Self Leadership is about understanding the choices we have in front of us, and intentionally making our own decisions. Sometimes we forget that we get to decide what our life is about, how we spend our time, what we ignore, what's good enough, and the prioritization of our needs.
One simple choice we can make is how we show up. This isn't a bid for rah-rah positivity or sugar coated inauthenticity. We have choice on how we let the outside world affect us and the energy we bring to every task and every interaction. Sure, some days we may have less energy than others, but we still get to choose. Do I bring my best self (not my perfect self) to this moment, or do I slide into catabolic (victim/combative/denial) thinking.
I finally understood this concept about 6 months after I first heard it. Initially it annoyed me (just being honest) because it sounded phony, but then I realized how much power I had and how much I was giving away to my circumstances.
Here's when I finally got it. I was in a situation where I was dealing with a leadership team that had significant challenges. The challenges were unacceptable and I was starting to consider another job. Because I did not like how I was treated, my work suffered and I felt justified. I thought, "Why should I bring my best when those around me are crossing ethical boundaries and are failing in their responsibilities?" But then I realized - I’m letting the poor performance of others rob me of my own excellence. I’m giving my power to them to determine how I show up.
To look at it simply, I was punishing them by withholding my best. The hurt child in my brain was saying something like, "If you don't play nice I'm taking my ball and going home." But who actually suffered for it? I did. I was focused on them, on my outrage but not on what I could control.
While looking for a new job in this situations makes sense, how was I approaching it? From a sense of power or a sense of victimhood? Owning how you show up is a simple way to lean out of that catabolic/victim mentality into the anabolic/solution mentality. It starts there. It is something that you are 100% in control of. Maybe you aren't as happy today, or as understanding today, but you can always decide what your best is, and whether or not you want to bring it. Your no is just as empowered as your yes if you own it.
Self-leadership is about owning ourselves in all situations - not just the perfect ones or the easy ones. But what I learned is the hard situations get much easier when you own what's yours to control.