The art of personal leadership

Personal leadership is taking charge of your life. It means that we understand how to deal with the challenges facing us every day, that we gain more inner peace and self confidence and that we engage in our relationships with others in the best possible way. In other words; get the best out of ourselves and others and achieve more, both professionally and personally. That’s how you make a difference. It is about following your own compass, living from the heart, daring to dream and then doing something to make this dream come true. I am not talking about achieving great things every day. I am talking about doing small, simple things every day. They add up to greatness. It’s like moving a mountain of sugar; you do it cube by cube. “You only have control over three things in your life — the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take (your behavior). How you use these three things determines everything you experience. If you don’t like what you are producing and experiencing, you have to change your responses.” ~ Jack Canfield

Building your inner strength!  Believe it or not, we all have inner strength. But, not everyone has developed these equally. And often we are not even aware that we have so much more to offer than what we are showing at this moment in time. Inner strength means that we dare to do what we really want to do, that we persevere in the pursuit of our dreams and that we are authentic i.e. ourselves. Dr. Karin L. Smithson, author, therapist and motivational speaker as well as (her own words!) ‘Brave Mom of 3’, found out that the most commonly searched words that bring people to her site are: “Inner strength.” So how can you develop this inner strength? Start with believing that You Can, Yes You Can! Then start paying attention to activities that draw your interest. Ask yourself the following questions: • How long did it take me to accomplish this activity? • How well did I do it and it well and did it leave me feeling satisfied? • Was it time-consuming and leave me drained? • Did I get so absorbed that I lost track of time? It is really empowering to know that you can really do something to make yourself stronger, that you can empower yourself to transform yourself. We all have it and here are some pointers to help you get there. 

Remember your survival instincts of the past  Think back to times where you had to face difficult challenges or even hardship. You may have surprised yourself then but you survived it, didn’t you? See the strength you had then, see your fighting power. You could do it then, you can do it again, trust me! 

Focus on the story of your entire life  Practice seeing yourself rising above the challenges you face and look at the values, experiences and goals of your whole life. Remind yourself that you are bigger than this individual challenge and that this is just one more step forward. You have a lot of living yet to do. 

Lean on your trusted few friends or family members  Those few people know you, love you and will root for your success without judgment. Ask for their understanding, encouragement and TLC. Ask them to remind you of your strengths and listen to them. These people are in your life for a reason and one day, you may be able do the same for them. 

Treat yourself well  A healthy mind and a healthy body go together. So treat yourself well by eating right, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, walk in nature and, if applicable, buy yourself something completely useless but extravagant, like impossibly high heel shoes. 

Surround yourself by positive people that make you feel good, energized and motivated  Don’t waste time on negative people or energy; they are like leeches, draining you and bringing you down. Life is too short! 

Keep a “feel-good folder”  Anytime you receive a compliment that makes you feel strong, save it or write it down. We have a tendency to forget or downplay positive feedback like this and look instead for confirmation of our flaws. Don’t. Also, keep a copy of all the jokes that made you laugh out loud in this file and read them regularly. A day not laughed is a day wasted! 

Always plan time in your schedule to do that thing that love doing most of all  It’s the chicken-and-egg story. Are you good at something because you like it or do you like it because you are good at it? The answer doesn’t really matter, what I do know is that these two go together. When you do something you love, your body releases endorphins into your system. So, whether it is playing the piano, painting, writing, singing, working on cars, whatever, do it as often as you can. 

Do something meaningful for someone else and Pay It Forward  Ever seen the movie ‘Pay It Forward’ or read the novel of the same name? It’s a story about a young boy who did 3 good deeds for others in need. In return, all he asked for was that they pass on the good deed to 3 other people and keep the cycle going. It does not have to be a great deed, just a good one. It can be as simple as handing a parking ticket that still has time on it to someone entering the parking garage, paying someone a compliment, or saying a heartfelt ‘thank you’. And while one good deed might not seem like much, if everyone did something good for someone else, the world would be a much nicer place. And it will make you feel good about yourself at the same time. Win-win, if you ask me. 

Go against the flow  Personal leadership is, as said, taking charge of your own live. By sitting in the driver’s seat of your own live, you avoid that others dictate or limit you. Remember Martin Luther King? If he had listened to all the people telling him fighting for equality was a lost cause, he probably would not have followed his dream and would not have accomplished what he did. Sure, his fight brought him many adversaries. That’s part of it. But when you dare to follow your heart, even if it is against all odds, you will become more powerful and happier. And think of the alternative; if you do what others want or let yourself be stopped by the opinion of others, how would you feel then? 

Dare to be vulnerable  Inner strength also means having the courage to be vulnerable. This is especially true in our dealings with other people. No man stands alone, we all need others to be successful and maintaining good relationships is essential. And actually, showing that you are human is the greatest sign of strength and it opens the door to better communication with the people around us. So get out of your comfort zone, be proud of who you are and smile through your insecurities. We all have them. Victor Frankl was an Austrian professor and survivor of a 2nd World War concentration camp. He wrote an impressive book about this intense experience and how he survived, called ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. He said some amazingly true things: “Everyone has their own specific calling or mission in life. In that, nobody can be replaced, nor can our lives be repeated” “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation” One more quote before I leave you from Mahatma Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” So, just go for it and start developing your own inner strengths today. Live your own life, follow you own path, dream your own dreams. This will undoubtedly bring you a positive difference in life, for yourself and the people around you! 

Author: Carin Zijlstra, Trainer & Career Coach @ Pro Solutio

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