Frustrated woman with glasses pushed up her forehead asking what do I do when I'm feeling stuck?

One of the most popular questions I get is, “What do I do when I’m feeling stuck?”

It’s a question based on motivation. The question really being asked is, “How do I overcome my lack of motivation?”

I get it.

I struggle with motivation too.

Honestly, if I worked out when I was motivated, I’d work out maybe twice a week. More than likely, once. (Or none at all!)

Motivation, outside of the beginning thrust on a new and exciting project, is largely useless in personal development.

Instead, we need to rely on discipline. Building a life of discipline is simple (not necessarily easy), but it is rewarding.

Here are three ways to build a life of discipline:

1.) Create clear and compelling goals

As I’ve written about before, clear and compelling goals are the greatest asset you have to overcome the lack of motivation.

Good goals are SMARTER

Specific Frustrated woman with glasses pushed up her forehead asking what do I do when I'm feeling stuck?

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Timely

Energizing

Rewarding

A lack of motivation could mean that our goals aren’t clear enough. A bigger problem is that we don’t reward ourselves for a job well done. As Shawn Achor highlights in his TEDTalk (and amazing book), by failing to reward ourselves for achieving our goals, we subtly teach our brains that our work doesn’t matter. In other words, by failing to reward our progress we learn that progress doesn’t matter.

Our brain says, “What’s the point?” and gives up.

If you’re struggling with the question “What do I do when I’m feeling stuck?” create clear, simple, and compelling goals.

2.) Be a Part of a Community

It’s hard to go it alone. Whether you’re an entrepreneur growing a business, a spouse improving a marriage, or a coach in athletics, you can’t do the journey of life alone.

Find a supportive community to help.

A community provides support, encouragement, perspective, and wisdom. It gives us strength when we are weak and positivity in a world filled with the negative.

A community of like-minded voices gives us the endurance and accountability to press on when we feel like giving up.

If you’re struggling with the question “What do I do when I’m feeling stuck?” find others to walk the journey with you.

3.) Hire a Coach

A lot of coaching is accountability. More than the community, a good coach asks reflective questions, highlights understanding, deepens insight, and inspires action.

Great coaches help you see through your own bias, false beliefs, internal narratives, and weak spots. They equip you with the tools to overcome those rough edges. They leave you accountable to your action plan.

Just last week I was working with a client who didn’t complete all of his growth homework for the week. After talking about it, we discovered that it was an important goal, but not the most important.

Instead, before hiring another employee (his task he gave himself for the week) he needed to free up time in his calendar (his new task). With more free time, he would be able to get new business, get caught up on billing, and have space to mentor and onboard effectively. Completing these tasks would ultimately do much more than “hire an employee” and instead give him the capacity to build his business.

That’s a much more effective use of time!

Coaches can shorten the time it takes to learn tasks, complete projects, and accelerate to succes.

Looking for any of those? I’d love to walk with you on that journey.

If you’re struggling with the question “What do I do when I’m feeling stuck?” hire a coach!

To truly transform your life, you must be willing to turn up the temperature on your relationships.

To truly transform your life, you must be willing to turn up the temperature on your relationships.

Cold-Blooded Animals

My wife teaches third grade and recently finished up a unit on cold-blooded animals. Throughout the unit, she reinforced the idea to the children that cold-blooded animals regulate their body temperature through external circumstances.

If the outside is cold, they are cold, and they have to find a way to warm up.

If the outside is warm, these animals are warm, and they need to go somewhere to cool off.

Humans, scientifically, are warm-blooded animals. We have an internal regulator device that helps keep us warm.

Unfortunately, when it comes to other areas of life, like relationships, humans tend to act cold-blooded.

Understanding External Circumstances

We, humans, are a funny bunch. We have this incredible ability to make up conflict and fear in our heads from perceived threats.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever lost sleep at night wondering what your coworker, friend, child, or significant thought of you.

