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Ready to be a healthier human?

Start with these questions

Sarah Elliott, CPA, PCC, Intend2Lead LLC | November 2021 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated October 29, 2021

It all starts with you.

As we get ready to say goodbye to 2021 — another historic, tumultuous year — and move on to 2022, many of us feel hope for starting anew. Pausing to reflect on what we most want to change and achieve in the upcoming new year can provide us with some much-needed positive energy.

The past two years have challenged not only our leadership, but the way we do everything, including our habits and our health — in all senses of the word. We have been given a unique opportunity to redefine who we truly want to be and what we really want. 

As you look ahead, you may feel a desire to better yourself for the people around you. For example, you may want to be a better leader because you know we need strong leadership now more than ever. But before you focus on everyone else, first ask yourself, “How can I be a strong leader and contributor if I’m not a healthy human being?”

When reflection met Sally

I’m going to share a composite sketch of many of the accountants we coach at Intend2Lead — a fictitious person named Sally Smith. As I describe her, I invite you to reflect on how much of yourself you see in Sally.

Sally is a very conscientious accountant. She is generally well liked, reliable, respected and has an incredible work ethic.

Sally also:
  • Works an average of 10–11 hours per day.
  • Rarely takes breaks during the workday, rushing from one Zoom meeting to the next (sometimes without even so much as a bathroom break).
  • Does not sleep well.
  • Is too busy to exercise.
  • Rarely eats healthy meals.
  • Finds it difficult to be fully present with, and engage with, her family when she’s not working.
  • Usually takes a few vacations per year, though none lately due to COVID-19. When she does take time off, she has a hard time unwinding. She struggles to “turn it off” enough to fully enjoy the vacation.
  • Feels guilty when she is not working. The voice in her head is on repeat, telling her, “You’re not getting enough done!”
  • Constantly uses the word “overwhelmed” when describing her days.
  • Spends a lot of time lamenting about how hard everything is, how hard her life is.
Sally’s automatic response to increasing demands is to work more hours. She is accustomed to disregarding her own well-being in the little time she has left outside of work. Whatever energy she has left at the end of the day is spent supporting her family and loved ones. She puts herself last.

Sally is not living a sustainable life. In fact, she’s sacrificing her future physical, mental and emotional health because she believes it’s the only way to succeed. Sally often puts work ahead of her family, and she puts others ahead of herself. Taking care of herself is not on her radar most of the time.

What are the costs of living life like this? I’ve seen up close the devastating costs of neglecting self-care over long periods of time: burnout, health problems, broken relationships, missed opportunities, hopelessness and despair.

Even in the short term, Sally short-changes her impact. Because she’s running on fumes most of the time, Sally’s team and organization receive a less engaged version of her. She rarely participates fully, which limits the potential of her leadership and her team.

Now, let’s get back to you. Do you see any of yourself in Sally? Are you limiting your potential and positive impact on others because you don’t prioritize yourself? If your answer is yes, please reflect on these three questions.

How do you envision yourself as a healthier person?

Allow yourself to imagine what being a healthy human truly looks like for you. When have you been at your best in the past? What allowed that to happen? What might be possible for you, your team and your organization when you take better care of yourself consistently?

Do you believe that you deserve to care for yourself before you take care of others?

This is a big one. It seems logical enough to say you’ll prioritize your self-care. You probably know it’s important. So, why haven’t you done it? What has stopped you in the past?

It may come down to your beliefs. Many people find it hard to prioritize themselves. They think it’s “selfish.” They don’t give themselves permission to do it.

Flight attendants tell us to put our oxygen mask on first, before we help others. This seems obvious — if you run out of oxygen, you’re no good to anyone. It’s no different when it comes to your self-care. If you neglect yourself, you’re not able to effectively help any of the people you care about.

In order to follow through on your self-care, you must believe you are important enough and worthy enough to receive it. You must recognize that this helps not only you, but everyone else in your life.

How will you prioritize yourself so you can unleash your leadership potential?

What will provide you with the “oxygen” you need? What self-care practices will support you in showing up more fully for others?

Perhaps it’s an exercise program, more consistent sleep, drinking more water, taking more breaks or daily meditation. The options are limitless. What’s one new practice or routine that will move the needle most for you right now? What feels like the most important first step in reclaiming your self-care?

Get specific. Visualize it happening. Think about what might get in the way and plan for it. Set your boundaries and honor them. If you don’t honor your own boundaries, no one else will.

Setting the course

Once you work through these questions and discern how you’ll take care of yourself first, you’ll have a lot more energy and space to tackle any other challenges you may face.

When you’re a healthy human first, you automatically become a stronger leader for others.

Find your oxygen and breathe it in deeply. You deserve it.

Sarah Elliott, PCC, CPA, is the co-founder and principal of Intend2Lead LLC, a leadership development company that coaches accountants to access the #DimensionofPossible through leadership coaching, group learning and consulting with organizations to create coaching cultures. You may reach her at

Hear from Sarah Elliott at TAX21

Sarah dives into energy management, burnout and optimizing your performance at TAX21. It’s your last chance to register!
Visit to view the full schedule and register.

21CF-TAXX: MNCPA Tax Conference (TAX21) (Virtual)
Nov. 8–10 | 8 a.m.–5 p.m. | 24 CPE | 4 Ethics | 15 IRS CE | 19.5 CLE (Standard) | 21.5 CFP