Last month I discussed the limited nature of our own personal resources. I drew an analogy between the limitations of the world’s most popular operating system and ourselves. These precious limited resources can be defined as our physical energy, mental sharpness, ability to focus, emotional well-being, and coworker relationships. When our personal resources are stressed, the results are often poor decision-making and inadequate leadership skills.
In last month’s article, we used the Microsoft Windows’ analogy to draw three valuable lessons regarding our own personal resources. To go directly to part 1 in last months issue click here. This month I would like to discuss how we can balance and nurture these resources.
One reason for a major decline of our own resources is a lack of real direction in our lives. We easily recognize organizations that lack direction and when we do, we often ask, “What is it’s mission plan?” What is the organization’s direction? What is it striving to be? What makes it unique and why does it exist? When an organization begins to struggle, the stakeholders typically ask the following basic question, “Are we modeling our mission statement?” The same is true for people. In this ever-complex world, we too need a personal mission statement! Much like an organization, this mission statement is intended to remind us of who we are, why we are here on earth and in what direction are we headed!
In my personal experience I have found that many individuals who reached the limit of their personal resources and suffered from career burnout were those who lost their mental balance. They often became so consumed with one area of their life that they forgot why they were working or the real purpose of their career. Sadly, some individuals go so far off balance they acquire the social disease of becoming a workaholic in order to mask other painful area’s of their life. However, most people who suffer from burnout simply never established in their minds what things are really important to them and why! This is why I often place so much emphasis on a term I call personal leadership. What is personal leadership? Personal leadership is the ability to visualize a goal, to embrace the values of that goal, and maintain a positive perspective in a self-disciplined environment until the goal is attained.
A personal mission statement is a written “game plan” or blueprint for your life. Its purpose is to help you establish your own path and desired destination. It is a written reminder of who you are, what you desire to be, and how you expect to get there. It should contain your personally established values. These are often expressed by the religious or philosophical principles you esteem. Dr. Roger Birkman has some interesting comments about values. He reminds us that if we say we value something but aren’t affected by it in any way, it’s not a genuine value. He continues by stating “it is much better to be honest about your values and then be consistent in your pursuit of them.” He correctly reminds us that there is a difference between our needs and our values. We have no control over our needs. They exist because of our inborn traits and we must learn to deal with them. However, values are chosen and should be high standards that influence our lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors.
Much like a compass, your personal mission statement it provides a true “north” for your life during difficult times. If you don’t have your own personal mission statement, by default you have someone else’s mission statement! For most people this default mission statement is not an acceptable alternative since it reduces your ability to choose you own direction. It is created by societal values and cultural norms. For example, those who grew up in the middle of the 20th century were conditioned to accept that cigarette smoking was sexy, sophisticated, attractive and macho. Multiple missions accepted it as a default cultural habit and it was part of their lifestyle. In reality it has been confirmed to be an expensive, foul, addictive and deadly habit. Either we chose to decide what is of value or important to us, or society will for us.
As Stephen Covey explains, this effort will answer the question of whether you are “living” or “being lived!” Without your own personal mission statement, you are most likely not living according to your own hopes or goals, you are being lived by others. Your own mission statement will focus your energies and resources. It will also tie together the fragments of your life such as a career, personal goals, responsibilities, and desired achievements into a value-centered foundation.
Here is a suggested list of potential areas we should include when creating a personal mission statement.
1. Belief system based on religious or philosophical values and principles
2. Personal career goals including job orientation, attitude and income needs
3. Personal family goals and role as parent, spouse, grandparent, son/daughter
4. Personal life goals including education, talent development, health
maintenance, community service or philanthropy
As you create your own desired mission on paper, here are a few things to remember. It is yours only! Personalize it especially for you. Feel free to make it as short or as long as you want. Work on it until it inspires and motivates you. Begin by asking yourself…from this day on, what do I want to be? What do I really want to do and how can I get there? It should reflect not just where you are today, but what you hope to become tomorrow. After completed, what do we do with it? It should be well written and made public in our home or office! I suggest you either put it in a picture frame and hang it on a wall or sit it on a desk. It should be reviewed at least once per week during the year as you reflect on the week past or the one to come. It should provoke humble self-analysis and it should be allowed to be re-written as you grow and change. It is intended as a tool for personal focus, goal setting, growth and self-analysis.
