Our Future Health & Happiness – an Essay by Neil Scotton & Dr Alister Scott

Kindness, purpose and self-care – our renewable energy

You may be looking after others on the front line of health care – with all of the daily challenges that brings.

Or you may be managing a team tasked with a seemingly impossible combination of targets. Or leading an organisation that is trying to hold to a vision of humane care within a seemingly impossible system. Or even trying to reform the system via research, campaigns or politics.

Whichever applies, you are leading – trying to make a difference, acting beyond self to change things, big or small. If so, you are likely to face complexity, overload and great calls on your personal resilience.

If you are giving of yourself in this way, how do you create balance by looking after yourself? The world needs renewable energy – and so do you. Here are some suggestions, based on hundreds of conversations with people like you:

  1. Practice gratitude: give time daily to feeling good about some things for which you can be thankful, however small.
  2. Think beyond: this has a range of meanings. Think beyond self: who and what are you serving? Think beyond now: what do you want to be remembered for? Think beyond your usual mindset: in what ways might your thinking and assumptions be stuck?
  3. Connect with purpose: what is your purpose as an organisation or as a person? The key here is to make sure it is inspiring – something that you really feel good about. How well is this purpose shared with those around you, and how can you stay connected to it? Being generous by acting from a positive purpose always benefits you – it hits you first on the way out.
  4. Join with others: find companions and support. Don’t be lonely with your problems. Build three support teams: your personal support team, your task support team, and your influence support team. Few good things are achieved alone.
  5. Learn how to have powerful conversations. Listen well, don’t interrupt, ask questions that matter. And manage the dark side: stick up for what matters to you, don’t tolerate unkindness, find your courage by going towards the things you fear, in small ways at first.
  6. Act as One: at a personal level, what does your authentic self-call you to do? What does integrity mean to you? It may not be easy, but it will reward you hugely over time. Similarly in a team or organisation, how could you pull together better?
  7. Adopt an I+U+ mindset: I’m alright, you’re alright. Whenever possible, assume that the other person is trying their best. Become aware of when you slip into the other three variations: I+U-, I-U+ and I-U-. Often we have deep habits around these that can be hard to break – with particular people or in certain situations.
  8. Get exercise: look after your first home, your body. Find something you love: from yoga to running, dance to pottery! Try the 5:2 diet; sign up for an event that gives you a goal; find a group that can make it fun and regular, a reward. Use this as time to switch off the “monkey mind” – that busy anxious brain; a mindfulness practice can also be great.
  9. Serve the planet – your bigger home needs you. Buy green energy, join a wildlife group, do your recycling. Stand in awe at a sunset, birdsong or a butterfly. Nature is all around us if we choose to look, but is in trouble because many of us feel separate, above.
  10. Create an ERA culture: Encouragement, Recognition and Appreciation. This is simple but so often overlooked: “Thank you for looking after Mrs Smith so nicely”; “Great report, thanks”, or “Why don’t you give it a try”.

Perhaps above all else, try to establish a conversation with yourself that is kind, gentle and forgiving; we can be our own harshest critics, and our “inner voice” rarely switches off. Notice your own self talk and try to practice ERA on yourself.

You don’t have to do all of this. But the more stress and complexity you face, the more you are likely to find these practices essential to maintain balance, calm and confidence in your life. Good luck and let us know how you get on!

Written by Dr Alister Scott and Neil Scotton who are co-founders of The One Leadership Project, which they created to support the people in organisations who are leading big change, playing their part in addressing the most complex challenges, and shifting systems for the better.

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