Leadership tip: Get off the ladder

As we get ready to head off for a bit late summer vacation, I find myself wondering if you’ve taken some quality time off this summer? Vacations, and actually frequent vacations, are good for the mind, the emotions, your health and your spirit. Why is that? Because we need periodic breaks from what has become for most a pretty pressure filled life. Every day, it’s go go go, do a lot, do more, do even more. This type of life creates stress and stress is the number one contributor to a compromised immune system. And you really don’t want to compromise your immune system because it’s the mechanism that protects your entire body from all of the factors that attack it daily.

I have found that a long weekend, 3 to 4 days, at least every other month, and at least a 10 day vacation, at least once a year, is critical to restore your immune system to a high state of effectiveness. And I won’t even get into the importance of at least 8 quality hours of sleep each night, a healthy diet and regular exercise.

So why is it that so many people in a leadership position just don’t take time off? Once again it’s our old friend the ego. Remember, there are 3 things the ego tells you, as well as every other person walking on the planet, and that is that you’re not good enough, not worthy, and not loved. If you think your ego doesn’t tell you that, you just haven’t been paying enough attention. The result is that the vast majority of people embark on a useless journey, early in adulthood, to prove that they really are good enough, worthy and loved. Focusing for a moment on the first point, what is the most common strategy to prove you’re good enough? Make it!

So if you wonder why you and so many others are workaholics, why taking time off is often not something we even consider, the simple answer is that it’s not the primary focus of our lives. The focus of our lives is to climb the ladder of success toward some imagined goal which represents “success” because if indeed we become “successful,” this will be evidence that we have “made it” and in the final analysis, we have proven that we really are good enough.

Can you relate to any of this? Just look around you or perhaps in the mirror, you’ll see this everywhere. But here’s the problem. It’s a scheme that never works because what never seems to be noticed is that the only reason people are frantically climbing up the ladder of success is because the ladder is resting on a foundation of “I’m not good enough.” So how high on the ladder do you have to climb before you invalidate the foundation? There’s no answer to that question because no matter how high you climb, the foundation is still there. In fact, as we climb higher and higher, the more frustrating it becomes because we never seem to feel better about ourselves.

Is there a solution to this quandary that will allow you to relax, enjoy life and perhaps take some time off? You bet. Get off the ladder! And if you think that’s easier said than done, perhaps it will get easier if you step back and take a look at why you’re climbing in the first place. It’s just a game the ego loves to have you play because that’s one of its many techniques to keep you unhappy. The fact of the matter is that you were born perfect. Really. If you stopped and took stock of what you have accomplished already in your life, you would even reach the conclusion that you’re amazing.

Finally, who are you trying to convince that you really are good enough? See, you think everyone is watching you and wondering how good you are. That’s completely not true. Everyone else has their attention on themselves, they really don’t care about you, they spend all of their time wondering what you’re thinking about them and whether you think they are good enough.

One of these days I’m going to write a book entitled “The Incredibly Silly Games People Play.” What I’ve written about here will be one of them. So until I write that book, stop playing, take a vacation, and read more about what I have written here in Chapter 12 of Unshackled Leadership. You can get your copy on this site.