During my one-on-one coaching at the Leadership Education Advancement for Professional (LEAP), my coach recommended blocking two hours each week to take care of my well-being. This recommendation aligns with the concept that as a leader, one must need to be mentally and physically fit to take care of others. My first reaction was -You must be kidding me.  I found this difficult to follow. Growing up in a Filipino family, I was expected to keep an eye on my elders and to keep them happy. As the oldest child in the family, I was given a responsibility to look after my two siblings and be the “role model.” Failure to follow these expectations meant “I am inadequate or cannot be trusted.” At a young age, I was already programmed to take care of others without needing to worry about caring for myself.

Perhaps it was my experience and family’s expectation that helped shape my passion for indulging myself in the service of others. Luckily, I found a career that allows me to practice my passion and values I embraced. I advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, as well as, their children. Day in and day out, I respond to crises. I process and analyze cases to make a better sense of how I can be of help to them. It is fascinating, like solving a puzzle. I stay at work longer not only because I take my job seriously but because I love what I do.  There is also another caveat to this: I feel like I need to prove myself that I can do my job well. These insecurities stem from experience, from being an immigrant, and from the fear that I am not good enough compared to some of my counterparts.

My bosses have always encouraged me to take time off so that I would not feel burned out. Sometimes I listen to their advice. However, part of me worries what happens if I take a break? I like having the opportunity to work with diverse underserved families and seeing their smiling faces after overcoming difficulties. This seems to give meaning to my existence and become my day to day routine and taking time off makes me feel separated from my purpose.

Yet the reality is that the world continues to evolve and revolve. No matter how I became engulfed in regularly diving in and solving problems, there is always work that needs to be done and new solutions to be thought of. After discussing this with my LEAP coach, she said to me, “Great ideas often come from boredom.” At first, I did not understand the meaning of this statement. Doing nothing when I am not sleeping is a “foreign concept” to me. However, I took the challenge and found ways to work around it.

Ever since I was a child, I had the most fun playing in the water. This leads me to the path of discovery that I liked kayaking. I got myself a kayak and started to spend time paddling in the lake after I would get off from work. In the beginning, I watched the sundown. I was amazed and mesmerized at what I saw; I found joy staring at nature. These moments helped me calm down and relax.

Subsequently, I started waking up early in the morning to watch the sunrise. My self-care turned into capturing photographs of majestic and serene moments I saw every day. One morning, an elderly neighbor said to me, “It must be peaceful to be in the water every day.” I responded to her, “Yes, it is very calming and peaceful.” What occurred to me next was to share my experience with her by giving print outs of the photographs I had taken. She was thrilled. This made me realize that I could uplift an individual by sharing the photographs of my experience. I started sending digital photographs to my family, co-workers, friends, and a few former clients. I also shared it with my fellows in LEAP Cohort Five.

In retrospect, I can see how self-care can ignite new ideas. Being present and living in the moment, which also may refer to as boredom, is an incredible journey of understanding how self-care is an essential part of leadership. Stay tune to read how taking time to self-care lead me to new ideas and how they can be implemented in my work.

I want to credit this positive process to My Sister’s House, the LEAP Academy, my fellows in Cohort 5, my bosses, friends, and family.