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Every leader at some point, hits a difficult season. A time when things aren't going well. Nothing is going according to plan. Discouragement and doubt sets in. Maybe you aren't cut out for this. Maybe you can't do it. And if that season lasts too long, you can drive yourself into the ground. Leaders, let's talk about some ways you can be encouraged during a difficult season. Ultimately, four practices you need to put into place to work through discouragement well.
Here are the four things I do.
1. I get near supportive people.
Every leader needs community. A place where you can go to simply be with people who support you. Sometimes that support can look a lot like honesty, and that's a great thing. You need to hear sometimes that things may not be as bad as you sense they are. Your perspective might be skewed. Honest, supportive friends can be the catalyst to get you through a difficult season.
I like to go to the gun range with some of my friends. I enjoy grabbing lunch or a cup of coffee with friends also. Every leader needs supportive people in their corner, especially during difficult times.
2. I read books that inspire me.
Seth Godin's book, "Poke the Box," was a book that had me ready to change the world again. For me, Hugh Halter's book, "BIVO," gave me an amazing boost of energy. When I was unclear about my calling, Todd Wilson's book, "MORE," helped to bring me a lot of clarity. And "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," was a book that gave me perspective like I didn't have before. It has helped shape me.
Leaders need to find good books and spend time with them. Sometimes a book can inspire you to continue pushing through even the most difficult of seasons.
3. I maintain a habit of taking a Sabbath.
If you are outside of a ministry context and don't know what a Sabbath is, it's basically a day off. Spiritually speaking, it is a time of refreshing yourself in God and His will for your life. If you are a ministry leader and you aren't taking a Sabbath, you are going to crash and burn. It's only a matter of time. God gave His people the Sabbath command for a reason. You need to USE it. Stop wearing it as a badge of honor that you work 75/80 hours, 7 days per week. You're not great, you're a workaholic and likely trusting in your own power to accomplish great things.
Take your Sabbath.
If you aren't necessarily using it as a spiritual retreat, leaders still need to be taking a day off. Stepping away from emails and the chaos of work, can be the difference between success and giving up. We all need times of refreshing, so take a day off.
Now, there might be seasons, especially in a startup, where you can't take a day off. But please, don't make that a habit. When things get tough, you still need to take care of yourself so that you don't crash.
4. I don't trust my feelings.
If I did everything I felt all the time, my life would be a disaster. And yours would also. You can't always blindly follow your heart. Sometimes you have to lead your feelings. Many times in ministry I have felt that I wasn't good enough and that God could never use me to accomplish anything. It was mentors, friends and my wife, who were my voice of reason.
Sometimes the feelings lie to you and tempt you to quit. Don't! As Thomas Edison said, "Many o life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." It's our feelings that can lead us down that path. When we listen, we can easily become more discouraged. You have to lead your feelings through difficult seasons.
You are probably a stronger leader than I am, but I simply don't trust my feelings. So when I "feel" like things are bleak and difficult, it's outside perspective and support that can help me get through.
These are the four ways I stay encouraged even during difficult seasons. What are things that you do? How do you stay encouraged? Comment below. Or listen to the podcast here.