Last week we examined the necessity of talking about burnout.

If we want to prevent leadership burnout, we must first acknowledge it. This week, we want to create a plan for resisting burnout. Below are four things Jesus did. We can implement similar and visions to have sustained leadership success.

Resisting Burnout

Jesus, from the very inception of his public ministry, took intentional action steps to prevent ministry burnout. Aware of the potential dangers and the high price of public demand, Jesus regularly withdrew and practiced steps to healthy spirituality.

Resisting Burnout is a process.

Here are 4 action steps for leadership health.

1.) Clarity in Calling

Jesus’ first act after his baptism was to withdraw to the wilderness and develop clarity in his calling. Christians claim Jesus as God and  therefore temptations he faces in Luke four have often been thought of as “no big deal.” The mindset is that if God can’t sin, these temptations didn’t really bother Jesus. This sells the narrative short. The real temptations behind all of these are what kind of Messiah Jesus is going to be. Behind each of these temptations is a short cut.

Leadership Shortcuts

In the first temptation, he is tempted to transform rocks into bread.

His physical hunger, a legitimate need after forty days in the wilderness, is becoming the focus of the first attack. Clearly there is legitimacy to this need; after forty days of fasting, Jesus needs to eat. The shortcut is to be a one-stop food production worker. Thousands of enslaved Israelites are about to meet him and would love the chance at free food. Satan knows that if Jesus stays busy producing food for the masses, he will never have time or be a threat to conquer death and sin.

We can face similar temptations in our own leadership journey. People will look to us to help them accomplish good things. But good is the enemy of great. Don’t take your eyes off your ultimate calling by settling for something less. Resisting burnout requires clarity of vision.

The second temptation is to worship Satan and be given the status of ruler over the earth.

Satan’s hope here is to usurp God’s authority in the life of Jesus with his own. If Jesus worships Satan, then there is no need for a political-religious showdown with the local rulers. The status quo can be maintained.

Wise leadership knows when to upset the status quo and start a new direction. Courageous leadership takes action when action is required, knowing that the end destination will be worth the temporary pain of change. Resisting burnout requires courageous action.

The final temptation is to jump from the temple and be miraculously saved by angels.

Enthralled masses would soon want to follow this daredevil, Jesus. He would be so busy planning his next death-defying escape that he wouldn’t have time for social and religious transformation. Always needing to please the crowd, Jesus would waste his days performing magic tricks instead of freeing enslaved people.

Called leaders do not settle for being crowd-pleasers. Instead, while they hope to inspire those that follow them, they are more concerned about doing what is right and living in the full depth of their calling. Resisting burnout requires internal strength.

The Danger of Settling

The dangerous grounds for each of these is that Jesus ends up doing all of these tasks any way.

  • Jesus does feed the hungry masses in spectacular ways.
  • He does perform miracles that draw crowds
  • He is crowned and given authority over the earth.

Yet as it relates to burnout prevention we see something important: Jesus does and is able to accomplish these things because he first spent time clarifying his calling and who he was in God. Leaders must use this same sort of diligence.

There will always be the temptation for leaders to fall prey to these temptations in one way or another: the need for validation, the false sense of urgency, or the cheap thrill of mindless entertainment.

Only when someone has been sufficiently grounded in both calling and character are they able to produce lasting and beneficial leadership.

2.) Solitude and Prayer

Another important rhythm that Jesus engages in is to regularly retreat for prayer and solitude. One author records,

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

The demands of leadership are tiring to the body and the soul. By instilling regular rhythms of rest and retreat, leaders can fight against fatigue.

Regular intervals might include:

  • Daily disciplines like prayer, exercise, and meditation.
  • Monthly half-day getaways for extended silence away from technology.
  • Quarterly retreats for planning and visioning.
  • Yearly vacations and times of Sabbath rest.

3.) Focus On The Right Perspectives

The Gospel of Mark records a telling story about Jesus’ perspectives in ministry. Even in the midst of tremendous need, Jesus tells his disciples that it is time to move on from one location to another. He reminds them that they must travel throughout the countryside and to other towns and villages.

The current population wants Jesus to localized and claim him as their own. Jesus refutes this desire and offers a larger perspective about the work he is up to.

Leaders today will face similar temptations. Getting stuck into work ruts, ignoring vision for the day-to-day mundane, the desire to be liked, or the inability to say no. Called and courageous leaders must resist all of these temptations.

4.) Personal Relationships

Two key markers are important to note in an examination of Jesus’ personal relationships.

