I work with a lot of high performers. But when I refer to them in that way, they look over their shoulder like they’re looking for the person I’m actually talking about. And that disconnect between how they perform and how they see themselves costs a lot of energy…which contributes to burnout. Maybe one of these scenarios sounds familiar:
- Your team could cut the tension with a knife. People go home exhausted and spend precious personal time venting to friends and family. In meetings, low trust means people are hoarding work, and doing more of it. Yet when you point out that they’ve had double digit growth for three years, they say “I guess so. But it’s been through sheer determination.”
- You are like one of my high performing business school students who chokes up when I tell him he’s a good son and brother for how he supports his family. He has great grades and wonderful friendships, yet all he can focus on is the fact that graduation is eight months away and he hasn’t secured a job.
- Or maybe you have a rising star on your team who is losing her own team members because of abrasive behavior. Instead of spending time learning to motivate her team, she can’t stop focusing on what’s still not done. Instead of delegating, she takes back work in frustration and belittles her team.
All of these people are experiencing success, but that success comes with considerable burnout. Below are several ideas around mindset that help me, and my clients, feel more restored and energized.
Start with healing your mindset: Tara Brach describes it in a meditation I listened to recently. We have “deep habits of judging ourselves.” To enjoy success without burnout, we need to restore ourselves regularly. Spend a few minutes following a mediation.
Get to know your inner critic: Stop for a moment and be with the voices in your head. Sounds funny, but overwhelm, procrastination, even being critical of others are often driven by the feelings linked to voices like, “I know I’ve missed something critical and we’re all going to look bad,” which is a version of, “I’m not good enough.” Success without burnout means knowing that perfectionism is a lie…but it’s tough. You have to slow down and ask, What does your critic say? What are your feelings underneath the message? To learn more about the inner critic, PositiveIntelligence.com is one of my favorite resources.
Understand your emotional triggers: The inner critic is within us. But often it’s situations outside that trigger those voices. Maybe someone is a stickler and it triggers your self-doubt about sometimes missing detail. Maybe someone else has a ton of charisma and you hate public speaking. What situations make you lose your mojo? Which people do the same? What is it about those situations and people? You might find there are common themes. Spend some time thinking about what the themes are and just sit with them. The more you avoid the feelings, the more they persist. Sometimes just immersing yourself in them has an incredible way of releasing them.
Change Your Habits: Once you know what your inner critic and triggers are, you can deal with them. Maybe before a meeting with the stickler, you need to prepare so you have your ducks in a row. Maybe when you are with the charismatic person, you need to speak up instead of letting things go. Habits don’t change just because we have an insight. Once you have the insight, break it down into specific actions and pace yourself. Try it once or twice. See how it goes. And create a new habit.
Appreciate What You’ve Done: The frantic pace of life today is one of burnout’s most powerful weapons. One of my favorite end-of-week activities is to look at the three to five things you did that week and for each write:
- What was the accomplishment?
- Why is it important?
- What would further progress look like?
- What are the immediate next steps, if any?
Write Three Things You Are Grateful for at the Start and End of Each Day: These gratitudes should be from the last 24 hours, not from life in general. For more, check out The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. Ending the day feeling good about how things are is a great way to be more present after work. And feeling free to focus on personal life evenings and weekends is an amazing way to restore, and counter the effects of burnout.
Resilience and Taking Action: One of the best ways to achieve success without burnout is to take initiative and stop avoiding things that feel hard or scary. A lot of learning is on the other side of action, and when we wait until we can be perfect, we lose the learning that builds confidence and experience. And confidence is a huge burnout buster. To get better at taking initiative, one of my favorite tools is to understand failure.
Resilience and Understanding Failure: There are four kinds of failure, but once you understand and embrace them, there really is no failure. Here they are:
Learning: When you’re on the right track and are doing something you’re excited about, bumps in the road are part of the journey. When those happen, pause to understand what happened so you can get the most from it.
Redirect: A redirect is like a learning failure, but it’s one that makes you change course, maybe a little, maybe a lot. This might be when you realize early in your career that you aren’t made for sales, or for accounting, or marketing, and you decide to change course. For a team, maybe you realize your marketing strategy didn’t work because sales are down, and you have to seriously rethink it.
Self-reflection: This is when a failure makes you hold a mirror to a deep assumption. Maybe you’ve stayed in a job because it looked good on paper, and you put that before your happiness. Or maybe you hired a friend to be on your team, it’s not working out and you have to confront that you put your friend before your team.
Transformative: These are major changes, like firing, bankruptcy. They tend to grow us and make us learn, but things won’t go back to being the same.
Getting comfortable with the ups and downs of performance without it being a comment on your character is important.
Too many of us think that success should deliver us from burnout, but often the pressure to perform that comes with success actually does the opposite. I hope these tips are helpful to you.
If you are experiencing burnout and would like to have a conversation, set up a time to talk.
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