Rhythms for Leading Under Pressure

If you’ve been leading for any measure of time, you’ve felt the pressure. It’s inevitable. Yet it can feel so intense you may burst.

What do you do with that pressure? What rhythms can help you deal with the pressure in healthy ways?

Over 20 years of leadership in high pressure contexts has taught me two invaluable big ideas that have saved my soul and allowed me the opportunity to lead well no matter the season. The big ideas aren’t complicated but they are critical to find your own rhythm so you can be and do all you’ve been created for in this world.

If you want the presentation slides that support this message, you can download them below.

April L. Diaz - Rhythms for Leading Under Pressure


Take a Real Rest

Sabbath / Check Out / Energize

April L. Diaz - Rhythms for Leading Under Pressure

#2. Honor Your Body

Sleep / Eat / Move

Lead on, friend. We need you to be healthy and whole.

The Cure for Too-Much-To-Do

Silence + Solitude - April L. Diaz

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
(Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

Ever feel like a hot mess?

How often do you feel like you get to the end of the day and not only is your “to do” list not completed, but its actually longer than when you started the day?

When was the last time you missed a deadline?

How long has it been since you’ve had a solid 8-hours of sleep for a whole week?

When someone asks you how you’re doing, do you respond with “busy!” more often than not?

How many unanswered emails, voice mails, text messages, social media messages, or pieces of snail mail do you have?

Have you ever been tempted to ditch a commitment because you’re just so overwhelmed and exhausted?

How often do you get headaches, feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, or like a thousand pound gorilla is sitting on your chest?

I tend to live life very full, intense, and passionate, which then can look like I’ve got way too much to do for one human. Stress emerges. Impatience surges. My temper flares. I’m scattered and frustrated with everyone, when really I’m the only one to blame. I’m tired and worn out because of my own decisions.

For a decade I went to this place to recover my life. The first Monday of every month I sat on a bench overlooking the ocean to get away with Jesus and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. It didn’t come natural. It actually felt forced in the beginning. It never came at a good time, but I did it. Then, I became a parent and slowly but surely I let go of this monthly rhythm. I created a litany of excuses why I couldn’t take a day to be alone with God. So, for a few years I abandoned the one practice that kept me rooted, grounded, healing, and anchored in the chaos of life.

Last fall I read Invitation to Retreat (Ruth Haley Barton) and was wooed back to this monthly rhythm of silence and solitude. In many ways, my life has never been more full. I don’t have time for this. But I can’t afford not tending to my soul well. Since October, I’ve re-instituted strategic withdrawal on the first Monday of the month. Once again, I am getting away to lonely places where I can withdraw for good reasons so I can fight what’s necessary the rest of the month. It’s intentional and strategic.

If you find yourself eager yet resistant to this kind of rhythm, perhaps these words will weight you into the truth about the cure for too-much-to-do. It’s been the best thing I’ve done for myself in a while.

The cure for too-much-to-do is solitude and silence, for there you find you are safely more than what you do ... You will know this finding of your soul and God is happening by an increased sense of who you are and a lessening of the feeling that you have to do this, that, or the other thing. That harassing, hovering feeling of “have to” largely comes from the vacuum in your soul, where you ought to be at home with your Father in his kingdom. As the vacuum is rightly filled, you will increasingly know that you do not have to do those things - not even those things you want to do.
— Dallas Willard

Friend, strategically withdraw from your life so you can recover it and live freely and lightly. Let’s be the kind of people who live in the unforced rhythms of grace. You are safe and you are loved. (Yes, yesterday I strategically withdrew and took a real rest with Jesus. It was good for my soul. Can’ t wait for March.)

Scarcity is a Shame Conversation


It was one year ago this week. Brian, Asher and I were in Shanghai. It was our final day and we were headed back to our friend's house to pack our bags and head to the airport. We'd experienced such care and generosity during our 7 days in Shanghai, which had highlighted a few glaring truths I didn't like.

One, we could never do for others what had been given to us that week. We didn't have the capacity because of our own beliefs and realities.

Two, we wanted to be those kinds of people who bless others extravagantly, without strings attached. 

I knew enough of our friend's story to know that abundance wasn't always a part of her life. Sitting in the backseat, at a stoplight, turning left toward her house, I blurted out my burning question,

"Have you always had an abundance mentality?" 

I don't remember the exact words that came out of her mouth next, but I remember her relaxed posture, the glow on her face, her effortless smile, and the truth of her story generously shared.

Sitting in the backseat of her car in Shanghai I sensed a deep shift in my spirit. I sensed a journey before me that would move my self-limiting beliefs from scarcity to abundance.

For the last year, God has been dismantling my scarcity mentality piece by piece. I was arrested by Fr. Richard Rohr's daily meditation and have continued to do inner work to replace this false belief with truth. 

There have been several key moments this last year - primarily around finances - where I've had the opportunity to live in abundance or scarcity. I'm sure you cannot relate. <wink wink>

This last week has been another giant test. 

Disappointment. Shock. Loss. Conflict. As I've processed another painful experience, I've wrestled with looming questions:

  • Am I enough?
  • Am I good?
  • Can I make it? 
  • Will there be enough for me and my family?
  • Is what I do valuable?
  • Do I deserve this?

The truth is: Scarcity is a shame conversation.

Shame tells us we aren't enough; we aren't worthy; we are bad. But that's an inner conversation filled with lies, darkness, and scarcity. The truth is that we are loved beyond anything.

Abundance says there is enough, even beyond what we can ask or imagine. Abundance says there is a hope and a future. Abundance reminds us that what happened yesterday doesn't dictate the future. Abundance calms the angry fears that we don't have to hustle for our worthiness or our paychecks. Abundance says there's more than enough room at the table for all of us. Abundance confirms that grace is found in the quiet, not the earning. Abundance focuses on what you are gaining rather than what you are losing. Abundance illuminates opportunities and potential. Abundance shifts your perspective from hoarding and possessiveness to generosity and open-handedness.

Abundance is love. THIS IS THE PERSON I WANT TO BE! 

I'm still wrestling with all this, friend. I haven't arrived. I'm not bursting in an abundance mentality all day, every day. But I am steadily plodding to replace those questions with statements of truth. And it is some of the most liberating inner work I've ever done. 

My hunch is that you could do some of that work, too. Am I right? Our society, experiences, and sometimes those closest to us will reinforce that shame conversation in whatever language we are most comfortable to accept. It can be insidious and unannounced. It can surprise you like an intruder and take over your day. But shame is not welcomed to stay. Scarcity is as much of a perspective to accept as abundance.

I'll close with this beautiful piece of poetry by Tara Sophia Mohr from Your Other Names. You can see the abundance oozing out of her words and imagery ... even when scarcity is ever-available to believe.

Even in the struggle, you are loved.
You are being loved not in spite of the hardship, but through it.
The thing you see as wrenching, intolerable, life's attack on you,
is an expression of love.
There is a part of us that fears and protects
and defends and expects,
and has a story of the way it's supposed to turn out.
That part clinches in fear, feels abandoned and cursed.
There is another part, resting on the floor
of the well within, that understands;
this is how I'm being graced, called, refined by fire.
The secret is it is all love.
It's all doorways to truth.
It's all opportunities to merge with what is.
Most of us don't step through the door frame.
We stay on the known side.
We fight the door, we fight the frame, we scream and
hang on.
On the other side, you are one
with the earth, like the mountain.
You hum with life, like the moss.
On the other side, you are more beautiful:
wholeness in your bones, wisdom in your gaze,
the sage-self and the surrender heart alive.