Even Leaders Have Off Days


To be clear, I’m not talking about a hard day, I’m talking about an off day. The kind of day when you feel guilty about feeling bad because nothing particularly bad has happened. It seemed that everything I did and everything I said was missing the mark. I wasn’t falling on my face, but I was stumbling through. Climbing into my car, I prepared myself for a slog.

Even leaders, the ones who are supposed to have all the answers, have off days. And most of us subscribe to the myth of perseverance, repeating over and over that famous Friedrich Nietzsche maxim: “What does not kill me makes me stronger.” We forget, of course, that Nietzsche died in an insane asylum.

But a shift in energy is always possible, especially when the problems are small. You don’t have to power through, but you don’t have to admit defeat either. Sometimes, all it takes is a small decision to swing the momentum back in your direction.

The simplest solution? Get outside. Don’t worry about the weather. Everyone knows that sunlight heals the soul, but cold rain and snow can get you going, too. Gear up and go for a walk. Moving your body moves your mind. Fresh air has the power to evaporate your funk. Believe me: being beneath the sky will do your body, mind, and heart some good.

Another idea is to call a good friend. Don’t text or email them; you have to hear their voice, and let your voice be heard. Pick someone who knows you well, and is willing to listen to your quibbles and frustrations. Saying them aloud tends to strip them of their power. Before you know it, you’ll forget about everything except how nice it is to be talking with your friend.

If you can, take a few hours for yourself. Go to a coffee shop and people-watch. Hit up the library (it’s that building in the middle of town with all the free books) or stop by your favorite bookstore. Peruse the aisles to see what jumps out at you.

If you can’t get away from the office and you find yourself staring at a blank Word document, get creative. Instead of writing, try drawing out your next project. Instead of building that spreadsheet, grab some graph paper and a pencil and write it out by hand. Using your hands in creative ways stimulates new parts of the brain. It’s just the thing to try when you’re in need of a neurological jolt.

It’s easy to wallow in minor frustrations. There are days when going for a walk feels like running a marathon, and talking to a friend has all the appeal of calling tech support. When you’re feeling down, it’s hard to imagine anything making you feel better. But you owe it to yourself to try.

Take care of yourself. Especially on the off days.

If you still find yourself still looking for more answers, let’s chat and see how I can help.

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  1. Ralph Bott on May 3, 2023 at 10:38 am

    Bill, the timing of this is amazing. I ended my day yesterday with issues and it caused a semi-sleepless night. I’m working to move past the issue, then I saw your “off day” message, thanks! It is already turning my thoughts and energy around.

  2. Kelly Gambini on May 4, 2023 at 8:48 am

    Love being reminded that we are human, and that we are entitled and subjected to the same situations causing others these feelings. Operating at a high level and wanting the best for your staff doesn’t always allow a leader to pause and be “ok” with the human condition. Thank you for the breathe, and reminding us we do have the control to change direction!

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