First, there is the frustration of isolation. The elevation of the leader in the mind of the organization often leaves them with few (if any) close friends or trusted confidants. All relationships essentially become working relationships and lack a personal feel. Jesus builds a personal ministry with close confidants, not only seeking to train the disciples but to confide in them and relate to them as people. Jesus, in eating with his followers and in visiting their homes, shows that while he is here to accomplish a mission, people are the focus and deserve his best.

Second is Jesus’ investment in others. Jesus spent significant time investing in other people: his twelve disciples, a larger group of seventy-two followers, and the masses. Within each of these spheres, he invests in the well-being of others through mentoring, training and education.

What is often lost in the hectic pace of leadership is a commitment to invest, mentor, and train others. When tasks become more important than people and result more important than a process, leaders lose the opportunity for influence. To break free from this misaligned perspective, leaders must regain focus on investing time with people and bring them into further stages of development.

 

Need help or guidance? Schedule a free strategy session to help you in resisting burnout.

Setting the Stage

In the back of the lobby, I burst into tears. The conference was over, but that wasn’t why I was crying. Instead, I felt like I was alone. The conference itself was fantastic. High energy, excellent learning, great camaraderie. Yet somehow, I felt excluded. The conference was designed for church planters, and I wasn’t one. Instead, I was struggling to turn around an already established church. I had attended hoping to gain some insight and left disappointed. The message I received was, “Your job is too hard, too difficult, and too low of a success rate. Try something different instead.

That was my introduction to the world of burnout. It started me on a nearly decade long journey of trying to help people overcome it. It’s what led me to doctoral school and to start my coaching business. The reality of burnout among high performing leaders is what fuels me to get up and work every day. It’s beatable. It’s preventable. It’s avoidable.

Talk About Burnout

As it turns out, one of the easiest ways to break both the stigma and the devastating influences of burnout is to talk about it. In one interview I conducted with a mental health professional and professor, he said, “We talk about it. We talk about it a lot … we frame it as an ethical mandate and don’t give people a choice. We tell them from day one that they have an ethical mandate and responsibility to themselves, their clients, and to God to be healthy in all areas of their life.”

For him, the discussion of mental health and burnout is a necessary conversation. It’s the only way to stop it.

So let’s talk about it.

There are two primary foci that need to be addressed to create a longterm sustainable solution to burnout. One focus is the personal sphere and the second is the cultural dimension. It is this cultural dimension that is often overlooked.

Maslach and Leiter in their book The Truth About Burnout highlight the great disservice that is done when burnout is discussed only in terms of the personal sphere.

“The conventional wisdom is that burnout is primarily a problem of the individual. That is, people burnout out because of flaws in their characters, behavior, or productivity. According to this perspective, people are the problem, and the solution is to change them or get rid of them.

But our research argues most emphatically otherwise. As a result of extensive study, we believe that burnout is not a problem of the people themselves but of the social environment in which people work. The structure and functioning of the workplace shape how people interact with one another and how they carry out their jobs. When the workplace does not recognize the human side of work, then the risk of burnout grows, carrying a high price with it.”

Cultural fit is just as responsible for burnout as the personal sphere, and to ignore either one of these equations does harm to all those involved.  The responsibility for healthy leadership involves both the personal mandate for care and a cultural level of agreeability.

The trouble with burnout is that there is more than physical and task-related demands. Since all jobs carry a myriad of stressors, there are also the demands of time, spiritual resources, and availability. Contemporary leaders are expected to lead like a CEO, steward financial resources, care for their own physical bodies, maintain family responsibilities, invest in others, commit to overtime, manage the team, and produce tangible results.

The end result is extreme fatigue and burnout.

A Quick Tip Win

We can’t possibly hope to stop the burnout trend in a single blog post (or even a blog series). But I do hope to make a difference. (Quick side note: this is why I switched to the weekly posting schedule. We’re going to take a week to talk about this on my various social media platforms, so if you’re not following me in other places, now is a great time to do so):

Instagram Facebook  Twitter Podcast  YouTube  Mailing List

But, if you’re feeling that overwhelm set in and know that burnout is coming if you keep your current pace up, here are three quick things you can do to help fight against this.

1.) Learn to say “No” and be O.K. with it. Burnout happens when we are overcommitted. Say no to regain time and margin in your schedule.

2.) Go fly a kite. Or play cards. Nap. Read. Go for a job. The point is: find a hobby that you want to do just because it is enjoyable and then make time to do that as often as possible.

