Ever heard the saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’? If you have, how much attention have you paid to it? If you’re like me, and many other business owners and entrepreneurs I know, you’re pretty good at putting your head in the sand on this one, think it doesn’t apply to you, and, most likely, think it’s extraordinarily selfish to even consider the fact that perhaps looking after yourself needs to be a priority.
Here’s the thing, like many of you, I spent my career, and my life, looking after everyone else first. Squeezing in time to replenish my mind, look after my health or do anything for my mental wellness was at best just that – squeezing it in around everything else. And by the most part that was a pretty successful approach. I had a thriving, fast growing and successful business, everyone was well looked after and life was good. I was juggling all of the things, working all the hours and truly thought I was smashing it – I building my empire (yes literally that was my mantra, I’m not even joking).
But do you know what, I was on the fast train towards burnout and I couldn’t see it, and in fact it took one of my team to not so subtly let me know that I wasn’t being the best leader, manager or business owner I could be.
Was my business successful at the time? Absolutely! By all of the typical measures. So what was the problem? Put simply I was ALL in on the business, to the detriment of every other aspect of my life. Ultimately this was not going to be sustainable, and I realised that if I didn’t make a change I was never going to be able to continue to build and grow, and be a great boss to my team.
Here is the thing I know now that I wish I knew then – you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you are not getting what you need to recharge and reenergise yourself, you can not possibly give your team what they need from you. More importantly know, prioritising your own self care in this way is not selfish – in fact it’s one of the biggest gifts you can give your team.
So, once I realised what was going on, and what I wasn’t doing, I made the very deliberate decision to dedicate time to looking after myself. Did I have guilts? Um, that is a firm yes! But I quickly realised that I needed to set the right example for my people.
I added self care into my daily routine, which for me at the time meant taking up running. It became a non negotiable and in fact very quickly it became clear that the running had a HUGE benefit on my mental health more than anything. I felt calmer, more in control and more ready to tackle the day.
I could feel and see myself being a better leader, because I was able to make decisions with a clearer head, communicate more effectively, listen to my team better and read in their language and behaviour when they too needed to take some time for themselves, or change something up to refill their cup.
For the longest time I thought by not being obsessed with my business 24 /7 meant that I was being a bad leader – but I had that so wrong. I was a better leader when I prioritised self care – and this made for a better business, a more engaged and happy team and a better example for my people on what they could and should be doing as well. In fact, as a I started researching the key characteristics, habits and behaviours of the most successful leaders, they all had this figured out.
There is a misconception, particularly amongst hard working high performing types, that putting in more time and effort yields better results. But it’s not the case. The good old law of diminishing returns eventually kicks in – and the more we put in, the results start to plateau and then ultimately decline.
It took me too long to figure this out, which is why it’s something I so passionately share with other business owners, particularly those that I see on the same trajectory that I was on.
Spending 100% of your time in your business might feel like the right thing to do, focusing on your team ahead of yourself may seem the best way forward, putting yourself last may seem selfless. However, what I have learnt, and what I know from the other business owners, leaders and managers who have shared similar stories is this: those who prioritise self-care, and make it a daily practice, smash it in their business and in their life.
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