Written by Kristin Harrington

I’ve been dealing with this persistent cold on and off for weeks, the usual stuffy nose, and an annoying cough that won’t seem to quit. If you’ve spoken to me lately, you’ve likely heard the unwelcome soundtrack of my coughing (apologies!).

Recently, after a few days apart, I spoke with a colleague over the phone, and my telltale cough didn’t escape her notice. She expressed genuine concern about my prolonged illness and asked me a question that struck a chord: “What changes are you making in your life to get better?” After offering empathy and encouragement, she suggested adjusting diet, rest, and wellness practices, even offering to brainstorm ideas with me.

Initially, her question seemed unexpected. Until then, I hadn’t thought beyond attributing my cold to the inevitable cycle of germs transmitted by my three little ones from school. I’d been pointing fingers at them as the primary source of my ailment for weeks.

But upon further reflection, I pondered her question more deeply. What can I change within my control? That thought sparked some significant introspection. Here’s what this experience taught me:

Stop shifting blame. It’s been easy to attribute my persistent cold solely to my three kids and their seemingly endless supply of school-borne germs. While they likely play a part, pinning all the “blame” on them is neither responsible nor productive. Not only is it inaccurate, but it also doesn’t aid in my recovery. I realized that shifting blame doesn’t lead to improvement but perpetuates the same cycle. I need to take responsibility and commit to doing things differently to progress.

Identify what’s within your control. I can’t (and wouldn’t want to!) get rid of my kids, nor can I stop them from attending school. Illnesses are a part of life. What I had yet to consider in my ‘woe is me’ outlook was exploring the things I could control to enhance my situation. Was I getting enough sleep? Taking proper supplements? Incorporating exercise? Evaluating my diet’s impact on my health? Seeking advice from a specialist? Considering what was within my control, I found a better footing to take constructive action.

Take action. Recognizing that what we can change is just the start, we must act on it. When you’re feeling unwell – both physically and figuratively – it might seem like a daunting task. However, ignoring issues rarely leads to improvement; it typically worsens matters. Once you pinpoint what you can influence, commit to making a few changes. If it feels overwhelming, seek support from colleagues, friends, or a partner to help you stay accountable. My colleague’s input emphasized the strength of support.

I’m already feeling a bit better knowing there’s a path forward. It might not immediately change my health, but I’m sure what I’ve been doing isn’t working. Sometimes, leadership begins with self-accountability. Recognize that you matter and take charge of your life – it’s a crucial step forward. Here’s to a healthier and more accountable New Year for all of us.

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 its innovative coaching programs.