As a leader (and a human) I am prone to feeling sorry for myself — too much work, too much stress, too much responsibility, not enough balance, not enough rest, and not enough recognition. I write these comments with a healthy measure of humility and shame. You see, I struggle with my ability to balance my work, home, and spiritual life. Like almost every person on earth, I face challenges and I recognize the many areas of my life that require significant improvement. I shudder to think about how much time I have wasted without taking action — waiting for the perfect moment, wallowing in self-pity, or waiting for someone to help me. But, the cavalry is not coming. I am responsible for my own happiness, for creating the life I want to live, for being the person I want to be. No one is going to ride to my rescue.
Desperation can look a lot like courage.
Isn’t that the truth? Sometimes we must arrive at a moment of absolute desperation before we muster the strength to take action — before we are brave enough to do something to improve our situation.
From the perspective of a leader, this might mean summoning the courage to make an unpopular decision that is the right one for the organization. It could be saying “no” to a request that does not align with an identified goal or mission. It may be demonstrating the resolve to have a challenging conversation with a customer, or colleague. In these situations, there is danger in “waiting for the cavalry.” I know. I have done it. I have waited to address a problem, hoping that circumstances would change. I have said “yes” to an additional responsibility that wasn’t in my best interest (or that of my school) because it seemed like less hassle than saying “no.” I have put off tough, but necessary, conversations because I didn’t want to deal with conflict. In all of these instances, I was hoping to be rescued. I was hoping fate, circumstances, or someone else’s empathy would save me from the problem. The truth is, that salvation rarely came if I failed to take the first step. In most cases, I either had to deal with the repercussions of my lack of action, or I had to become desperate enough to summon the courage to deal with the issue.
The same concept applies to our personal lives and happiness. There are a plethora of excuses we can make for not living our ideal life, but the bottom line is that our success or failure frequently hinges on our willingness and courage (or lack thereof) to take action. It is unlikely that I will suddenly be granted excellent physical health and athletic ability unless I commit to exercise and eating right. Feeling sorry for myself won’t generate the support needed to foster happiness, but showing gratitude and taking action to develop a positive mindset will make a difference. The key is that we must to have the courage to do something.
This certainly does not mean that in leadership, or in life, we are left to our own devices. In fact, our success at any endeavor hinges on our ability to understand what we can, and can’t, control and accepting help when we need it. In addition, it behooves us to seek out opportunities to “be the cavalry” for others — providing encouragement and assistance. This strategy has a way of coming full circle so that help arrives when we are in need. Good leaders are constantly on the look-out for opportunities to assist (not necessarily save) others, and they recognize when they need to accept help for their own good, and that of the organization.
Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway. – John Wayne
If we want to make positive changes in our schools, our organizations, or our lives, we can’t wait for others. We must summon the courage and resolve it takes to “saddle-up” and take the first steps on our own.