*I’ll raise mine first.*

It’s a natural tendency. Our brains, uncontrolled, make up things for us to be afraid of. I’ve lost track of how many times I, or one of my clients, have feared a conversation they were going to have with another individual.

Inside of our own head, it usually goes something like this:

Oh now. I need to tell Samantha what happened last Friday at the meeting. I’ll be she’ll be upset. When she’s upset I’ll have to reassure her. I’ll start by letting her know I’ve already resubmitted the proposal. When she gets angry that I did that, I’ll tell her I was forced to. If she becomes irate, I’ll calm her down by …

The power of our brain can easily transform any situation into a quickly escalating argument of emotion.

We think fearfully. Because of this, we enter the situation fearfully. Finally, we unknowingly project that fearfulness on the other person. They sense that and respond out of fear. The cycle escalates. We think we proved our own instincts right.

The problem is that this really isn’t the case. This, from the example above, is a cold-blooded response. We feel as though we are victims of the circumstances around us. Unable to control the outcome, we give up the power to someone or something else to avoid personal responsibility.

The Warm-Blooded Response

There is another choice. It’s what I call the warm-blooded response. It is the internal regulation of circumstances and control.

Think of the thermostat in your living room. If a window is open to blow in a breeze and it gets too cool, the thermostat, ever in control, turns on the heater to warm the room up.

If warm air accumulates inside the room, the thermostat is still in control and turns on the air conditioning.

Either way, the thermostat controls the outside environment instead of letting the environment control it. To truly transform your life, you must be willing to turn up the temperature on your relationships.

We have the same power in our relationships.

Recently, I was working with a client who offers a public service. He has both his own service route and a warranty side to his company where he operates as an independent contractor for a large manufacturer. 

It was time for his yearly review with the customer service director for the large manufacturer, a meeting that my client always hates. In the past, the meeting has not gone well, and the relationship with the manufacturing company is fractured.

Before his meeting, he called me to review some of the information he was going to present. Most of our time, however, was spent on his mindset. If he went into the phone call expecting negativity, he was sure to find it.

If however, he went in under the assumption that they wanted him to win, grow his business, and bless him, he’d find that as well. He committed himself to look positively at the situation and providing honesty and insight into the manufacturer’s warranty replacement policy that he worked under.

Right after the meeting, he called and said that it went extremely well. The representative heard him throughout the conversation,  and he got amazing reviews from the company. They made some suggestions for improvements, and he now has a better relationship with this manufacturing company than he has had in years.

All because of his outlook.

Relational Health For Leadership Health

As we continue our look at seven areas of health that are vital to avoiding burnout, we must look at relationships. Our closest relationships can be both the source of burnout if done poorly and the greatest contributing factor to health if done properly.

So how do we set a healthy relational course? In two key ways.

1.) Commit to being a thermostat. 

The first step is to be the thermostat in your relationships. Realize that you are in complete and total control of how strong your relationships are. You control how often you take your spouse on a date, call up an old friend, hit the golf course with a coworker, and how large your network is.

If you want something, be in control of your own actions enough to get it. Regulate the temperature. If you want a better marriage, raise your own temperature of commitment, and build one.

2.) Be in a room set warmer than your own.

The second step is to realize that you don’t have to do it alone and get help. If your marriage is struggling and you want a better one, don’t go get advice from your uncle that has been divorced three times.

Build a friendship with someone who has been married for 50 years!

If you want your business to grow, create friendships with successful business owners.

To get out of debt listen to someone without any, instead of your friend sleeping on your couch.

Each of these is an intentional act to “raise the temperature” of the room you find yourself in. You’ll slowly start to acclimate to your new environment and rise to the occasion.

Relational health is vital to leadership health Examining your key relationships and keeping them strong, vibrant, and life-giving is the only way to remain healthy and avoid burnout.

What’s your current temperature?


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.

Spiritually Healthy Leadership Blog Post Cover, a forest with a bridge and a quote superimposed on Sabbath practices.

Spiritually healthy leadership grounds high-achievers by connecting them with their purpose as they seek to influence the world. In this installment of our “Healthy Leader” series, we examine this idea of spiritually healthy leadership.

