by: Lisa Allen, Proverbs 31 Ministries
On a recent flight I was half-listening to the takeoff instructions reminding me about tray tables, flotation devices and oxygen masks. “If you are traveling with someone who needs assistance, please put your oxygen mask on before assisting others.” I’d heard it a hundred times, but today, it spoke to my weary soul. I had gone through a ministry season during which I had delegated too much of myself assisting others rather than “putting on my oxygen mask first.”
The evidence of the impact of this season could be seen on: my calendar that showed no margin; my stress level from too little time in the gym; and my mental and physical health showing signs of poor eating and mental fatigue. I was an effective leader of everyone but myself.
“Leader” – The word itself conjures up images of a person who is in charge, discerning, strategic and magnetic. We manage projects, build teams, solve problems and develop people while delegating and distributing vision necessary to bring the future into reality. But at the core of all our work lies a personal responsibility … to lead ourselves.
What I learned through this season was that, while I was good at delegating many things, I cannot delegate self-leadership. There are certain things that ONLY I can do. We have been designed to lead ourselves. This truth was unpacked in a much deeper way for me when I was studying Galatians 6:4-5 “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load,” (emphasis mine).
The word “LOAD” in this verse is a form used in the Greek language referring to some type of luggage or baggage. Some baggage could be hired out to be carried by a porter. But this particular word for “LOAD” is one the Greek language indicated can only be carried by YOU. It likened it to the fact that no one can be sick for you. No one can grieve for you. It became a powerful awareness for me to pay attention to the things in my life that only I can carry in my self-leadership.
As I began to apply this verse to my own self-leadership, I observed 5 things in my life that, slowly over time, I had allowed to be led by the urgency of others instead of my own boundaries.
1. MY POWER HOURS – Morning is the most productive time of my day, so I guard my power hours for my most pressing projects. I get up early each day and I need to guard that time to be focused on important projects, brainstorming and creativity. The saying is true that I cannot burn the candle at both ends. If I know my day starts really early, then I also need to guard that it cannot end very late. I need 8 hours of sleep and must guard my evenings to make sure I have powerful mornings. What are your power hours and how can you guard them?
2. MY HABITS – Where am I wasting time? (Social media, constant emailing, TV, phone). Is my health suffering? (Exercise, eating, stress). How are my relationships? (Marriage, parenting, family, teammates). I need to consistently assess areas to identify ways my habits are becoming unhealthy. Small choices - good or bad ones - over time can affect the person we become. What is one habit you know needs your self-leadership today?
3. MY VOICE – Steven Covey says, “It’s easy to say no when you understand your greater yes.” I’ve identified my greater yes to be about things that are specific to my calling, passions, goals and dreams. It releases me to say YES and, more importantly, to say NO to family, professional and even social invitations and decisions. What is a decision you’re facing that you are tempted to give away your voice?
4. MY CALLING – There are certain things I am currently doing that many other people can do. However, there are a few things that ONLY I CAN DO. I continually need to filter my calendar, decisions and commitments through my calling and mission statement. I need to challenge myself to say NO to good things in order to say YES to better things. I have been uniquely designed to leave a mark that only Lisa Allen can leave on this world. Can you find one thing to take off your calendar today that can be done by someone else in order to create room for something only YOU can do?
5. LIVING MY VALUES - Authenticity is one of my top personal values. Am I the same person on the inside as the outside? Am I the same leader at home as I am in the office? Who am I when no one is looking at me? Leaders who practice self-leadership are keenly aware of the inconsistencies in their lives. Take a good look at yourself and identify any areas that you know are inconsistent with your values. Redirect your choices to reflect the values you hold dear.
From one leader to another, I hope you can learn from my missteps. Aristotle says “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” What are the things that you need to “take back” in order to put the “oxygen mask of self leadership” back on today?
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