mental baggage greg bustin leadership blog

Lighten Up! What Mental Baggage is Weighing You Down?

July 31st, 2017  | 

Published in Productivity

August is vacation time for many of us.

After determining your destination and booking your reservations, it’s time to pack your bags and head out on your journey.

Luggage is necessary for traveling, but on our goal-getting journeys it is just baggage in our heads. It weighs us down, imposes self-limiting beliefs and causes us to lose confidence.

At an offsite for CEOs a few years ago, I started our session by stating the obvious: Each had brought luggage. Then I asked two questions that hit a nerve.

What mental baggage are you carrying around in your head or in your heart right now? What baggage do you need to unload that might be getting in the way of you being fully effective and fulfilled?

I gave the 16 CEOs 10 minutes to list everything that might be weighing them down. Conversations in their head and feelings that were continually stirred up around old issues would surface like suitcases on a baggage carousel. These thoughts represented baggage that was holding them back, affecting their personalities and limiting their potential. It didn’t take them long to make this list.

Each CEO had his or her own list of “baggage” and each shared their concerns and fears—both real and imagined—with each other. It was harder for some to admit the things that were weighing them down than others.

The good news is that there are time-tested ways to lighten your load.

How to Lighten Your Load

We then discussed ways of unloading—or at least lightening—the baggage.  This list didn’t take very long to create, either.

Here’s the list the CEOs came up with:

  • Take on projects for satisfaction, not just because projects must be done
  • Get a hobby: something that allows you to relax and achieve a tangible result
  • Invest in others: time, money, interest and emotion
  • Listen more: slow down; take time to hear what the other person is saying (and not saying)
  • Take a break from the office—during the day…take a walk
  • Take a vacation
  • Live, love, laugh
  • Talk it out with people you trust to vent and get things off your mind
  • Delegate certain activities
  • Don’t try to fight and win every battle
  • Exercise regularly
  • Seek solitude: relax, reflect, meditate, pray
  • Count to 10 before replying (particularly when emotionally triggered)
  • Schedule time for yourself: take care of yourself first because you are the leader
  • Coach, mentor and help others
  • Listen to music
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat well
  • Remember to be grateful for all of your blessings: they are abundant

What are one or two things you’ll do this week to lighten your load?

Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things.  At an offsite, it’s pretty easy to write down a bunch of wonderful ideas. It’s another thing to execute those ideas back in the office.

Before you can hold others accountable, you must first hold yourself accountable.

At the offsite, I asked each CEO to write down the three most compelling ideas for him or her, and to give me a copy of what they’d written. In subsequent coaching sessions, I would take out their list and ask them what progress they had made on implementing their idea. At first, for many, the excuses were inevitable. “You mean you’re actually going to make me do this?” they would ask. “I’m not making you do anything,” I would reply.  “I’m simply reminding you of what you said you wanted for yourself.”  

After a few more sessions, the excuses became progress reports and, eventually, celebrations.

As you start your journey, take only necessary luggage. Remember to lighten up and leave your baggage behind.

About the Author: Greg Bustin is an executive coach, consultant and speaker who has delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents. Greg advises leaders at some of the world’s most admired companies, and his views about leadership have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive, Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., Investor’s Business Daily, Leader to Leader, and other major publications. He’s written five leadership books. His newest book, How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices (Sourcebooks), examines decision-making in history’s greatest triumphs and tragedies. How Leaders Decide

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