Filling The Well: A Riff On Leadership

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Can we talk about self love for a moment? And no, I’m not referring to the self love that requires five minutes alone and a visual aid. What I mean is the action we take to consciously care for and prepare ourselves to move forward in the world. It’s how we “fill the well.”

I’ve been labeled an introvert and while I don’t think that any one label defines a person, I agree that conceptually, I’m introvert. I derive my energy by being alone. I enjoy socializing and game nights and group activities and the feeling of connectedness I get from those activities. Then I want to be by myself and to be quiet. It is my way to recharge and to revitalize. It’s how I refill my well.

Recently I found myself feeling angry and stressed all the time, even about seemingly unimportant things. It dawned on me that it had been a long while since I’d given myself a time out. Nothing in my life was dramatically different. There were no exceptional events happening, but I wasn’t functioning at my highest level, not even close. The five thousand balls I have juggled for years threatened to rain down on my head. So, I made a conscious decision to fill my own well. I booked a local ocean-front hotel for two solitary nights, smack in the middle of the week. I brought food to stock the mini-fridge, enough reading material to last weeks and my flip flops.

Of course, the timing was terrible, but it was always going to be terrible because life wasn’t going to stop without me. My husband, my daughter and my business all needed my attention and still, I took the exit anyway and it was glorious. I had time to walk along the water. I made the opportunity to read and to sit and watch the whole of the sunset as it happened. I reached a silent truce with a cranky dock cat whose territory I kept unintentionally invading. I chatted with strangers around a gorgeous fire and left when I felt like leaving. I was inspired. I breathed, I slept and watched bad tv, and I filled my well.

As I drove home, I had a clearer picture of how I was going to deal with several issues I had been contemplating for weeks. I had new ideas. I felt peaceful and happy to return to my life. I feel like I can juggle again. I empowered myself by knowing who I am.

If this sounds selfish, perhaps it is, but consider this: on an airplane, you’re told to put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then help another person. In order to be my best self, I had to help myself. I needed to be alone, quiet and contemplative. It’s what I require, but I know it’s not what everyone requires. Some people recharge by being with crowds of people, by constantly interacting with others and receiving that energy. Those people thrive on sound and movement. I know this because I married that person, but I am not that person.

If you can understand who you are, how you derive your energy and what you need to fill your own well, then you can empower others do the same. Leaders must lead by example. Understanding how you function and become your best self is, I believe, part of setting a great example.

LB Adams is the Founder/CEO of Practical Dramatics headquartered in Charleston, SC. Her company utilizes theatre strategies to help humans grow greater, more profitable conversations with other humans.