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How Great Leaders Deal with the Feeling of Guilt

How Great Leaders Deal with the Feeling of Guilt

The leadership environment of today’s business world is highly demanding, fast-paced, and multifaceted. In order to survive, a great leader must possess the ability to adapt to change. There are many excellent leaders all over the world who are creating stable organizations, but you will never hear about most of these leaders because they are motivated and devoted to their jobs instead of making a name for themselves.

Great leaders are commonly well-defined by their achievements, strategies and smart decisions. But according to new research, an individual’s ability to lead may have a lot to do with how he or she deals with mistakes. Leaders are human and they make mistakes, but ultimately, they are responsible for their actions and for resolving their own guilt. For a leader, the guilt goes along with the glory; they always need to learn from it to become a better leader.

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So how do leaders deal with the guilt that could be dragging them down?

1. They assess the impact.

The purpose of this exercise is to help you bring serious thought to how your actions impact others; this will help you avoid similar issues in the future. Most of the time, people are not aware of what is causing their guilt. By assessing the impact of your choices, you will be able to examine the kinds of values and actions you were expected to embody as a leader. Later, when you are asked to describe the situation which caused you to experience guilt, you will be in a better position to respond as a leader.

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2. They learn from behavior.

To deal with guilt, you must not only think of it as a bad feeling or liability. The feeling of guilt always grabs your attention so that you can learn something from the experience. By examining and studying own behavior, you’ll be less likely do it again in the future. If you’ve unintentionally said something insulting or wrong to another person, you should (a) apologize to that person and (b) in the future, think a little more before talking.

3. They make possible amends or changes.

You should always look for a way to take action and fix the problem. While many of us are gluttons for self-punishment, enduring guilt pushes us down as we move forward in life. It’s better to make something right, to take action no matter how long it takes to clean up your mess and minimize the damage.

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4. They consider it a learning experience.

Life is full of continuous learning. Most situations in life, particularly the negative ones, are intended to teach us lessons. This feeling of guilt teaches you that as long as you keep repeating that specific action, you will end up with same effects of guilt and shame. So, learn from your mistakes. Let it become a point of reference to prevent future occurrences of the same events.

5. They share the responsibility.

When assessing responsibility, it’s important to consider the other person’s part in the situation as well. While assessing the damage caused by some specific mistake, share the responsibility with the other person involved. A stakeholder chooses to participate and recognizes the risks. This exercise isn’t about passing blame, but accepting and acknowledging that you and those responsible did the best you could with the available resources and information. Learn from it, forgive yourself and others, and let your leadership skills flourish!

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6. They accept it, but move on.

If you made some mistake or disappointed someone, you need to realize that you cannot change the past. The thing you can do is make adjustments in your behavior, if and when it’s appropriate. Try to apologize or make up for the unfortunate actions in a timely manner, but then let it go. The more you put emphasis on believing you can do something more, the more it will continue to bother you and interfere with your performance.

Featured photo credit: navixmarketplace.com via navixmarketplace.com

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Tayyab Babar

Tayyab is a PR/Marketing consultant. He writes about work, productivity and tech tips at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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