Self-care: Critical Success Factor for Personal and Organizational Renaissance™

Renaissance may be defined as a renewal of life or interest, a re-birth. I use the term Organizational Renaissance™ to highlight the fact that the economic downturn has provided a unique opportunity for organizations and individuals to take a close look at what they are doing, how they are doing it, why they are doing it, and then to either re-affirm the path they are on or choose a new one. However, the window of opportunity for organizations is closing quickly: by the time the economy turns around, it will be closed in the sense that current and past practices again will be entrenched and people will be very resistant to change. Right now you truly have a once in a lifetime chance to purposefully examine who you are as an organization and how you want to operate. Similarly, individuals have that same opportunity to examine their values, choices, wants, and need, and to make changes as desired.

As I was piecing together the components of the Organizational Renaissance™ concept, it seemed incomplete. Then I realized a critical element was missing: self-care. A familiar example illustrates why self-care is important. Those who travel by air are familiar with the flight attendants' instructions about use of the oxygen masks: "Put your own mask on first and adjust the straps before you help others." This metaphor illustrates that we cannot be fully effective in helping others, whether inside or outside of the workplace, unless we take care of ourselves first.

For those who may be out of practice in taking care of themselves, here are seven suggestions to help you get started or re-started:

  1. Take the time to paint a picture (literally or figuratively) of how you want to live your life and the values that you espouse. Use this picture as the standard against which to make decisions and set priorities. Relentlessly jettison things that don't support your vision.
  2. Zealously guard your time. I like the perspective provided by Alan Weiss, my mentor. He defines wealth as discretionary time, saying that while individuals can make more money, they cannot make more time.
  3. Refuse to play the role of victim. Acknowledge that although bad things happen, you are the only one who can define yourself as a victim, and only you can choose to remain in or leave that state of mind. Most of us experience rough patches. One of my friends, a cancer survivor, shared her secret for getting through those "woe is me" times: she allows herself to have a 15-minute "pity party," during which time she can feel as badly as she wants. Once the time is up, however, she resolutely picks herself up and moves on.
  4. Surround yourself with people who infuse your life with positive energy, and avoid those who suck the energy out of you. If you must be around individuals in the latter group (e.g., family members, co-workers), minimize your time with them.
  5. View your life as a whole rather than segmenting it into arbitrary parts - e.g., work life, home life. Approaching your life holistically enables you to maximize it and, importantly, to integrate its various aspects. (See #6 and #7.)
  6. Develop a career that allows you to express your passion. Life is too short, and we spend too much of it at work, to squander our time by doing things that don't make our hearts sing.
  7. Remember to strive for balance in your self-care. That is, tend to the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your being. All of our "selves" need care and attention.

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.


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