Spiritual Health: Connecting With The Divine

I spent nearly a decade in pastoral ministry before fully embracing my call as a coach. Each position led me a step closer in the process, but there was always a sense of, “this is not quite it…” when it came to feeling fulfilled.

Over the course of that decade, I learned a lot about myself, belonging in a community, healthy boundaries, interpersonal relationships, and effective communication. I spent time at every level of leadership.

At every point along the way, and with every “promotion” that was gifted to me (we can talk later about why I hate that term when applied to the church…) I found that I had fewer and fewer people to talk to. My friend list grew smaller, my mentors became fewer, and the circle of close confidants decreased.

When I started working with executives, I found the same was true with them. The higher they were on the ladder, the fewer people they had to talk to. That was, at least in part, their need for a coach. They looked around and realized they had no one to talk to.

Most of the time, I was (or at least felt) alone. The executives I worked with echoed that pain. Maybe you too can relate.

When I wasn’t alone, and people were genuinely trying to support me, we talked about a wide range of topics.

  • Marriage
  • Family
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • How much work I was doing
  • The quality of my preaching

Never once, not once in ten years, did someone ever ask: how are you at connecting with God? Is your spiritual life healthy?

A New Direction

That was part of my journey into both my doctoral school program and hiring my own coach. I needed that accountability. Studies, like one conducted by the Percept Group, seem to echo this, with nearly one-third of Los Gatos residents polled identifying “dealing with stress” as their chief spiritual concern. (1)

This in part explains the rise of contemplative prayer and mediation among leaders. There is a recognition that part of the human condition is wired to connect with something beyond ourselves. Spiritually Healthy Leadership Blog Post Cover, a forest with a bridge and a quote superimposed on Sabbath practices.

I teach an eastern philosophy class. In it, we examine Steve Jobs’ affection for Buddhism and how other great leaders are implementing some of these teachings. These leaders are yearning for something outside of the physical and temporal to belong to.

In general then, here are some practices and guidelines to help you grow and cultivate a healthy spiritual side of leadership.

Cultivating Spiritual Health

Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual disciplines offer a historically rooted approach to healthy leadership. Disciplines have always been an important component for people of faith. Through self-sacrifice, we discover deeper meaning, significance, and a sense of calling.

In his seminal work on the spiritual disciplines, Richard Foster notes their importance when he says,

“The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond the surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm. They urge us to be the answer to a hollow world.” (2)

There are many forms of spiritual disciplines like fasting, prayer, mediation, holy pilgrimages, silence, forgiveness, solitude, and tithing.

The point in each of these is the same: denying some aspect of yourself or your personal will to spend time listening and connecting with God and his guiding power.

“Few things will keep us on course in the exercise of our leadership and facilitate the care of our soul as much as a meaningful prayer when engaged in consistently.” (3)

Rest

Many leaders find it hard to take regular time off. The demands of their job, the joy of feeling needed, and the unexpected crises or tendencies of workaholism can make it hard to pull away from the demands of work.

To combat this, the ancient Jewish people instituted a practice called sabbath. More than a day off, the sabbath is a specific and intentional time to rejuvenate and recharge emotionally and spiritually.

This rest includes the need for extended vacation days as well. Workers operating under increasingly stressful conditions are taking what seems to be a smart approach by working more to meet demand. The problem is that the increased workload does not equal increased productivity. In the law of diminishing return, and most studies show this, maximum productivity happens somewhere around 30-35 hours.

Operating in a job of high demand and need it’s easy to feel needed and guilty for taking time off. But a refusal to take time off can exacerbate the problem of burnout. In addition to regular Sabbath rest, leaders must use their full allotment of vacation time. This is not happening, as a 2019 study found. (4)

Staying Spiritually Fit

Spirituality can be a tough subject to talk about. The common American mantra to not talk about politics and religion has hurt our public decorum. Smart employers, and high-capacity leaders, remain vigilant in their quest for staying healthy in all areas of life.

