Are You at Your Best?

We live in turbulent, historic times.

In the United States and in many industrialized countries around the globe, distressed economies and financial markets are taking center stage. Many people are rightfully concerned about decreasing revenues, shrinking retirement accounts, and even the likelihood of keeping their jobs during the next six months. Others have taken a more careful, diversified approach, and are better prepared to weather the next few years. However, no matter what the circumstances you find yourself in, there are specific internal and external steps that you can take to ensure that you are at your best to handle the challenges that come your way.

Everyone has “emotional wells” that have deposits of patience, courage, compassion, ambition, and optimism – to name just a few. When our emotional reservoirs are brimming over, we have the internal fortitude to deal with difficult and complex issues.

When they’ve run dry, though, we reach a point where we have nothing more to give and, in simple cases, might snap back at people – or lash out in more extreme cases.

Every mother has probably experienced what it’s like to run out of patience with a colicky baby. Similarly, every executive has likely experienced much stress and anxiety when an important deadline approaches, yet there’s zero mental and creative energy left for the task.

Our Personal Needs

A personal need is what you must have in your life to be your very best. This is not about being needy or about tolerating unacceptable behaviors. Instead, it’s about taking care of yourself first, so that you can be fully available for others – your team, loved ones, and external customers.

Personal needs include our emotional reservoirs.
They also include more external elements, such as: having order, being in control, being recognized, being loved, achieving objectives, and doing the right thing.

Personal needs are sometimes confused with values. This is the key distinction: whereas getting a personal need met gives us satisfaction, honoring a value leads to fulfillment. For example, “space” is a common need for many people. “Space” has several dimensions, such as physical (no clutter), emotional (being complete with past events), mental (not stuck in analysis), spiritual (connected to something beyond ourselves), and time (not being so busy that we miss opportunities). For many people, getting their need for space satisfied gives them access to one of their deepest values: peace.

Imagine now an organization where people have strong emotional reserves to deal with complex challenges and adversity. Companies enjoy obvious benefits when they encourage and support their employees to be at their best.

Practical Advice

I invite you to make a list of what you must have in your life to be your very best. Then, set up automatic systems and practices to get those needs met on a regular basis. For example, have staff members email you weekly status reports to help you satisfy your need to be informed, or have a regular practice of taking short breaks every couple of hours to replenish your mental and emotional reserves.

In addition, when you catch yourself snapping back at someone, ask yourself: “What do I need right now to be at my very best?” When you see extreme or bizarre behavior in other people, ask the same question about them. Oftentimes, this allows us to pause, reflect, and respond appropriately, versus unconsciously participating in the drama.

What are some of the ways you fill your emotional reservoir when it begins to run dry? What early warning indicators do you use to let you know your tank is running low?

L2L Contributing Author


  1. Sylvia Warren on March 2, 2009 at 8:28 pm


    Your blog post connects the dots between leadership and life. It’s so easy to forget that one does not survive without the other. Thanks for reminding leaders to stay in touch with what they need to inspire their teams. Navigating these turbulent times requires the best of our innovative thinking and practical solutions.

    I would like to re-post what you written on my blog – Practice What’s Possible – with you credited as a guest blogger. Is that okay with you?

    Feel free to have a look at blog before you respond.

    Either way, thanks for the consideration.

    Simply the Best,

  2. David Vittoria on March 3, 2009 at 6:31 am


    Thank you for reading my post, and for your wonderful feedback! I couldn’t agree with your comments more – about what is required of us, especially in these tough times. Let’s stay in touch…

    Warm Regards,