Skilfully or effectively conducted, guided, or commanded; (of a person’s life) virtuously lived.
When it comes to living virtuously, Marcus Aurelius taught the requirement for living with courage, purpose and devotion. Exercising the part of the mind that practices reason and excellence are critical for the well-led woman.
I had no idea when I was on stage, cap and gown perfect, collecting my masters degree, that a year later I’d be using the same skills I’d learnt, the same theories and strategies to navigate my way through breast cancer. Leadership in business and recovering from breast cancer may seem worlds apart, but adapting the same kind of self leadership as you would to creating success and personal empowerment within a team is just as critical to be able to lead within yourself.
Getting a cancer diagnosis sucks. If you’re lucky enough to get a good prognosis, or at least one that stands a chance, a choice then needs to be made. Are you going to sink or swim? Are you going to be victim or hero? Are you going fight or let this thing consume you? Self leadership will always give you the answer. I talk about cancer as it’s my own personal experience. My self-leadership theory can be adapted to any aspect of life that requires courage, purpose and devotion. For me, it was devotion to live, it was having the courage to face some demons and I needed purpose to create the plan that was ultimately going to save me.
Of course I had many brilliant medics who did what they needed to do, I came out of it with a few less body parts but with huge admiration for their skill and commitment. What I hadn’t expected was the parts of me that died along with those bits that didn’t make it. Not died in a Scorsese way, more killed off by becoming a well-led woman for myself. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.
I’d have much preferred to have known how to change my life without the whole breast cancer thing, clearly I didn’t then, but I do now. I don’t know if the urgency to re-evaluate life is present when not faced with danger, but on the off chance it is, I spend my time guiding and coaching life changing transformations without the illness.
So, how does that work in practice?
It’s actually straight forward, but don’t be fooled by its simplicity. There are fundamentally five areas of focus:
- Calming down the body;
- Values and ecology;
- Clarity and vision;
Emotions can’t get stable if your body is fighting against stress, digestive stress and flagging energy. Motivation is fleeting at best, add to that low energy, which often equals low mood, nothing will or can change. So it’s the rule of six:
- Drink more water;
- Stop eating a 7/10 full to give your body time to digest;
- Don’t snack. If you eat good meals, snacking is emotional;
- Leave at least a 2 hour gap between eating and going to sleep;
- Move your body in whatever way works;
- Meditate in any way that works for you, it could be journalling, taking in the flowers when you’re walking, losing yourself in a mundane job around the house or following a guided meditation. Just decompressing and switching off the fight/flight/freeze response and switching on your vagus nerve to allow for rest and digest is what counts.
Practice and practice some more until you feel the benefits. You’ll feel more centred, calmer and able to think a little clearer. All in good time to tackle your values and ecology.
Your values are your second pair of eyes in life. They are the parts of you that wither away if not nurtured. When you’re living outside of your value set, you’ll make emotional decisions, you’ll be easily influenced by pretty well anyone and you’ll feel unsettled. Your ecology is the secret sauce of change work. Resolving how your brain works when it comes to change, balancing risk and desire and tricking the subconscious int believing its already happening, makes change stick.
Once you know what makes you tick and you’re more familiar with how to get the green light in the parts of your brain that need reassurance, you’ll start to feel even more clarity about what you want to do in life. With some clever questions and some challenges to consider, getting clarity about your true and real life vision is next.
Getting that vision can be tricky (no shit). Exercises like ‘perfect day’ ‘letter to a friend 10 years from now’ ‘deciding on your legacy’ and many more serve to tease out the vision without you really knowing it. They sound simple but they’re anything but. Landing on your perfect day, feeling into it, what it looks like, smells like, tastes like, sounds like is a wonderful experience when you get your creative juices flowing. I’ve had clients who’ve taken months to complete it out of resistance and fear and guess what? No progress was made until they did.
Vision ready, it’s now possible to see what obstacles are likely to sabotage your success. And that’s why beliefs and mindset are the critical finale on the change work journey. Seeking the old beliefs that are holding you back, ditching them for much better, stronger and exciting beliefs that are fit for your new purpose coupled with the mindset for growth.
In a nutshell, this is the self leadership framework I live by that lets me live with courage, purpose and devotion. It’s made me a well-led woman, as it has for every client I work with. The beauty of this framework is it can be used over and over again in times of growth, change, challenge or even conflict. I used it to recover from breast cancer, as I did to have IVF to have my daughter, as I have when starting my own business. Whenever I’m challenged with new growth, however exhilarating the growth may be, it can hurt like hell if you’re not prepared.
For more on my self leadership framework, book in for a virtual cuppa and I can guide you through it in more detail.