For many executives like Maggie, the push that motivates self-care is elusive. But permission signaling creates a powerful mental reframing. When you think about your own acts of personal self-care as critical signals to others to practice self-care, you actually motivate yourself to take those acts.
This lens holds immense potential for transforming your organization’s culture and seeing your own energy rise and the mood around you lift. Here are four ways you might “signal” this permission:
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1. Talk openly with your team about self-care and your goals to incorporate them into your routine. Being transparent about your goals can motivate you to get started. At a small-group meeting or one-on-ones with one or several colleagues, talk briefly about your self-care culture, your own needs, and how you can support one another. You can even plan a weekly or monthly check-in to see how people are doing and reflect on your experience. Remember that when you do anything good for yourself in the public eye, you give others critical permission to do the same.
2. Take breaks during the workday (and show them off). Act as a role model by taking short breaks throughout the day, making time for an actual lunch break, or going for a short walk-and-talk meeting if you’re in the office. These permission-signaling moments will boost your productivity while creating norms for everyone around you.
3. Set and respect boundaries. If you’re sending emails late into the night or over the weekend, this can signal that you expect the same from your team. Instead, make a conscious effort to confine your visible work activities to working hours or whatever protocol your team follows. Signal to everyone—including yourself!—that disconnecting is expected and valued.
4. Be yourself, and be vulnerable. We all know that each of us is a whole person with friends, family, interests, and a life beyond work. But often, we feel we need to close off that part of ourselves. Opening up, however, makes us better understood and lowers stress through the beauty of deeper interpersonal connections. Experiment with showing your personal side, therefore giving others permission to do the same.
When I think about Maggie and all of us trying to “practice what we preach,” it reminds me of how imperfect we all naturally are and how perfection is not the goal in mental health. Humanness and the acceptance of our energy limitations is the state we are striving for, and permission signaling is a wonderful way to allow others to join us at that level.
This article was also published on Juliet Funt's LinkedIn.
This article is also available in Chinese.