Leading Through Grief Part 1 #1248 

by Sue Hawkes

Leaders are seen as tough, confident people who can handle anything. This is true, but what happens when a true catastrophe happens in our lives? I had this experience in 2008. The economy had crashed so my two businesses were failing, my house was in foreclosure, my marriage was falling apart, and in quick succession my mother, brother, and father passed away. My grief was affecting every aspect of my life, including my work.  

As I worked to get through these situations, I realized that I couldn’t perform at my best while my personal life was in turmoil. Leaders must be at their best mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually in order to bring their best to the workplace. 

When I was in my darkest place, I realized that I needed to make some serious changes in my life, or they would start happening without my consent. The practices below helped me conquer my catastrophe and get back to a whole, healthier self. 

Lower the bar. 

We’ve all heard over and over again that we should exercise three times a week. But does anyone really do this when they have a family and big career? I started to question this advice, and that is when the philosophy of lowering the bar first came to me. It may sound trite, but as someone whose identity is wrapped up in achieving and always raising the bar, this was a foreign concept. Life was giving me more than even I could handle, and I realized I needed to pare back to a goal I could actually hit, even if it meant doing less than the suggested amount. 

Lowering the bar helped me re-wire my brain to dedicate that time to myself each week, and every week that I got my one workout in I felt like I was winning. This feeling of accomplishment was necessary when it felt like I was failing at everything else. After a time, I began hitting my goal consistently and often felt so successful after having hit it that I’d add a second workout into my week. Now I have a healthier lifestyle than ever and am committed to still improving. 

This time in life also taught me how necessary exercise is as a stress reliever for leaders. Now I exercise just as much for mental and attitude benefits as I do for physical. For me, it’s not optional; I need exercise in order to be a better leader and stay focused. 

Stay tuned for more practices in tomorrow’s blog! 

Sue HawkesLeading Through Grief Part 1 #1248