you do—it’s that you don’t let the fear hold you back from doing what needs to be done anyhow. There will be challenges and setbacks, but you show up for yourself, regardless and put one foot in front of the other. Leading from the front means you need to be your own biggest cheerleader, supporter, encourager so you continually grow too. Be the best leader for yourself.
Overall, it may be counterintuitive to be so self-focussed (and may even feel a little selfish) when all you really want to do is be selfless and help others, but it honestly does start with you. Being mindful of how you talk to yourself and your own feelings will not only help you evolve, but it will put you in a better position to be empathetic and lift others up with you.
I haven’t yet decided on my name for 2021, as I really am thinking about the lessons I learned this year… But one word that keeps coming to mind is resiliency. Decide what you want your word to be and then get to work.
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From the bottom of my heart, thanks for reading!
Sarah, The Depressed Mom Boss