3.) Talk about it. Talk about burnout. Talk about your fear. Name it. Find a trusted person to confide it. Don’t let it consume you. If the way to overcome it is to talk about burnout, talk about it to anyone who will listen.

What advice would you give someone struggling with burnout? Leave a comment below!

LeaderQuest Podcast – Episode 9

How do you begin with the end in mind?

By being clear on where you want to end up in life.

Think of a journey, you’d never just get in your car with a half a tank of gas and randomly drive, hoping to end up somewhere fun. Instead, you’d know where you want to end up, fill up the gas tank, and plug the destination into your GPS. With the plan, you know how to succeed.

That’s what we’re talking about this week. Join Justin and Elise as they talk about how to create the life plan and vision of living life on purpose.

Connect with Justin

As always, thank you for listening! I really appreciate it.
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Woman sitting in theatre chair with a disappointed look on her face.

The Start of The Problem

At the end of my fifth-grade year, I took part in our annual school play. Put on entirely by the fifth graders, it was supposed to be a way to introduce kids to the arts program before band, music, and other opportunities opened up.

For me, it became a self-defeating narrative that plagued me long into adulthood.

When the parts of the play were announced, I was excited. I had always been an outgoing, energetic, and rambunctious kid. Fairly outgoing, I thought that this would be a wonderful time to explore acting.

I got the practice lines and spent weeks rehearsing them.

Before school.

After school.

With friends.

In the mirror.

I wanted to nail one of the lead roles.

After the auditions, the music teacher announced the roles by posting them on the bulletin board outside her classroom. I excitedly went up to find my name.

Except, it wasn’t listed alongside any of the starting roles. Or any of the secondary roles.

On the roster, I was listed dead last. In fact, I think my official role was titled, “Person #6” or something like that.

The rule was that everyone had to have a part. I was listed even below my friends who wanted no part in the play. It was almost like they went, “Oh crap. Not everyone has a part. Let’s make some up.”

I felt like a failure.

Hurt.

Embarrassed.

My only part was at the very end of the play. After almost an hour and a half of watching everyone else get up on stage and do something exciting, I got into position for my scene.

What did I do?

At the very back of the stage, behind all the singing and dancing of almost the entire fifth-grade class, I walked from stage left to stage right.

No stopping.

No speaking.

No interaction.

The Biggest Failure I Ever Had

That moment is the biggest failure I ever had.

Well, not quite, but I also see how that experience, in many ways, led to a lot of my other failures.

From that moment I took away a feeling of shame and embarrassment.

I let that moment define much of the next 25 years of my life in one way or another.

Woman sitting in theatre chair with a disappointed look on her face.
The Biggest Failure I ever made.

Why try something new? You’ll just be “Person #6” again.

Why put yourself out there? Remember the last time you did that how you got nothing out of it anyway? Just quit.

“You’re not good enough.”

“Don’t embarrass yourself again.”

“You’re a loser.”

“You can’t do anything right.”

My narrative, until I was almost thirty resonated with many of these thoughts. Thankfully, through years and years of therapy, coaching, and personal development I have been able to (mostly) shake that false narrative.

The real tragedy

But there is a real tragedy and a real failure in all of this.

One that I could easily say is the biggest failure I ever had.

What is it?

I listened to that awful narrative. For nearly twenty years, I let one failure and setback dictate the rest of my life.

It was why I could never be a good enough student.

Run for a school position.

Emerge as a leader.

Become a good husband.

Be a good father.

The biggest mistake I ever had, was letting my mistakes define me.

Having a growth mindset

Now, after those years of therapy, coaching, and personal development I try to practice a growth mindset.

A firm and unwavering belief that I can (and will) learn from any and every situation.

Tried a new weight limit for squat? Got buried at the bottom. Okay, not a big deal. What can I learn to improve and get stronger?

Lost my temper with my kids? Not who I want to be. What happened? How can I better control my emotions?

Lost a sale or business venture? It happens. How can I improve so I close the deal the next time?

Nelson Mandela once said, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.”

That’s a key foundation to a growth mindset.

Failure is only fatal, only final if we use it as an excuse to quit or give up. Otherwise, it’s a learning opportunity.

Don’t let the greatest failure you ever make be the acceptance of a (false) limiting belief or narrative about your life. Embrace failure and use it to make yourself, and those around you, better.

 


 

What’s your greatest failure?

What lesson have you learned from it?

Leave a comment below!

