In working with leaders in ministry and the marketplace for over 40 years I see an alarming tendency among busy leaders who are working hard to make life, family, faith, church and friendships work well. We resist stopping to take inventory of our lives. [tweetthis]We press hard but find it difficult to evaluate HOW we are doing with WHAT we are doing.[/tweetthis]When I sit in on Team meetings, where long rang plans are being discussed, I see the flow charts and organization charts that faithful team members have worked hard to develop with their goals, dreams, strategies and plans. But rarely, if ever do I see a team who stops to consider the real costs for implementing the plan they have worked so hard to develop.This spring, our team at Potter’s Inn sought to re-define the word “capacity.” We felt it necessary to re-define this word and concept because we were all feeling like we were facing our limits. We were feeling the early signs of exceeding our limits. By re-defining our own capacity—especially in the work we do with people, we were learning to set more realistic goals and limits and understand that we are not running a race here—we are in more of a marathon. If we did not set limits for ourselves, we would simply not be able to sustain our work, life and message. Is your life sustainable at the pace you’ve been living recently? It you feel like it’s not, then it’s time to practice something I want to explore further here with you.One church team I work with developed a plan to plant 100 churches in their region of the country. They filled in their dreams on a whiteboard—nothing suggests a limitless life like a white board to me. They would need more gifted, passionate and trained people: pastors, worship leaders, small group leaders, more space to hold meetings and on and on it went. But as I sat and listened to their noble goals and dreams I found myself sitting with one nagging questions: What is the plan going to cost your marriages, your children, your health, your sanity and your well-being? It’s a good question. It’s a fair question. It’s a needed question. This is a soul care question!Most leaders get into trouble because there is little if any self-care and self-awareness of what is being required of them and all the ways that they are giving and giving but rarely receiving. Most of us are trained with an ethos that says: Do more. Do everything. Do the impossible. It’s a dangerous elixir we drink---a cocktail that makes us live in a drunken stupor and have the audacity to call this a life—even an abundant life. The pace in which we are living and working; raising our families and maintaining a marriage, financial security and meeting all the needs we try to meet is staggering—if not insane. WE are trying to do more than Jesus did. For whatever reason, we will not sit with the fact that Jesus lived in a rhythm of life that sustained him, not depleted him and he felt no sense of urgency to even begin his work until he was 30 years old. We smugly think that he wasted such a vast amount of time. What could he have done if he would have started at 18?The key to maintaining a sense of resiliency and spiritual vitality is to do a simple self-evaluation using the HALT acronym. This helpful tool, when practiced can increase a leader’s capacity to care for themselves and maintain equilibrium to stand up and move forward rather than spinning out of control or burning out our burning up.The HALT exercise reminds to ask ourselves if we are H-ungry, A-NGRY, L-onely or T-ired. Let me explain. (HALT is not original with me but one of the most useful tools in the great movement of Alcoholic Anonymous.) When our basic needs are not being met in life, we find ourselves being susceptible and vulnerable to behaviors that will bring us down; help us self-destruct; enable addictive behaviors such as over-eating, pornography or withdrawing. When we don't HALT, we have a distinct tendency to mess up, sin big and live in a shame that is intolerable. By using the HALT exercise, we gain self-awareness about what is really happening in us and around us.Hunger can be some emotional need not being met or a true physical hunger. Hunger, though is far more than about food. We all have a hunger for affection, care, accomplishment and understanding. When these needs are neglecting, something triggers inside to begin to demand our hunger find satisfaction. When we are physically hungry, we can overdose on junk food—forsaking nutritional food for a quick fix to our emptiness. This happens in all forms of addiction as well. What is the real food your heart needs? What is the good food your body is crying out for? Is it for comfort or it is for your health? When we stop and HALT, we can catch ourselves in the act before we blow it and mess up.Anger. It’s a healthy emotion to experience anger. But even more important is to HALT and see what is triggering you from feeling so angry. What is underneath your anger? What is pushing up in you and coming out as anger? HALT and take a breath