Upper Management: How to Lead your Life


If there is anything I've learned from my own winding journey of emotional and spiritual  integration, it is the importance of ritual—or practice.  How do I take full responsibility for my experience, and in doing so, create the life I desire as opposed to a life I settle for?  It’s the difference between leading your life and merely managing it. I believe we close this gap by developing self-awareness through simple practices.

Chances are, if you’re reading blogs about emotional health and wellness such as this one, or have sought therapy at some point, you’re a leader.  Why? Because you are actively participating in cultivating the hidden potential in your life.  You’re finding your edge and sharpening it.  

I like Brené Brown's definition of a leader in her latest book, Dare to Lead: “Anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” 

Sounds doable, right? Within reach?  Without a doubt, I believe it absolutely is. 

Hold up though.  If you and I are going to be leaders, developing and speaking into the lives of others, don’t we first need to lead our own lives fairly well? Otherwise, we prop up a flimsy facade of ego and lack the deep roots of character and credibility necessary to sustain leadership from a place of truth and integrity.  

So here we are, headed full-throttle into the glorious blur of the Holiday season.  For me, this time of year resembles a dialed-in dance with Upper Management.  By this I mean, the steady samba of forgetfulness—losing touch with all those grounding practices and rituals that keep me connected to presence and structure {read: sanity} throughout the months leading up.  I start managing my life instead of leading it, like a crazed Sugar Plum Fairy twirling to Tchaikovsky on repeat.  Can I get a witness?

How then do we slow down that dance and lead from a place of intention instead of reaction? I’m convinced the unsexy truth is we get really good at practice.  

Practice what??

I’ve got three uber simple rituals for you to practice this week. Feeling frisky? Commit to six weeks that will carry you, soaring high right into the new year.

  1. First thought: When your eyeballs pop open first thing in the morning, guess what? A first thought also starts to percolate.  That first thought has the power to steer your day either north to Mt. Abundance, or south, to Lake Scarcity.  You have creative license to craft that thought, coloring the trajectory of your day.  If that thought is, “I’m just so tired and didn’t get enough sleep.” Guess which direction you're headed? Yep… straight south to scarcity.  You’re in the driver's seat though, so take one minute first thing in the morning, to carefully choose the thought that will direct your day in the right direction.  The scenery is much better on this route, I promise.

  2. Gratitude: Throughout the day, take three one-minute breaks and identify at least three things you are grateful for in the moment.  Meal times are ideal to practice this as we (hopefully) slow down and hop off the treadmill of our day.  The goal here is to keep them simple (i.e. lungs that work, food to eat, a new day, a job or hobby, a dear friend).

  3. Belly-breathing: It’s fascinating to me that as a culture, we largely suck at breathing.  Our overall vitality and quality of life immediately improves when we practice deep, steady breathing.  But guess what?  We’re just. so. busy.  I’m calling BS on busy.  For at least one minute each day, practice slow, belly-breathing.  Breathing into our belly, or body’s center of intelligence, brings a tangible feeling of groundedness.  Place your hand on your belly and feel it rise and fall, like a cashed-out kid at naptime.  We’re often so disconnected from our bodies, which stunts us from experiencing the fullness of each moment.  Belly-breathing is the quickest way to connect us back to presence and the intelligent knowing of our bodies.

If these seem too pedestrian—or basic—as you step into CEO of YOU, guess what?  Get over it.  Tough love, my friend.  The best musicians in the world got that way because they nailed the basics, and still practice them. We’re all guilty of getting in our own way by not practicing what we preach. I’m pretty sure I wrote the book on self-sabotage.  However, now is the time to return to the basics and start leading a life that inspires hope and desire.  My challenge to you is this: have the courage to do the small things that lead to big change.  Inspire yourself so much that others start to lean into your light and see themselves in a new, empowered way.  I’m pretty sure that’s called an icon.  Greatness starts off small and grows in that light. 

Love & Gratitude,