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Be Kind to Yourself

It is hard to believe another year and decade has come to an end.  For myself, the last decade was very much a time of introspection and change.  Over this period of time, I moved from leading very large organizations to helping others to transform their own teams and companies—an endeavor that has taken me around the planet so many times that I have had to expand and apply for a new passport twice because it ran out of pages for the country stamps.  At each stop around the globe, I met and worked with so many great people. I love this work.

As cool as this sounds, the one thing that I forgot about early in the last decade was myself.  With each trip, I was giving more energy to others than I was taking in. I was doing too much at a very non-sustainable pace.   This is ironic because the very things I was teaching were about creating slack, limiting work in progress, and setting a sustainable pace.   By mid-decade, this 5-year sprint of not being kind to myself took an impact on my mental and physical health. I went from a person who in the 2000s was running 10K almost daily to a person needing to learn how to walk again because of a stroke.


The second part of the decade is the better part of this story.  I learned a number of things about not just working or teaching Agile but how to be those things myself.   This introspection helped me to generate a list of things that I remind myself about daily, and I would like to share them with you with the hope that some of the things on the list give you some inspiration as you enter the new decade. 

Ways to be self kind

By no means am I saying that all the things on this list will be right for you, but it may help you to create your own list of how to be kind to yourself.

  1. Your mental and physical health comes first.  Perhaps the best way that I have found to be kind to myself is understanding that good health comes first.  Deferring something as simple as a walk, getting enough sleep, relaxing, eating well, or even drinking enough water will take a slow toll on you.  So on my personal kanban journal’s daily goals, I track/retrospect my progress. I put an emoji on the daily log to capture how I feel mentally so I can track that as well.  This way, I can track and take action if I get into a slump or if I am ignoring this goal. Lastly, take time off to recharge yourself. 

  2. Balance the needs of others and what you need.  This is about building healthy work and personal relationships that benefit others and yourself.   Working from a needs deficit affects mood and focus. So make sure you take an assessment of your own needs and look to see if those needs are being met.   

  3. Work with positive people who share mutual respect.  You can’t choose everything in your life, but you can choose who your work and play with.  At least for me, working with great people amplifies my energy and mood. So find great people to work with—people who have a positive attitude and that help to lift others up.    

  4. Be kind to others.  Be a role model and treat everybody with the consideration you want for yourself.   

  5. Mind your personal WIP.   Pretending to be a super person and having too much work in progress (WIP) is not being kind to yourself.   The cognitive weight of having too much to do will cause stress and will slow you down. Here again, I use my journal to push something to my backlog or futurelog if it does not fit in my day.   This simple acknowledgment for me goes a long way to increase my happiness.  

  6. Acknowledge and seek moments of positive awe.  I used to joke that I have seen conference rooms around the world. I spent too little time to see the splendor around me and bypassed one of the most powerful emotions a human can have--awe.   Awe is that larger-than-life reaction to something extraordinary, complex or novel. For me, moments of awe make me feel humble and that I am a part of something bigger and interconnected. It also tells me to slow down a bit.  So, taking the time for an awe-inducing walk, hear a great awe-inducing presentation, or read a book that does the same is a great way to be kind to yourself.

Transforming yourself along with others 

Overall my list is not very long.  It is based on my own personal journey over this last decade to be kinder to myself, and, in turn, help myself to be more mindful about life.   It relates to what I teach today because, at a deeply personal level, teaching Agile, lean, business transformation, etc. are all about people being better.  As a coach, that journey needs to include yourself as well—a journey of kindness to yourself so that you can be there for others. I wish you all a happy and healthy decade! 

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