and back off when your kids are pushing you to your limit. Rather than choosing to release the pressure valve on your anger and let the steam off, see for a moment what is really going on in you. Is it that your child spilt the milk at the dinner table? Or is it that your embarrassed that y our child spilled the milk when your guests were over for dinner and you felt like a “bad “ parent. I’ve found it helpful to remind myself that anger is rarely the first emotion we feel. Our feelings of anger are often enmeshed in other feelings that quickly morph into anger. Until we look below the surface at our anger and HALT, we will always find ourselves reacting rather than responding to our teammates, spouses, and friends. By learning to let your anger teach you and guide you into a deeper reality, we can really know ourselves better and thus respond in a way that is more loving and healthy.Loneliness. When we feel isolated, abandoned, alone and alienated we find ourselves in a inner-brewing storm that can easily escalate into a form of behavior that is destructive. Deep feelings of loneliness can cause us to try to assuage them by acting out. I find when I travel alone, I most always never make good choices about eating. I over-indulge; eat too much and find it hard to withstand temptations and powers that feel like a category 5 storm that I simply have no power to stand up and make a good choice. Sometimes we even hide when we are lonely surmising that no one will understand; no one really cares; no one gives a damn anyway. These kinds of feelings often converge with other feelings and actions that make us feel even more isolated. What’s important is the power of being listened to. By simply having someone listen to you, there is a powerful healing agent to help us feel not to alone and isolated after all. When you HALT, and assess what is really going on, it’s helpful to simply call a friend and process what is being stirred up inside. Just showing up to a group, an event, a meeting, a support group or for a fathering of friends helps disprove the lie we so often believe that no one really cares. I am stunned at how many “successful” leaders in church and in the marketplace often share their feelings of being totally isolated and feelings of “It’s lonely at the top.” Being in a healthy community is a part of taking care of our souls. It’s really important and non-negotiable. Two are better than one.Tiredness: Fatigue always takes a toil on us. Without recovery time from each event, service, activity, we tap into our adrenalin gland to “get ‘ur done”. And exhaustion is really at the core of so many of us who are busy, over committed and trying to figure out rivaling priorities. By doing a HALT exercise each week, you can let your body actually tell you how tired you are. Rest and sleep is the core building block for a healthy life! When we live tired, runned down and in a mentality of surviving, are pushing ourselves way too hard. How can you be compassionate to your body—your own physical body that has carried you through time zones to another meeting; gotten up early to make a meeting and stayed up late to finish a project. What is your personal rhythm for rest and renewal? How have you been pushing yourself at the expense of your physical health? How has your own personal sense of being so tired affected your over all well-being? By sitting with these kind of questions, you will not only find yourself HALTing but giving mercy, compassion and self-care to your body. There really is a body-soul connection. If you’re not feeling well…. Then you’re really not well. It’s that simple.By using this helpful acronym of HALT, we can learn to monitor how we are really doing with what we are doing! We can do a HALT on our Sabbath—that one day we set aside to rest and enjoy. By learning to HALT on a regular basis, we are caring for ourselves, caring for those we love and caring for those who love us.Why not practice your HALT by doing this one day a week?What about doing this with your spouse? Your small group? Your closest friends? What about journaling your HALT each week and watch yourself grow in your own self-awareness, self-compassion and soul care?
Many people are finding two specific chapters of my book, Inside Job: Doing the Work within the Work very, very helpful on the topic of understanding your limits; living a time of transition and living in a sustainable rhythm. You can read more about Inside Job here and order it along with a workbook.
Please check out our new website, designed for more than just information--a beautiful experience of stunning images and ideas for our own soul care! Check out www.pottersinn.com
Twice a year, Potter's Inn offers our hallmark retreat, The Soul Care Experience where you get to hear the life changing messages of caring for your soul and actually practice them on site. The Soul Care Experience in August is full but we are accepting a wait list. The retreat in September has a few openings. Check out the Soul Care Experience here!