Burnout is a hot topic. GOOD. Its time burnout gets a more sustained lens on it, empowering everyone to know the risks, and step out of the burnout cycle.
When you pay attention to your risk factors, you can mitigate your burnout risk BEFORE you have the excruciating conversation with your doctor.
You know, the conversation where they encourage you to take 6-8 weeks off work, and the thought of leaving your team in the lurch, or the e-mail that will pile up while you’re gone, makes you feel like throwing up.
There’s a reason you resist making changes, even when you know your health is getting dangerously close to the edge.
It’s called ‘status-quo bias’.
As beautiful human beings, we love the familiar. We work very hard to keep things on-track. We like to keep things going as predictably and as smoothly as possible. AND, (as the behavioural science highlights) we will strive to keep things as they are, even when doing so impacts our own welfare. Yes, I see you.
You are not alone. So many professionals are out there trying to keep all the plates spinning.
Did you know a healthy work week consists of working less than 40 hours a week (30-35 is optimal), and includes structured and predictable start and stop times? Additionally, we should be taking ALL our vacation time each year, and using those weeks of vacation consecutively; not a whole summer of long weekends… which (let’s be honest) doesn’t happen even when you’ve booked those Fridays off.
Oh, and that optimal work week isn’t just the time you spend at work, but also includes time spent on the labour you perform at home (meal prep, groceries, laundry, etc.).
I didn’t have that kind of work week until I was 6 years into the best and most time consuming position I’ve ever held… and had a family wake-up call. A very disappointed little boy (my son) burst into frustrated tears at the sight of me on my laptop one Saturday. He rightly assumed I was working that day. What he really needed was a mom who could fully participate in the kind of family activities that support the healthy development of growing humans. He did not need yet another Saturday of being beached in front of the TV.
At 10 years old my son could apply a better sense of propriety than I – and I was a coach. And this was after I’d already been down the burnout path, and recovered from it once before. I knew better and still didn’t listen… until it impacted someone I loved. Things changed after that ugly realization (I now walk the talk).
Never again. AND, having made the change I can attest it had no negative impact on my earnings (in fact, they went up). Work less, earn more. It’s ABSOLUTELY possible.
The collateral damage to working the North American norm of 50-70 hours a week impacts a lot of things; our health, our loved ones and the fabric of our communities (volunteerism is in year-over-year decline, in direct relation to the increased number of hours we work). We’re getting IRATE – with each other (look at the airline stats on altercations). We also SUCK (and that is not too strong a word) at taking all our vacation in North America. We need to be way angrier about this then we are. Eff the “status-quo”.
Do you know who is living their best lives? People on the World Health Organizations’ list of happiest countries. Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway) consistently rank high on this list, and for good reason. They have 5-6 weeks of vacation, taken consecutively during company shut-downs (no e-mail back-log to come back to). They also finish work predictably, shutting down work between 4 and 5 o’clock (after an 8-hour day).
I’ve worked in Sweden. This is the norm. This is not some selective window into an unrealistic ideal. It’s cultural.
And culture is what is holding us back here. A culture of busy-ness. The culture of hustle. Thing is, whole other populations have figured out to be productive AND have a successful career without endangering their health, happiness, communities or earning potential. Look at the GDP for Scandinavian countries – they are pulling their weight in productivity and doing it without burning people out.
AND we can too. A successful career does not mean working punishing hours. A demanding job does not mean you have to never take your vacation. Burning out is not a badge you earn on the way to 6 figures.
Please get angry. Get INCENSED. Look at what’s happening to you and around you. It shouldn’t be this way.
Want to be a part of the change? Start with assessing your working life wellbeing, and let’s talk about how you can create a work life you can love.
A work life that doesn’t disappoint your kids, or cost you your physical/mental health. These are the best years of your life; how do you want to live them?
Carleen opened up an entire world that I never knew existed. She helped me see how important it is to live and work while fulfilling every part of what makes you your own person. She helped me shape a new perspective on life and made me realize that it’s okay to be happy, whatever that means to me.
Do you fit in, or do you belong?
It’s a really important question, one that was part of a recent and eye-opening discussion I’ve had with colleagues and peers. It seems at some point in all our careers, we tried to fit-in. AND IT WORKED FOR NONE OF US.
Wisdom is often (frustratingly) found in the rear-view mirror of life. And what we all learned (in time) was this: only belonging supported our well-being and career success.
There are reasons for this. Fitting in means you’re trying to pretzel yourself to match a particular group, culture or way of being/working. It immediately means there are things you feel compelled to change, or hide, about yourself in order to be accepted.
It confirms you think your natural “you-ness” isn’t enough to automatically be worthy of inclusion. Worst of all, it’s based on assumptions of what you think is valued by others, but are too afraid to explore until you’ve gained their acceptance.
“Fitting in” requires you to reject aspects of yourself, before anyone else does. So, if you’ve already decided you’re not “enough”, what does that mean for your psychological welfare? Your career success?
It’s a slippery slope, because if “fitting in” gains you admittance to feeling included in a group, the “you” that’s been accepted isn’t the real you, is it? Now what? Keep up the façade?
That’s exhausting, and a recipe for burnout. This phenomenon has a name, imposter syndrome – and there is now scientific evidence that links imposter syndrome to high risk for burnout.
And “fitting in” doesn’t work. The best parts of you, your uniqueness, your ideas, your ways of problem solving, of communicating (expressing empathy and humour) are collateral damage – the very things that allow you to forge a sense of connection with others. AND, others can tell when you are being inauthentic, which impacts the success of these key interpersonal relationships.
This makes you feel even less secure, and trying even harder to “fit in”, being even less authentic… it’s a swirling mess of stress, pressure and frustration that keeps you from connection and being successful. And it’s completely unnecessary.
