Leadership is a marathon, not a sprint; you’ve got to take care of yourself if you want to go the distance.
Leaders carry burdens, some are their own, and some for those they love, lead and pour their lives into.
Weariness is common today. It’s not a sense of feeling defeated; in fact, there is great hope about the future, but that doesn’t remove the reality of physical and emotional fatigue that can lead to emptiness. What’s your plan for soul care?
There is great uniqueness in how it plays out for each person.
Before we get to the five ways to invest in your soul care, here are some common signs of soul stress; you may have one or two others you could add.
Signs of Soul Stress:
(When normal life rhythms and practices do not result in the positive outcomes they naturally would.)
- Sleep doesn’t bring you rest.
Have you ever been there – you sleep but wake up tired?
- Play doesn’t bring you joy.
For example, you go on vacation but didn’t work; in fact, you need a vacation when you get back.
- Work doesn’t bring you results.
You are working hard, but it’s not working. Um… this one is common.
- Prayer doesn’t bring you peace.
You lay your burdens at the Father’s feet, but you’re still carrying them.
- Community doesn’t bring you a sense of belonging.
You get time with friends, but you don’t feel connected.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30
5 Ways to Invest in Your Soul Care:
1) Gain meaning and margin in your work
The human spirit craves meaning because we were created with purpose hard-wired within. Detached from meaning, your soul becomes weary.
It’s amazing how energizing hard work is when you know its value and see the results.
One sure way to put meaning at risk is to have no margin. You know what that’s like, running fast, meeting-to-meeting, so you’re not able to prepare like you’d like to or follow up effectively. You are only skimming the surface.
That reduces time for priorities such as; think time to solve problems, innovation, deeper conversations with key leaders, etc., which results in even less margin and more stress.
Work tends toward meaningless if you only skim the surface long enough. It’s the hamster in the wheel metaphor, lots of activity, running in circles, but going nowhere,
That will suck the life out of even the best of leaders.
Meaning in your work starts with your clear calling and knowing you’re exactly where God wants you. Then, when you add your gifting, passion and you see results, the level of fulfillment is powerful.
Margin helps you sustain that experience for the long haul.
2) Pursue intimacy in your walk with God
How’s your time with God going? “I’m too exhausted to pray” is a real thing, but leaders must press on to breakthrough.
It’s ironic how a discouraged soul can distance itself from God, the very source of soul nourishment and strength.
Prayer is essentially a relationship, so you can know the quality and depth of your relationship with God, just like you can with anyone you are close to.
Simple things reveal much like, are you talking with God, are you current, are you honest, are you listening?
The beautiful thing is you don’t have to perform in your time with God. It’s not about a checklist or a certain way. One of the most freeing experiences is to simply sit with God and listen.
Perhaps read a scripture like Psalm 23, and just be quiet, meditate and listen.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.Psalm 23:1-3
3) Find strength and stability in your emotional well-being
When your soul is running on empty, your emotions get the best of you.
Our emotions need room to breathe; they are not designed for sustained overload. And we all desperately need to give and receive grace.
Also, certain thought patterns rob you of peace:
- Assuming the worst (“What if”)
- Second-guessing yourself
- Stuck in the past
Your heart tends to follow and expand what your mind focuses and dwells upon. Trusting God, not blind faith, but trusting a loving Father, is key to spirit-filled emotional strength and stability.
A favorite go-to psalm of mine is:
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. 2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.Psalm 62:1-2
Ask God to bathe your emotions in His Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.Galatians 5:22-23
4) Take action toward vitality in your physical health
I’ll keep this one brief because we all understand what this means; however, it’s too important to leave it out entirely.
Your body is God’s creation.
Its design is truly a work of art, and how you care for it has a direct and dramatic connection to your overall well-being, let alone the effectiveness of your leadership.
If you are fit and eat well, keep going. However, if this is a struggle for you, remember, it’s ok to start small. For example, a brisk walk three times a week can be life-changing compared to a mostly sedentary lifestyle.
5) Embrace authenticity in community
Far too many leaders are out of the ministry because they did not embrace authenticity in the community.
Honesty matters, honesty is connected to maturity, and maturity is essential for soul strength.
Pursuing life according to biblical values is transformational and difficult to do alone.
The first step toward authenticity is being part of the consistent community; isolation never leads to a place of healthy living.
Authenticity leads to self-awareness when in the community of trusted friends and colleagues who will speak the truth in love.
You know you are part of the authentic community when you experience high trust, a strong sense of belonging, and the truth is spoken.
In an authentic community, you experience the ease of vulnerability and a sense of God’s presence. You feel most like the real you and fully loved and accepted.