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How to Maximize Your Joy of Living as a Leader

Being a leader in today's crisis-driven workplace is exciting on the one hand and exhausting on the other. You are presented with new opportunities to make a real difference in areas where you find purpose and are frequently stretched to grow. These 'crucible moments' can leave you questioning your career. Crises disrupt healthy habits creating an imbalance. At times like these, you may not be aware that you are sabotaging yourself. Self-care is fundamental to maximizing your joy of living as a leader.

Self-care is not selfish behavior. Like every living thing in this world, if leaders are not continually investing in restoring and strengthening physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, it is deteriorating. No one in the workplace escapes this reality.

What is Self-Care?

Although no single definition exists for self-care, it involves a wide range of activities that promote physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Implementing and building healthy self-care habits leads to positive emotions, improved relationships, increased physical energy, emotional inspiration, and creativity.

Self-care includes the do-it-yourself approach and the use of an executive coach. The scope of self-care ends at the point of becoming dependent on someone for achieving health.⁠ For example, a DIY approach would be independently going to the gym to exercise and receiving guidance but not assistance from a professional coach at the gym.

Every leader is different in their definition of physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health and needs. Because we each have different definitions of success and significance in life, it is natural that health and self-care activities will vary from leader to leader.

What is Self-Sabotage?

Many executives lack joy in life as a result of self-sabotage. These bad habits can be conscious or accidental, ranging from subtle to devastating consequences affecting every aspect of the leader's life.

For example, perfectionism is a subtle type of self-sabotage where a senior leader can work tirelessly, dismissing incremental improvements as flaws or sacrificing relationships with those they love.

It is easy to accidentally lose sight of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health in a fast-paced digital, always-on workplace. Before you know it, the day is done, and you realize you rarely, if ever, got up from your desk. Maybe you worked through breaks instead of going for a walk, or you chose to eat the left-over donuts in the break room out of convenience instead of bringing in something healthy to eat.

When self-sabotage is accidental, leaders simply mistake not placing achieving health on their list of priorities, or the urgent issue of the day shifts the leader's focus. Neglecting and procrastinating when it comes to taking care of yourself limits your ability to perform at your full potential.

The following is a hilarious and insightful TedTalk presentation on procrastination.

Organizational culture, past leaders modeling, and the fear of failing can steer leaders toward conscious self-sabotage.

  • Unhealthy corporate cultures that emphasize working harder and longer hours can motivate leaders to purposefully self-sabotage their health. These organizations make heroes out of leaders that sacrifice achieving balance in their lives for the company's benefit. In these organizations, leaders purposely neglect self-care in trade for recognition and rewards within the organization.

  • Self-sabotaging habits also come from past leadership examples and mentors. The previous director, who constantly was checking and replying to emails at all hours of the day, might cause the new director to neglect family relationships thinking that is the company's expectation.

  • Fear of failing at something emboldens the inner critic. In return, the internal critic influences executives to not take risks to avoid falling instead of taking a necessary step to innovate and respond to changing environment.

Self-sabotage leaves leaders feeling stuck and lacking self-confidence. Self-sabotage has the potential to stop momentum in a leader's life and career.

The following video introduces seven common signs of self-sabotage and how to know if you may need help.

Creating Healthy Self-Care Habits as a Leader

So how do leaders navigate the new normal high-pressure crisis-driven workplace without self-sabotaging their joy in the process?

Achieving balance with self-care is an individual path. However, relationships, rest, and your work environment are proven to have significant influences on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Having a clean and organized workspace can provide a sense of being in control of our work. Going for a walk in the park with a friend and talking about life can give perspective during challenging times, or simply resting away from work can provide time for us to process and work through a situation with clarity.

It ultimately doesn't matter where you start, but that you do start. Working on one domain of self-care, such as physical exercise, can improve emotional and mental health. For example, suppose you run in the park. In that case, you may encounter others along the run, which provides an opportunity to build relationships and improve your emotional health. It's not difficult to see how these domains can overlap, and simple steps can lead to significant improvements.

The following short video helps you become more aware of your emotions.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Creating a Healthier Life guide provides an excellent step-by-step approach with resources to help promote self-care.

Use this link for more information regarding the SAMHSA guide:

Key Summary Points:

  • Crises disrupt healthy habits creating an imbalance in life.

  • Every leader is different as to their physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs.

  • It is easy to accidentally lose sight of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health in a fast-paced digital, always-on workplace.

  • Organizational culture, past leaders modeling, and the fear of failing can steer leaders toward a purposeful self-sabotage habit.

  • Relationships, rest, and your work environment are proven to have significant influences on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Visit our executive coaching page to learn more about how we help you achieve your personal or professional goals or partner with you to craft a solution specific to your organization's context and challenges. Getting started is as easy as visiting or contacting us via email Organizational Talent Consulting utilizes proven, simple, and transformational personal and organizational development solutions to help our clients learn, change, and apply tools in ways that benefit their unique needs and corporate culture.


Godfrey, C. M., Harrison, M. B., Lysaght, R., Lamb, M., Graham, I. D., & Oakley, P. (2011). Care of self – care by other – care of other: The meaning of self‐care from research, practice, policy and industry perspectives. International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare, 9(1), 3-24.

Richards, S. (2010). The benefits of self-care. British Journal of Healthcare Assistants, 4(5), 246-247.

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About Dr. Jeff Doolittle

He is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI, and Program Director of online graduate and continuing business education at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Executive leaders who work with Jeff describe him as thoughtful, decisive, intelligent, and collaborative. Jeff is a business executive with over twenty years of talent development and organizational strategy experience working with C-suite leaders in Fortune 100, Forbes top 25 private, for-profit, non-profit, and global companies in many industries.

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