Written by Kristin Harrington

My husband recently told me, “I’m glad you’re doing much better. You didn’t seem happy for a while.” Eek…

He wasn’t wrong, and I wholeheartedly agreed. I’m not sure what the dictionary definition of happiness is, but I knew I had been far from it for a while. As we continued the dialogue, I reflected on the past several years:

-New baby

-Global pandemic a mere five weeks after new baby

-Health challenges

-Pregnancy losses

-Job changes and challenges

It’s no wonder it was a tough few years. The adage ‘hindsight is 20/20’ strikes me as particularly apropos here – only in re-experiencing genuine happiness and contentment could I understand where I had been falling short. That’s no way to live, yet there I was, living in varying levels of unhappiness and discontent for years.

We often talk about leadership as it applies to our professional lives; we rarely apply the same concepts to our personal lives. As real-world leaders charged with influencing big outcomes and inspiring those around us, we must lead ourselves first. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so to speak. Leading yourself is every bit as important as leading others. You matter, too.

Here’s what my journey towards rediscovering happiness and leading myself first and foremost has taught me:

Vulnerability is where it’s at. I was raised by a long line of strong Sicilian women known for their great spaghetti and incredible resilience in the face of a challenge, what they weren’t known for – vulnerability. Emotions weren’t a topic of conversation in my household, as we embraced a “suck it up” mantra during tough times. Balancing grit against genuine candor and emotion has been an ongoing challenge for me, but it’s a space I’m committed to growing in. Vulnerability fuels connection and contentment, and it’s a great habit to build as you practice leading yourself. Be honest with yourself and others; much good can come from it.

Take time for yourself. As leaders, it’s our job to show up for others daily. We check in on colleagues’ families, help team members navigate the latest challenge, and provide endless encouragement and support. Constantly giving to others can be exhausting, especially if you never take time to give back to yourself. This month, challenge yourself to hold space on your calendar for “you” time. Schedule that massage, run, get your nails done, or nap. If you don’t make time for yourself, it’s hard to keep giving to everyone else.

Find an outlet. I didn’t rediscover my happiness all on my own. I sought out support from a trusted coach. Together, we set personal goals and worked towards a better way of living. Whether it’s a coach, therapist, mentor, friend, or partner, find an outlet to support your personal growth. Having that one go-to person to share your challenges and get guidance on the next steps can be invaluable. We weren’t designed to go through life alone. Don’t feel like you have to.

The isolation brought on by COVID is behind us, but is it? Too many of us are still struggling through the loneliness and unhappiness fueled by quarantine and separation. Don’t wait until a loved one calls you out. Lead yourself towards better and brighter.

Founded in 2004, Lead Star is the company behind New York Times best-sellers SPARKLeading from the Front, and Bet on You. Lead Star supports professionals to reach new levels of success through an innovative coaching program, Year to Rise.