Goalless Drifter

After my college graduation, I had a conversation with my older brother about what was next in life. Everyone, it seemed, had a keen interest in me up to that point. They always wanted to know I wanted to be when I grew up, what college I was going to, and what I was going to major in.

But I never had one conversation about what happened after that. How do I start a successful marriage (I didn’t do that one well)? How do I grow in emotional health (took a lot of trips to the therapist’s office)? How do I pass on key values to my children (still figuring that one out…)?

The problem was that no one had taught me how to set goals for what came after graduation.

I wasted a lot of time (and hurt a lot of people) because I was a goalless drifter.

People without goals are people without a future.

Ready, Set, Goal!

One key to sustainable success is the daily habit of setting, reviewing, and reestablishing goals.

One of my practices is to use Michael Hyatt’sFull Focus Planner . I’ve used it for over a year now and absolutely love both the structure and order it gives me, while also allowing a great deal of freedom in the process.

I’ve also discovered the power of paper and what it means to write goals down. It’s easy to think, “My goal is…” because we often forget it. But by writing goals down, it not only gives us a visual reminder of what we’re trying to accomplish but cements it into our brain better.

 

By getting clear and specific on what we are aiming at, we gain a strategic advantage to sustainable success. The key discipline though is to make our goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R.

S.M.A.R.T.E.R Goals

When you’re ready to say, “Ready, Set, Goal!” you must begin by making sure you have the right format.

S: Specific. Make sure the goals you set are clear on the intended destination. Don’t think, “Lose weight.” Instead write, “I want to lose twenty pounds.”

M: Measurable. Similar to specific, measurable makes sure that what you’re aiming for can actually be hit. Avoid using jargon or filler words in your goal-setting times. Don’t think, “Be more productive.” Instead, write that you want to, “Use my time wisely by spending no more than thirty minutes a day on social media.” Ouch. That one may hurt a bit, but it’s measurable. You can use apps or the integrated Apple Screen Time (if you’re an iPhone user) to track how you’re spending your time on your phone.

A: Actionable. Start your goals with action-oriented verbs (as opposed to “to-be” verbs). This focuses your attention on what needs to be accomplished. Don’t write, “Be better at date nights.” Instead, try, “Take my spouse on one date night every week.” Now you know how to take action to accomplish your goal.

R: Realistic. This one can be challenging, and we’ll talk about short and long term goals in a second. But realism is important in goal setting. Too often, goals fail because they either don’t inspire us or are unattainable. Realistic goals should do both. “Complete my ebook and submit to the publisher by the end of quarter three.” This goal meets the first three points and is entirely realistic (even if you’re not very far into your book). However creating a goal like, “Establish the first hotel chain on the moon by the end of the year” meets the first three steps in the process, but not the last one. To take action that inspires, your goal must be reasonable.

T: Timely. Put some hustle in it. This is where I work hard with my clients to push ourselves on our goals. Strive for greatness and see what you can do. If your goal is to gain three new speaking opportunities for your business, fantastic! But put yourself under a time constraint to reach that goal. “Acquire three new speaking opportunities by the end of August.” It’s clear, concise, and gives you a visible target to know if you’ve hit your goal. It also pushes you to keep working and avoid drifting from your goal. The end of August is coming up quick after all.

E: Exciting. Your goals should scare you a little bit. If not, you’ll never grow. This is honestly one of my big descriptors for the clients that I work with. We always work a little scared. If you’re making $50,000 a year and want to work with me, and your goal is to make $50,000 next year as well, we probably won’t be a good fit. You still might have some great goals, but I want my clients to push themselves. My clients are making $50,000 but want to make $125,000. They know they need to get serious about pursuing their dreams.

And it works in all areas of life too. Want a better marriage? Don’t take your spouse on four dates a year, take them on two a week. That shows me you’re serious about reprioritizing your schedule to thrive in your relationship.

R: Relevant. This one matters, but more in the daily habits of life. I regularly review my goals to make sure they are still what I want. Every year, I sit down and try to project out a year to set goals throughout. A number of times I’ve set a goal in January, gotten to May, and then realized it was no longer relevant. That’s not a bad thing! Those goals pushed me and stretched me in new ways that have forever changed me. But in that growth process, I realized that I needed to rechart my course and set a new destination.

Don’t be afraid to reevaluate your goals and start a new direction. That’s the fun part of goal setting.

Clear goals

+

Daily Habits

=

Lasting Success!

 

If you’re wanting to know where to start, I’m launching a Habit and Performance Mastermind Group. To find out more, set some goals in a supportive community, and take your life to the next level, click this link.