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Taking Care of Ourselves

Management of our life and health are even more fundamental than management of our work if we are to be reliable team members and a source of support for our leaders. The more passionately we feel about a leader or cause the more we are at risk of not taking care of ourselves, sacrificing our health, or damaging our personal relations. There is always another urgent matter to attend to, something that will make a difference.

We must do our jobs, not become our jobs. A follower may feel heroic working fifteen-hour days or ninety-hour weeks. Sometimes we feel pressured into long hours by the example the leader is setting. Occasionally, we do need to work this hard for short periods of time. But if excessive time at work becomes a long-standing pattern, we must change it before it depletes our energy and wreaks havoc in other parts of our lives.

If we do not assume responsibility for getting the nurturing we need as human beings, we will burn out sooner or later. In doing so, we often let down the people we are serving, sometimes very unpleasantly. To serve well we must be passionately committed to our jobs, but not be consumed by that passion.

Ideally, we will find the right balance between work and other parts of our lives. Sometimes we don’t manage to do this. We begin to burn out. There are telltale signs: exhaustion, chronic frustration, shortness of temper, frayed relations, feelings of emptiness, lack of caring, wanting to be elsewhere.

We need to stay alert to these signs and periodically examine the balance we are striking:

What areas of our life need attention?

What must be changed to allow us to give that attention?

Are negotiations with the leader needed to make these changes?

Is the relationship with the leader healthy enough to comfortably conduct these negotiations?

Does the leader-follower relationship itself need to be renegotiated?

What are the respective needs that must be balanced for the negotiations to be successful?

Managing our life and health is not a marginal issue. In the long run it can make the difference between brilliantly contributing to the common purpose and blowing up or fizzling out in the attempt.