“I don't have the energy to burn bright, I am too focused on trying not to burn out completely.”
This was a statement a client made to me during a session.
I have been there. Where I feel like every step I take forward taps into an energy reserve that is almost empty and the ‘destination’ remains far over the horizon.
When the light goes out
Let’s shine a light on how burn out may be experienced, you may be finding yourself:
- Completing a task but your mind is elsewhere
- At the end of the day and your response to the question “What did you do today?” is “I don’t know”
- Find yourself thinking “if I have to do this one more time, I’m going to scream”
- Cut corners when completing a task as you just want it to be finished.
- Make excuses not to show up or get involved.
And be feeling:
- A general malaise that impacts on your physically and emotionally.
Often the early warning signs of burn out are missed and we push these feelings to the side and ignoring the signs until:
- Others start to comment on our mood
- Our drop in performance is noticed by the boss, customers and clients
- We start to question the bigger choices we are making in our lives “is this the right job, relationship, place to live?”
Dancing the steps to self-leadership and burning bright
When I talk with my clients, from secondary school students or senior leaders self-leadership is a hot topic of the coaching conversation. Self-leadership is the practice of being intentional in your thinking, behaviours and feelings to achieve success (however you define that).
You are in the business of living. See yourself as the CEO of ‘the enterprise of living’ where you are required to manage the needs diverse people (friends, family, spouses and children) with full schedules and varying needs. Managing the details of this enterprise can find the leader (you), becoming intently focused on the tasks from one day to the next without taking the time to step back and assess what is working? What isn’t working? And defining the way forward?
These are essential questions to be asked weekly when living a life where you are burning bright and achieving sustainable success without sacrificing wellbeing.
Step #1: Ask
Ask yourself the big (and sometimes difficult) questions in life.
What is sacred to me?
What do I need in my life to be at my best?
To keep my light burning bright and at times of overwhelm, I ask “what are the things that I need in my life to function well? My answers are simple, when I am:
- Moving my body 5 days out of 7 in the fresh air
- Feeding my family home prepared meals most days of the week
- Keeping my home organised and clutter free
- Averaging 6 to 7 hours sleep a night during the week.
My spark remains alight.
Step #2: Do
Experiment with different activities and routines.
Sarah, a single parent works in a demanding and stimulating leadership position. Life is scheduled with her working late into the night after children are asleep. She is coping but is worrying about how long she can keep this pace up. She decided to make the most out of the structure that she has built into her life by scheduling in time-outs. Moments for her to restore her energy and keep the spark lit. These moments include a coffee shared with a friend, eating lunch outside the office in the sun, a walk in the early evening.
Step #3: Discover
Be open to new information, ideas, people and experiences. This is about tweaking habits and routines. When do you feel the most out of sorts? For me, it can be the mornings when I have to get everyone out of the house. After a particularly awful week, I decided to fine-tune how we did things. Each task or routine that I tweaked was only a small thing but, when combined, the end result was quite extraordinary.
Step #4: Commit to change
Make a decision, take action and see what works and what doesn’t. This isn’t about overhauling every system or process, it’s about small and significant changes you can make. Rebecca in her thirties, combines freelance work with full time work. Although she had suspicions she was drinking more than what was good for her, the real a-ha moment came when she was reviewing her budget and saw in black and white how much she was spending on alcohol. She committed to change by owning the size problem and set herself a realistic goal of two alcohol free days a week. On those two days, she started a new routine of exercising in the evening and made these her no drink days.
Step #5: Celebrate
It’s vital to acknowledge and celebrate efforts and achievements—even the ones that seem small. I call these my #champagnefridaymoments, those moments that make me want to ‘pop the cork’ in celebration. It may feel a little odd, but when you are struggling to burn bright 'concise yet regular' celebrations work. Don't overthink it. It can take less than 3 minutes recognise and celebrate your success by finishing this sentence: “Today my life was made more extraordinary by …."
Stop and celebrate a win, a success or something extraordinary that has bought you pleasure during the day, the hour on in the moment.
It is possible to achieve big without sacrificing joy, wellbeing and contentment …that’s what I call burning bright without burning out.