Moments of Clarity

I see a trend. Executives who are creating their own living hell. Holding themselves to such high standards that they are literally killing themselves.

One leader I worked with was a great example of this. His workload and stress levels were at an all time high. He was barely sleeping. He wasn’t making the time to enjoy his family. When we processed through his struggles, it became clear that 85percent of his stress and much of his workload were self-imposed. He was holding himself to a level of perfection that wasn’t sustainable (or realistic). As a result, no matter how much he tried or how long he worked, he didn’t feel it was enough. It was as though he was sitting in a house with the windows closed and believing there are thunderstorms, tornadoes and raging floods outside the front door, when in reality, the sun is shining, birds are singing and flowers are blooming as far as the eye can see.

From the outside, he was doing great. He was making a positive impact in his organization and was respected by his boss, peers and staff. But he was unable to “open the window” and recognize or enjoy his success – he was missing it all!

I understand this mindset. We all do. We expect too much from ourselves because we are scared to death of failure. This fear turns into mounting stress, which clouds our thinking and objectivity. Mental clarity deteriorates when we stop paying attention to our thoughts and feelings, and if left unattended, self-correction becomes a difficult task.

Clarity doesn’t often come in the middle of personal crisis. Instead, it comes when we step away and detach. It comes when we reach out for help—and then act on the counsel we receive.

Spring is here, and summer vacations are right around the corner. If you haven’t already scheduled time off—do it today. And when you take off on your vacation, place this as your ‘out of office’ reply:

“I am enjoying a much anticipated vacation. You won’t hear from me during this time, but I look forward to connecting with you when I return.”

Sometimes, you need to disconnect in order to reconnect. So do it: Disconnect. Spend time with your loved ones. Open the windows, breathe in the fresh air and hear the birds sing. And open your mental “windows,” too, to see your life in a new perspective. Don’t let a fear of failing behind a desk prevent you from living a wonderful, successful life.


Jane Walton