“Fitting in” doesn’t give you what you’re “paying” for. It’s a bad investment.
I’m not saying there isn’t a period of “getting to know” each other when you’re in a new group of people, especially at work. But what this calls on isn’t twisting yourself to fit in with them, ITS BEING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF AND FINDING THE COMMON GROUND YOU ALL SHARE.
You don’t have to fit in. You already belong.
Fitting in isn’t the path to belonging. Authenticity is.
Being authentic means you take your rightful place in any room, with any group. You don’t have to be confident, or perfect, or watch for signals of acceptance. All you have to do is decide if this is a healthy place for you.
You deserve to work in an environment that accepts you and appreciates you for who you are, not some façade of who you think you should be to make others comfortable. If that’s not happening right now, let’s talk about how you can create a work life you love.
Because there is no doubt in my mind that you belong.
Through our sessions and assigned coaching practices, I saw my confidence and ability grow ...
I’ve been reading about mindfulness and stress reduction lately, trying to get my mind wrapped around how to bring this into everyday life without it feeling like another “rule” I needed to follow – I want an "easy button" for stress.
It’s funny how life steps in sometimes to help you see something new; I was stopped at a light in downtown traffic, and normally when I would have very efficiently kept up with the flow of traffic as it began to move, for some reason I paused. I can’t say why, but I did, and it was gently enough to ensure no one behind me was impacted, but long enough to keep me from rolling into the car in front of me as it unexpectedly slammed on it’s breaks. That pause saved me time, money and the stress of having to file an insurance claim (and an accident report…and get my car fixed).
It made me wonder where else a gentle pause would be beneficial in my life (could this be the "easy button")? I decided to experiment.
It turns out pausing has very tangible benefits for everyone. And I can say it has reduced my stress.
Gentle reminders for gentle pauses seems to be the "easy button", especially since I already have many more rigid reminders telling me what to do; my life (like many people’s) is full of prompts and pings, so one more felt like the proverbial straw that would break the camel’s back (my calendar reminding me where I am supposed to be and how long it will take to get there, my watch telling me to stand, or to breath deeply, every hour).
So, at the close of my workday I think back on one or two things I am grateful for in my working day, and when there has been a beneficial pause, that usually tops my list. In honouring my gentle pauses this way I find myself pausing more often ("easy button"), not because I have to, or because of reminders or notes telling me to do so, but because it has meaning for me; it just makes me feel better.
It’s a simple thing that is entirely in my control. One simple, discreet change that has rippled benefits out not just to me but all those around me too as I'm a more considerate human to others when I'm considerate to myself.
Want to know the biggest source of ambient stress in human lives today (and how to pause it)? This juicy tip is even more empowering than an "easy button".
Be kinder to yourself, you'll be AMAZED at the ripple effect and how it can reduce your stress for good.
Carleen was a supportive and encouraging presence throughout my coaching experience. I appreciated her intuitive and mindful approach, easy to understand analogies, and articulate way of presenting information to me in my program.
When I first became a manager I (mistakenly) thought that I’d been given that position because I had all the skills needed to do it well.
I made every rookie manager mistake in the book. I thought I was being clear (I value clarity), my staff felt I was being dictatorial. I pulled back to give them more room (I value rolling in feedback), my staff thought I had become distant and unapproachable. I had no idea what I was really doing, just feeling around in the dark for the answers. It was a rough ride for everyone, made worse by a merry-go-round of emotions I didn’t want to feel: shame, frustration, helplessness, anger and self-doubt.
And because I didn’t embrace those emotions, the learning curve was PAINFUL AND SO MUCH LONGER than it needed to be. I became increasingly stressed as I tried to figure out how to lead well, which made the emotions stronger and even less welcome.
What’s important to remember here is while you may not always like it, being emotional isn’t a bad thing; you’re also “emotional” when you’re happy about something, or when you feel joy, excitement and accomplishment. Trying not to feel unwelcome emotions doesn’t just impact those emotions, but cuts you off from ALL YOUR EMOTIONS, meaning you can’t see the accomplishment, or the joy in what you do (even when it’s there). So, there’s no relief. AND that’s unsustainable.
Your stress response appears when your behaviour surrenders to pressure you’re under, and so begins the “merry-go-round”. While unwelcome emotions (like anger, shame or worry) may be your “go to”, you can easily move into all three if you’re choosing to repress what you feel, which was what was happening to me.
Merry-go-round from hell. Round and round the feelings go, and when it stops nobody knows. The longer I stayed on it, the more entrenched the overwhelming feelings got, the more frequently they came to visit me, the faster the merry-go-round spun keeping me on it longer each time… I actually thought I might have to resign. Good thing I didn’t.
In time I learned that I controlled how long I was on the merry-go-round, and it doesn’t have to be difficult to get off. You can do it with just a few simple, but intentional, actions:
I also have a short video on another technique that can help you to manage unwelcome emotions, which you can watch on Linked In here.
It was never my intention to be a crappy boss, but assuming I had nothing to learn was the biggest thing holding me back. It was also the biggest SOURCE of my stress.
Once I realized I had a lot to learn, AND THAT IT WAS OK TO BE LEARNING AND LEADING, I could share with my staff that I was open to improving. It changed EVERYTHING. My staff were compassionate, the feedback became useful, empathic and constructive. And I could better see where I did have some savvy leadership skills that served us all well.
All of us could then relax at work, and start enjoying the joys of imperfection.
Embrace the suck.
“Failure has always been a part of the plan. Without it, we don’t grow.” ~ Carleen Hicks
I have learned from Carleen that to be successful as a business leader, and an overall happier person, one can maintain a results driven style but must also appreciate what others (at work and outside) value and need.
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ABOUT MY BLOG
I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.