It all starts with you.

The holidays usually provide an opportunity to take time off, refresh ourselves and look forward to the new year. As we move from one year to the next, many of us feel a lot of positive energy around reflecting on what we most want to change and achieve in the new year.

This year, we say goodbye to another tumultuous and unprecedented year. The past two years have challenged not only our leadership, but the way we do everything, including our habits and our health (in all senses of the word).

As you look ahead to 2022, you may feel a desire to better yourself for the people around you. You may want to be a better leader because you know we need strong leadership now, more than ever.

Before you set your new year’s resolutions, ask yourself, “How can I be a strong leader and contributor, if I’m not a healthy human being?”

I’m going to share a composite sketch of many of the accountants we coach at Intend2Lead – a fictitious person named John Smith. As I describe him, I invite you to reflect on how much of yourself you see in John.

John is a very conscientious accountant. He is generally well-liked, reliable, respected and has an incredible work ethic.

John also….

  • Works an average of 10-11 hours per day.

  • Rarely takes breaks during the workday, rushing from one Zoom meeting to the next (sometimes without even so much as a bathroom break!).

  • Does not sleep well.

  • Is too busy to exercise.

  • Rarely eats healthy meals.

  • Finds it difficult to be fully present with and engage with his family when he’s not working.

  • Usually takes a few vacations per year. When he does take time off, he has a hard time unwinding. He struggles to “turn it off” enough to fully enjoy the vacation.

  • Feels guilty when he is not working. The voice in his head is on repeat, telling him, “You’re not getting enough done!”

  • Constantly uses the word “overwhelmed” when describing his days.

  • Spends a lot of time lamenting on how hard everything is…how hard his life is.

John’s automatic response to rising demands is to work more hours. He is accustomed to de-prioritizing himself and his own well-being in the little time he has left outside of work.

The costs of de-prioritizing yourself

John is not living a sustainable life. In fact, he’s sacrificing his future health (in all senses of the word) because he believes it’s the only way to succeed. John puts work ahead of his family, and he puts others ahead of himself. Taking care of himself is not even on his radar most of the time.

What are the costs of living life like this? I’ve seen up-close the devastating costs of deprioritizing self-care over long periods of time: burnout, health problems (physical, mental and emotional), broken relationships, missed opportunities, hopelessness and despair.

Even in the short term, John short-changes his impact. Since he’s running on fumes most of the time, his team and organization receive a lesser version of him. He rarely engages fully, which limits the potential of his leadership and his team.

Now, let’s get back to you. Do you see any of yourself in John? Are you limiting your potential and positive impact on others because you de-prioritize yourself?

Before you create your new year’s resolutions, reflect on these three questions:

1. What does you, being a healthier human, look like in 2022?

Allow yourself to imagine what being a healthy human truly looks like for you. When have you been at your best in the past? What allowed that to happen? What might be possible for you, your team and your organization when you take better care of yourself consistently?

2. Do you believe that you deserve to care for yourself before you take care of others?

This is a big one. It seems logical enough to say you’ll prioritize your self-care. You probably know it’s important. So, why haven’t you done it? What’s stopped you in the past?

It may come down to your beliefs. Many people find it hard to prioritize themselves. They think it’s “selfish.” They don’t give themselves permission to do it.

Flight attendants tell us to put our oxygen mask on first, before we help others with theirs. This seems obvious – if you run out of oxygen, you’re no good to anyone. It’s no different when it comes to your self-care. If you neglect yourself, you’re not able to effectively help any of the people you care about.

In order to follow through on your self-care, you must believe you are important enough and worthy enough to receive it. You must recognize that this helps not only you, but everyone else in your life.

3. How will you prioritize yourself in 2022, so you can unleash your leadership potential?

What will provide you with the oxygen you need? What self-care practices will support you in showing up more fully for others?

Perhaps it’s an exercise program, more consistent sleep, drinking more water, taking more breaks, or daily meditation. The options are limitless. What’s one new practice or routine that will move the needle most for you right now? What feels like the most important first step in reclaiming your self-care?

Get specific. Visualize it happening. Think about what might get in the way, and plan for it. Set your boundaries, and honor them. If you don’t honor your own boundaries, no one else will.

Once you work through these questions and discern how you’ll take care of yourself first in 2022, you’ll have a lot more energy and space to tackle any other new year’s resolutions.

When you’re a healthy human first, you automatically become a stronger leader for others.

Find your oxygen, and breathe it in deeply. You deserve it.

See you in the DoP,

P.S. If you need support in being a healthier human being in 2022, we’re offering 25% off all personal development programs in the Learning Lab when you use coupon code ‘youyear’ at checkout through January 31, 2022.