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  • Writer's pictureDr Maike Neuhaus

Am I creating and living my best self?

Using self-leadership to build a life you don’t want to take a holiday from

How do you know when you embody true self-leadership? This is a hard question, as it will look different for everyone in terms of what decisions they make in their lives, but hopefully there are some consistent feelings along the way.

For example, when you wake up every day – do you feel eager to start your day? Contented? Purposeful? Every day doesn’t have to be rainbow and unicorns (and it won’t be!), but if you are filled with dread and doubt and feel ‘stuck’, it’s more possible than not that self-leadership isn’t happening.

Essentially, creating and living our best lives through self-leadership comes down to three things:

  1. How we behave

  2. How we feel and

  3. How we think.

Using self-leadership to build a life you don’t want to take a holiday from
Using self-leadership to build a life you don’t want to take a holiday from

Checking in with ourselves with the fundamental aspects of self-leadership in mind (i.e. self-knowledge, self-goalsetting, and self-regulation) can help us to reflect on if we are leaning into our visions for a good life and living out the best version of ourselves. And if not, we can figure out what we need to do to feel energised and act in alignment with our values and dreams.

So, what does checking in like that with yourself look like?


This is the foundation of self-leadership. This is knowing who we are at our core – what we value, what our strengths are, and what we envision for our lives and future. Good self-knowledge provides a solid foundation and base from which to make decisions about opportunities in life. It helps us to identify and act out our purpose and helps us to find and achieve a sense of meaning.

What this can look like:

  • Making decisions in alignment with your values, which may not always follow what you ‘should’ do, based on the expectations of others (close to you and society as a whole)

  • Following opportunities that harness your strengths and propel you towards the vision you have for your life.

What this can feel like:

  • A sense of meaning and purpose; confidence in your choices as they align with your values

  • A sense of following your internal compass, rather than what others expect of you.

What you might be thinking or saying to yourself or others:

  • ‘I feel calm and confident in myself'

  • ‘I feel like I know myself well and understand my strengths’

  • ‘I feel a sense of purpose and meaning, like I am on the right track in life’

  • 'I’m listening to my gut and following my intuition.'

Self-Goal Setting

This is the ability to conceptualise, set and realise achievable and realistic goals, which propel you towards your life vision and help to anchor you to your meaning and purpose through action.

What this can look like:

  • Consistent movement towards the direction of your dreams and goals – achieving both small and large goals

  • Using your self-knowledge to set realistic and achievable goals that align with your values and purpose

  • You recognise the opportunity for goals and change based on your circumstances and strengths and actively take these on in life

  • You might write these down, check in regularly with yourself, and review them to celebrate successes as recalibrate if off course.

What this can feel like:

  • You feel proud, empowered and confident that you are moving in the direction of your dreams – no matter how far you are from that end goal or vision.

  • You feel a sense of control and ease with daily life, because you know the things you are doing – small and large – align with your core values and direction in life.

  • It feels like you are harnessing the people, circumstances and opportunities around you to actively bring your vision to life – you are not a passive player.

What you might be thinking or saying to yourself or others:

  • 'I just met this goal and am so happy, let’s celebrate!'

  • 'This goal doesn’t seem realistic, I will re-evaluate and see what needs to change so that I can keep moving forwards'

  • 'Sunday is my weekly check in, let’s see how I feel about my goals and if I am on track, or if something needs to change.'


This is our capacity to be aware of how we feel, think and bahave and adjust this with techniques that work for us, in order to bring our best selves to the moment – in both happy and hard times. Self-regulation is the capacity to experience difficulties and work through them – developing grit and resilience to keep true to ourselves and on the path we see for ourselves in life.

What this can look like:

  • You have techniques you use to bring self-awareness to your emotions, such as mindfulness, meditation, journaling, talking with close friends or family.

  • You make time and space to reflect on what you are thinking and feeling, but don’t stay stuck in negative emotions – you allow yourself a chance to feel them and then move yourself towards a ‘re-set’ when needed, so you can focus on the now and adjust your course for the future.

  • You take the opportunities daily to find moments of peace, joy and happiness through a focus on gratitude, no matter how small that moment may appear to be i.e., mindfully savouring a cup of tea and expressing gratitude for this.

  • You are aware of your energy levels, what affects these and how to harness energy to focus on your goals.

What this can feel like:

  • You are in tune with all your feelings, both the positive and negative emotions – and you can tolerate this discomfort, but you also don’t dwell here.

  • You more often than not sit with positive emotions during your days and weeks – happiness, joy, contentedness and flow.

  • You feel energised by life and in the direction you are heading.

  • Confidence and a sense of sureness embody daily decisions, and you possess positivity for yourself and radiate this towards others.

What you might be thinking or saying to yourself or others:

  • 'I know this is hard, and didn’t turn out the way that I planned, but I’ve got this.'

  • 'I’m feeling a bit down today, I think I need to journal to help release some of these negative feelings, I know this usually works for me.'

  • 'My energy is great today because I took care of myself with getting enough sleep – I’m so glad because this means I can really focus on what I had planned today for my goals.'

Self-leadership is a broad model that encompasses a lot of elements when it is broken down. This can seem overwhelming to begin with, but knowing and applying self-leadership in your life can bring you a sense of confidence, contentedness and wellbeing in your life – a sense of ‘flow’ and alignment.

It isn’t always easy (this would be unrealistic!), but self-leadership is worth the investment of your time and energy to be able to look back, no matter where you are in your life, and know that you followed your true north.

As Mary Oliver wrote in her poem The Summer Day, 'Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Maike x


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