Of Rumi and Rumination: Why You Must Also Serve Yourself As A Leader

December 26, 2018 Glenn Case
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leader with hands to head looking stressed and out of control

So much has been written about servant leadership. Of course leaders must serve those they lead to truly find success.

But I believe there is a step that must occur in tandem with serving others. In fact, I believe this to be essential. That of serving yourself. A leader at peace - content, calm and in control of emotion - is a leader best suited to serve others.

From my own experience in leadership, the one area that always challenged me in achieving this state was my own propensity to ruminate.

As Rumi once said, "Oh soul, you worry too much. You have seen your own strength. You have seen your own beauty. You have seen your golden wings. Of anything less, why do you worry? You are in truth the soul, of the soul, of the soul."

Worry. My transition from leader to a coach of leaders has given me pause. Opportunity to really explore inward that ocean of thought that is ceaseless, relentless.

A leader at peace - content, calm and in control of emotion - is a leader best suited to serve others.

I've come to realize how much my thoughts have controlled me over the years. How rumination has sapped my energy. My peace. My confidence.

One cannot fight this assault of thought. It is as much part of our DNA as our eye colour. A remnant of times less forgiving, when life hung by a thread.

But fight it I've done. Waged constant battle. Strived to force my thoughts into submission. I've come to understand that that's what rumination is. The attempt to protect ourselves through controlling the content of our thoughts.

How many times have you ruminated over a future event? One that you dreaded. Perhaps it was talk you had to deliver or an employee you had to dismiss. How much time did you dedicate to playing that pending event over and over in your mind, trying to create a scenario that gave you release from your uncomfortable emotions. Only to find that before long you were doing it all over again?

Thoughts arise from the deep. Those rooted in a fear of some kind are the most persistent, willing you to take part. Determined to make you a buyer.

Slowly, I have come to see that to fight these thoughts is folly. It is an un-winnable battle.

The answer? To invite them in with understanding. Acknowledge them with a realization that they no longer serve a useful purpose. And then choose to let them pass.

It's after all a choice we make. More and more, I'm learning to take control of these situations by exercising my vote to not engage.

It hasn't been easy, but I make steady headway.

It starts - must start - with self-awareness. Now, I catch myself getting sucked in, in time to take conscious action, whereas before I was a victim of another's whim. No longer will I play victim. That is my choice. I take a moment to consider the thoughts, but with a passing curiosity only before allowing them to drift of.

Mindfulness and meditation practice has helped immensely. It's how I'm learning to sit more contently on the sidelines - not of life, but of emotion. I've achieved a level of separation that I so badly needed, and the quality of my life has been enhanced as a result.

I'm far from mastery. But mastery is my goal. It may take this lifetime, or the next, to get there. But I will. It's my intention.

If you're a leader, you act to serve those you lead. But as we move toward another new year - perhaps a new beginning - ask yourself, are you serving yourself first? 

What is your intention for 2019?

 To end where we started, with Rumi...

"No more words. In the name of this place we drink in with our breathing, stay quiet like a flower. So the night birds will start singing."

All the best!

Glenn

 Ps. If you're interested, this is one of the best meditations on this subject I've found - "Relief from negative thinking" by Tomek Wyczesny (available free on Insight Timer).

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