This includes spiritual health, however, the leader defines that.

In future posts, we’ll continue to intertwine areas of health and explore how creative outputs like hobbies contribute to a well-rounded leader.

How do you remain spiritually healthy?


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.


Sources:

(1). Source: Ferguson, Jane K., Eleanor W. Willemsen, and MayLynn V. Castañeto. 2010. Centering prayer as a healing response to everyday stress: A psychological and spiritual process. Pastoral Psychology 59 (3) (06): 305-29.

Original Study: Percept Group. (2004). Ministry Area Profile 2004 Compass Report for Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, 219 Bean Avenue, Los Gatos, CA 95030, Study Area Definition: Custom Polygon 1990–2004. Rancho Santa Margarita, CA: Percept Group.

(2). Source: Foster, Richard J. “The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation.” Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 1. Rev. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

(3). Source: Rima, Samuel D. “Spiritual Self Leadership.” Leading from the Inside Out: The Art of Self-leadership, 138. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2000.

(4) Source: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/unused-vacation-days-trnd/index.html

 

The angel tells Elijah to go take a nap

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to tell yourself, “Go take a nap!”

This is a continuing series. Today’s post is “Go take a nap.” In this series, we are examining leadership burnout and the steps you need to implement as a leader to avoid (and recover from) burnout.

Contain within the Hebrew Scriptures is one of my favorite stories of all time. Written like a great movie blockbuster, this story has it all.

Murder.

Betrayal.

The beginning of a revolution.

Drama.

Rebellion.

Intrigue.

The Backstory

Elijah, a prophet to the nation of Israel is confronting the King. The wicked ruler Ahab has ravaged the lady with wife, the cruel and anti-God Jezebel. Elijah, the one urging the people to remain faithful to God, can only do so by confronting the King. The angel tells Elijah to go take a nap

In 1 Kings 18, he does just that. After years of prophecy, it is time for action. Elijah emerges from a foreign town called Zarephath (which means ‘melting pot’, probably a sign that it had economic ties to military arms production).1 Elijah, a prophet of Israel, emerges from his hiding place, located inside of Israel’s enemy, from a town producing tools to destroy Israel, to tell the king it’s time to face the music. The nerve of Elijah. 

Yet as we shall see, this will also set the stage for his coming burnout.

Elijah confronts the king, his evil wife Jezebel, and her wayward prophets of Baal in a showdown to determine the true ruler of Israel. A comedic set of circumstances follow.

Elijah seemingly gives the prophets of Baal every advantage. They get to build their altar first, perhaps ending the confrontation early if Baal shows up. They get to pick the best bull for the sacrifice, and they can have as long as they want to win the showdown.

After hours of worship and devotion to Baal, the prophets begin to tire. Elijah starts taunting them. Here, many translations limit the effectiveness of this passage by saying that perhaps Baal is busy traveling, deep in thought.

A better and more literal translation has Elijah taunting the prophets of Baal that perhaps they caught him while he was going to the bathroom. Baal would surely come to their rescue just as soon as he could finish relieving himself. How embarrassing!

Elijah’s Response

After taunting the prophets, Elijah changes his tone. Now, he gathers the watching Israelites and begins to instruct them in the proper way to live. The drought the nation is experiencing is because of their inability and lack of desire to follow God. The drought will end when they realize this.

He rebuilds their broken altar, has the bull sacrificed, orders water poured on it, and prays to God to accept the sacrifice. Immediately, fire from heaven consumes the offering, the altar, and the water. The people are astonished.

Elijah orders the false prophets killed and murders over 400 people. Because of their faithfulness, the people will be rewarded with rain.

Elijah warns the king to prepare. After three years of no rain, it is about to become a torrential downpour!

The Burnout

At the conclusion of this story, Elijah is exhausted.

The teaching.

The sacrifice.

The murder.

Additionally, the text tells us that Elijah then flees the scene and runs to another town that was twenty miles away.

