Leaders Embrace Restorative Self-Care

My daughter Mara makes astute observations. During a conversation about the importance of self-care, she said, “Even when you do something in your time off, it’s focused on reaching goals. 

“Do you ever just do something to do it?”

I proceeded to give her examples of how I practice self-care.

  • Reading
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Exercise
  • Learning foreign languages
  • Cooking and baking

Mara was unimpressed. She pointed out the intentions behind my actions. For example, when I read, it’s usually professional or self-help books. I do the New York Times crossword puzzle to challenge myself. In the same way, I use workouts to accomplish goals my smartwatch sets. When I want to practice skills, I get on my foreign language app or start baking. 

I love competition and results. The output I get from tracking progress satisfies and motivates me.

Her counterpoint? Tracking progress and goals also seem to stress me out. When I combine a self-care activity with a to-do list item, I’m not really practicing self-care. What I’m really doing is work.

When we are too focused on tracking progress, we can lose sight of the “care” part of self-care.

There are times I make bread because the fermentation of my starter is at peak bubbliness, not because I approach baking with joy. There are times I sit and read because I haven’t met my reading goals, and I find myself reading the same page over and over again. These are moments when it’s not satisfying, motivating, or nourishing. 

So just read, walk, or do a puzzle. Play a game. Make a cake to make a cake. Practice self-care by being mindful and living in the moment. 

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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