Three Words

Brianne Johnson

It’s a Monday afternoon. I had a meager lunch because I forgot to eat and then didn’t want to put mental energy into making lunch. My hair is still soppy from the shower and smells cloyingly like bananas. President Trump doesn’t know when or why the U.S. Civil War occurred. In my inbox, I have several requests for due date extensions, and with each request, I am required to question my compassion and my boundaries. My partner just got home, and we have to negotiate who will make dinner. I still have three hours of grading I intended to do today.

But there are three words a leader can’t say: I am tired.

Tired DogPerfectionism. Achievement. It’s hard to separate these words conceptually from leadership. Even when something wasn’t perfect, we feel the urge to learn from our mistakes. That’s perfectionism by another name because it still centers our practice on perfect achievement.  And if we’re not doing some type of labor (intellectual, emotional, physical), we think our realm as “leader” has ended.

It’s toxic to our longevity to separate our humanity from our leadership practice.

Some truths: Compassion is finite (and restored by our boundaries). Time is finite.

My vivifying friend Crystal Harris teaches restorative yoga (and soon to be LM instructor), and she teaches the yogi concept: “We are human beings, not human doings.” When our leadership is connected to our achievements, we are only assessing our worth as leaders (and humans) by what we tangibly do. Doing is only part of our practice- so are physical and emotional rest, celebration, and dreaming.

So– my dearest tired leaders, I invite you to the “being” of your leadership practice:

  •       Celebrate completing tasks 1-9 on your 10-point to do list for today.
  •       Send that email after the 2nd read through.
  •       Accept that adaptive change takes time both for yourself and others.
  •       Make a list of good things before you go to bed and try your best not to excuse something because it wasn’t perfectly done.
  •       Live a day in your body. Follow your energy, not your list.
  •       Take the evening to do something you love. Then go to bed.
  •       Spend an hour daydreaming without analyzing the achievability of your dreams
  •       Define your own constructs of happiness.
  •       Say “yes” without explanation; say “no” without explanation
  •       Yes, you did cut that Prius off. You’re not a bad person. You’re not even a bad driver. Let it go.
  •       Ignore that one email.  Or that one tweet. Or that one comment.
  •       Pick a few “being” things to do. Don’t make this list a listy list of listy listfulness.