Unfortunately, I realize that many who read this article will not create a personal mission statement because you may have actually given up on yourself or are afraid of a challenge or even change. Yes, much like an organization, most of us are also resistive to change and self-examination. It threatens our comfort zone! But, the right perspective is to view change as an opportunity to gain something new! Accepting the need for change is at the heart of leadership! Our life is a book with many chapters. Each chapter has a beginning and an end. As we proceed to another chapter, it should lead us to something new and challenging. We need to view change and the need for change as something positive…not as bad or detrimental. It is natural to resist the change process because we know it may wrench us out of our routines or habits. But, we should view change as a powerful opportunity to begin another step of growth!
How does creation of a personal mission statement help us to avoid burnout or our own personal “blue screen of death”? It does so it in a number of ways. It helps us to have a proper perspective to determine which events and activities are really important. It reminds us not to focus on unimportant activities at the expense of significant activities. Establishing written values help us in the decision-making process because the rational realm of “right vs. wrong” or “proper vs. improper” behavior becomes clearer. In times of stress our own personal mission statement reminds us of the direction our compass is pointing and our most important priorities. If written thoroughly, it reminds us of our need for balance including recreation, talent-building, and relationship needs. I have never seen a tombstone that said, “I wish I had spent more time in the office.”
There are also a number of important things we do at work to avoid potential burnout and nurture our resources. Take a number of scheduled breaks during the day and clear your mind. During these breaks, spend a few minutes to think about enjoyable activities away from the work environment. The mind is like a battery and needs to be renewed to remain highly “charged” and able to focus effectively. Take your scheduled lunch break to recharge your mind. Take a walk or short drive to change environments for a while. Don’t eat at your desk when you are supposed to be on a lunch break. It is counterproductive and is a warning sign of possible meltdown if changes are not made. You will be much more productive if you refresh your mind and take a scheduled break.
Another important way to nurture your personal resources is to take a vacation regularly. This is not only important annually but on a weekly basis. More and more physicians and professionals are emphasizing the tremendous importance of taking at least one day off every week. Again, the human mind and body needs a period of rest and relaxation! Learn to become aware of your body’s warning signs of stress. These may include a tense jaw, stiff neck, headache, or the feeling of being overwhelmed. When any of these signs begin to occur, its time for an immediate break! Then ask yourself some questions. Think about the possible root cause of the stress. Are there any small tasks you are holding on to that you can delegate? Are you making more out of an obstacle or problem than is really there? Is there another co-worker with the expertise available to help? Are you feeling stressed out because of time restraints or the responsibility of too many tasks? Think the situation through…you will see there are always some good answers.
One other area can help you to avoid your own personal “blue screen of death.” It is regular exercise. The good news is that medical professionals have now come to see that major improvements in daily energy level and longevity are possible with a moderate amount of regular exercise! You don’t need to strenuously run, swim or lift weights to gain significant health benefits. Dr. Andrew Weil promotes walking over jogging and suggests 45 minutes of walking at least 5 days a week. So take a long walk regularly, work in the yard, play some sports with the family. In other words, get more active and step away from the sedentary lifestyle too many of us are now in due to work environments, television and the Internet.
Remember, your personal resources are limited and precious. If you nurture and balance them well you will be rewarded with a greater ability to handle stress and provide leadership when needed. Consider writing your own personal mission statement. It will help to link together the various segments of your life including your career, personal goals, responsibilities, and desired achievements into a value-centered foundation. Committing your life goals and mission to a written plan will help you to deal with stress and sort your priorities. Finally, remember to take scheduled time away from the workplace daily, weekly and annually. Allow your mind and body a period of relaxation and recreation. Leaders know how to work long and hard. To balance your personal resources and increase your career’s longevity, learn how to take time out for yourself!
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About the author:
Greg has over 20 years of sales and marketing experience within the electrical distribution industry. Some of his positions have included being a National Sales Manager, National Marketing Manager and for the past 9 years that of Regional Sales Manager. He also has extensive experience in public speaking and has written articles for various publications. In August of 2000, Greg completed his studies for a Master of Arts degree in Leadership from Bellevue University. He is the founder of weLEAD Incorporated.
Birkman, Roger. True Colors. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995.
Covey, Stephen R. Principle-Centered Leadership. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.
Weil, Andrew. Healthy Living. New York: Ivy Books, 1997.