Why leaders must practice what they preach

As summer officially begins, I’m working on finding space in my life to work on me. It’s not easy. It seems there is always something else to do that needs my attention. And while working on me is rewarding on one hand, it’s also uncomfortable on the other. In many ways, its just plain easier to send emails and keep busy with the million to-dos I have piling up.

So why do it at all?

As a coach myself, there is nothing more valuable than sitting on the other side of the table with my coach- answering the hard questions, being held to difficult standards, experiencing the awkward silence before I tell my truth about something. But those insights are pure gold in a quest of self-improvement and ultimately it helps me empathize with, understand and teach my students in an authentic way. In other words, it gives me credibility; I am practicing what I preach.

If we ask it of others, we must require it of ourselves.

And so, this summer, I challenge you to take the time to ask yourself some hard questions, do some digging, listen to some thought leaders, meditate, walk, journal. Between recruiting and coaching, I know you have every excuse not to but I also believe that if we want to be true leaders, we must always be growing. If we don’t, our words ring hollow in a way that is barely identifiable but extremely significant.

Here are four, simple but big thoughts to get you going this summer: 

What do you want?

Ughh, you may be thinking. Another ‘what do you want’ journaling exercise. I get it. I know it’s obvious, but in my work with my students, it’s so obvious that it often gets missed. It’s also something that has to constantly be revisited; your ‘what do you want’ may have changed in the last 6 months or 3 years or week. Checking in with this often is the only way to really make sure you are on the path you truly want to be on.

Occasionally, I’ll have a student frustrated because they don’t know what they want. That’s okay. Maybe what you want is clarity around what you want. And maybe that means trying a few different things.

I have one student that is really lost. She wants to try music and a career in medicine and she’s also interested in going back to school for massage therapy. The problem is that she is paralyzed with indecision and frustrated because she feels like she should know.

But what she really wants is some clarity around what she wants. How should she do that? By spending some time trying out different things- how can she possible know if she really wants to be a nurse until she volunteers at a hospital? How can she really know if she wants to go back to school if she hasn’t sat down with a few massage therapists and asked them about that life? Are there some open mics that she can start doing so she can see if music is really what she wants to pursue?

So if your ‘want’ isn’t easily identifiable, don’t get frustrated, overwhelmed or feel bad. We all have times of chaos and indecision in our lives. These moments are often the sign that some pretty exciting things are about to happen. Clarity, understanding, peace are all places you can direct yourself to.  

Get Specific

Even if your ‘want’ is to gain insight about what you want, specificity is key.

Here are some examples of the shift between vague wishes and specific goals:

  • I want to travel I plan on going to Croatia for 2 weeks next December.
  • I want to get out of coaching I’m going to explore 2 other careers in the next 3 months
  • I want to start my own business I’m going to start consulting with people I know in the next 6 months.’

Fuel the Fire

As some point, your goal is going to feel impossible. You are going to think you were crazy for going for it because it’s never going to happen. Make no mistake about it, you will feel like giving up at some point. And you’ll need to know why you went down this path.

Writing your ‘why’ is a critical piece to this process; you will need it as fuel when the future looks bleak. Why do you want to be your own boss? Maybe it’s because you have kids and want more work/life balance. Why do you want to write a book? Because you know there is someone else out there that needs to hear what you have to say (then think about this one person a lot).

If you can’t think of a why, it’s time to revisit what you truly want. Is it really what you want or is an old goal you haven’t let go of? Is it base on someone else’s hope for you? If your ‘why’ is not super strong, it will not fuel you when things get tough.  

What Should You Let Go Of?

Many people get their goal ready, they are motivated and excited, and they jump right in working on achieving that goal. But in my experience, this is a mistake and this is why: even if this new goal is pretty and appealing and perfect, there is always a part of you that holds on to the old and resists that change. This may be a big hold or a little hold but either way, it’s working against you.

So it’s often helpful to take some time and honor that hold so you can let go and go for the new things you want. Sometimes the hold is just fear of the unknown and the limiting thoughts that come with that: how much money you deserve to make, how much freedom is ‘normal’, how much risk is appropriate. Sometimes it’s people in your life, ‘You know most business fail in the first 2 years, ‘ they say.

Sometimes it’s a hobby or habit, job, security, comfort, relationships, prestige, that you will need to let go of. And it’s okay for that to be hard. Remember, even if you are so ready to get going with something new and are SO excited about it, there can still be a sense of mourning when you let go of something.

So there you have it, that’s my short list for getting your body, mind and soul aligned to personal growth this summer. Please share or comment below and let us know what areas you will focus on this summer. We love to create community of people hungry to get better and support others.


For more tips on living your life as a true leader, check out our self-improvement blog, It is FULL of life and mindset hacks to keep you moving forward and enacting change in others. Read: How to Actually Live What You Teach: Actionable Self-Improvement for Coaches

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