It is here that Elijah falls victim to burnout. He has started to believe his own hype and self-importance. One author comments

“Elijah, in fact, is a vivid biblical example of Freudenberger’s observation that burnout “is the letdown that comes between crises or directly after ‘mission accomplished.’”… He expended a great deal of physical, emotional, and spiritual energy in his conflict with the prophets of Baal…His success caused the Israelites and their king to come back to the worship of the only true God. Shortly after that incident, he expended more energy by climbing to the top of Mount Carmel, spending an intense period of time in prayer… and, when that prayer was answered…outran King Ahab’s chariot.”2

The story then tells us that Elijah is overwhelmed and wishes he were dead. He complains to God. To him, death is better than continuing down this path.

(On a side note, we see this in burnout all the time. It’s one leading reason why the highest spike in suicide happens on Sunday night as people start preparing to go back to a job they hate).

God’s Response

In words that I have come to use often on myself and others when they are feeling overwhelmed, I love God’s response.

After listening to Elijah he gives his two commands: eat something and take a nap.

Elijah, you just did something important. You accomplished a big goal. Then you ran twenty miles. You’re tired. Exhausted. Spent. Have some meat. Eat some bread. Drink some water. Then go take a nap. We’ll talk after that.

Elijah follows these commands, and wouldn’t you know it, he wakes up refreshed and ready for the next challenge.

We too need to hear these words. After significant challenges, we can fall victim to overwhelm.

Don’t listen to those voices!

In future posts, we’re going to look at specific ways to prevent and fight against burnout. For now, it is enough to know this: if you’re exhausted, eat something and then go take a nap. We can talk after that.


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.


Sources:

1.) Brueggemann, Walter. 1 Kings. Knox Preaching Guides. John H. Hayes. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.

2.) Minirth, Frank B. “Unfulfilled Expectations: The Burnout Burden.” In Beating Burnout: Balanced Living for Busy People, 41-42. New York: Inspirational Press, 1997.

Street arrow with work on purpose text overlay

One of the most frequent phrases I tell myself is to, “Work With Purpose.”

Every day, I am given the chance to do something meaningful and make a difference for others. Through coaching and consulting, I help my clients break through their mental barriers and experience a real and lasting transformation.

But there’s more to it than that.

I remind myself that working with purpose affects every area of life.

The way I parent.

How I interact with my spouse.

The type of community member I am.

Where I spend my free time and volunteer hours. Street arrow with work on purpose text overlay

Each and every component of who I am gets run through the grid of what it means to work with purpose. To help me stay focused, I ask myself three primary questions.

Question One: Does it bring meaning and purpose?

Behind this question is the idea of joy in the work I do. It reminds me to engage with work that I deem as significant.

It eliminates distraction.

Gone are the days (mostly) where I feel like I did a lot of work without getting a lot done. Instead, now I make sure to plan my days and do fewer tasks, but each with intentionality that gives meaning and purpose to the work I do.

Question Two: Does it bring long-lasting consequences?

Want to live a wasted life? Think only in terms of short-term, instant-gratification results.

Want to work with purpose? Think long term. Now thing longer.

I’m not talking about six months or a year. I’m talking 10, 20, or 50 years from now. Some of the decisions I make today are because I’ve intentionally thought about the effect this may have on my grandkids when they are working.

My actions are filtered through an eternal perspective.

To work with purpose, I think less in terms of what feels good now, and instead how good discipline in the moment, however unwanted, produces long-term fruit that can be harvested for several generations.

Question Three: Does it help someone else?

This last question is about service. I don’t want to engage in work that is only (or even predominately) self-service. I want to help others. One of the clearest calls and commands in my life is that I am here for the benefit of others.

It’s why I coach, teach, consult, podcast, parent, write, speak, and volunteer.

I want my work to be filled with meaning and purpose.

I want it to bless those that come after me

And I want it to have an immediate impact on those around me.

That’s what it means to engage in work with purpose.

 

Attend the 2021 Building With Purpose Conference on April 1.