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):

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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!

One Thing

One of the things I give every coaching client is the “High-Performance Scorecard.” It’s a postcard-sized printout designed to be carried with them in their day-planner or another medium that works for them.

It reinforces many of the mental habits we talk about, keeps them focused on their goals, and gives them “check-in” techniques when they are feeling distracted.

But there’s also one focus item on there that says, “What’s one thing I did today to pursue my goals: ______________________”

After spending hours designing this scorecard, I think this is one of the most important questions on there.

Why?

Because, as a High-Performer training other high-performers, here’s what I’ve learned: we have trouble acknowledging the day-in-day-out habits of success.

I have big dreams. I write them down, track them, andmeticulously refine them to be perfect.

But if I’m honest, some days (more than I care to admit) I think “But what did I really do to get closer to my goals?”

In the day-in-day-out grind of the entrepreneurial life, I often feel like I don’t do things of consequence.

Writing a blog is a part of my business, nothing heroic.

Same with coaching a client.

And Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and email.

Networking is hard but necessary, so nothing special there.

And that’s precisely my problem. When I can convince myself that nothing matters then nothing ends up mattering.

So I put that question in the scorecard to remind my clients that what you do absolutely matters, 100% of the time.

Because what’s the alternative? Not writing the blog post? Now that would be a tragedy.

Not coaching, not engaging in social media, and not networking would mean the end to my business.

So in reality, it’s those little things that do matter. It’s the little things that add up to big wins. Big wins lead to success.

Success is what my clients pay me for.

Never Knock Progress

One of the mindsets I’ve had to change in myself, and one I work hard on my clients with, is that of the daily routine. In the scorecard, it’s a built-in process. At the end of every day, you acknowledge a success, however seemingly small or insignificant, and champion the work done.

And no matter how small a victory, I tell them, “It’s progress, and we never knock progress.”

It’s a great way to combat fatigue, discouragement, and frustration. By remembering the one thing we did today, we’re encouraged to do one more thing tomorrow.

Day after day.

Week after week.

Month after month.

Year after year.

Until all of a sudden, we realize that we’ve made our own version of success.

That’s why we celebrate one thing.

That’s why we never knock progress.


What’s one thing you would tell someone facing discouragement or disillusionment in chasing their dream?

 

Want to receive my Mental Performance Scorecard? For a limited time, I’ve giving it away to all email newsletter subscribers (in addition to my 5-day ecourse on productivity). Just sign up and you’ll receive it in the next newsletter!

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.

Ascending the Mountain

During my high school years, I went to a wonderful camp nestled in the mountains of Colorado. Full of whitewater rafting, ropes courses, mountain lake swimming, and nature hikes it was a time full of great memories.

Behind the camp was one notorious trail. At the end of it, near the peak of the mountain stood a little inlet that gave view to the most incredible sunrises. Looking over the valley below, you could watch the sun illuminate life all around you.

Because of how early the sun rose, you had to start the hike while it was still dark. But if you made it to the summit in time, it was worth the investment.

About halfway up (and technically at the edge of the camp’s property) stood one giant boulder. The first half of the hike was fairly easy, and the last third was full of steep climbs and loose rocks, but getting over this boulder was easily the most challenging part.

It required careful navigation, a leap off one rock as you jumped up to grab onto the top of the boulder. From there, it was a pullup and leg swing away from getting over. It took careful planning, sure feet, some upper body strength, and mental toughness.

I was with my fair share of people who hit that point in the journey and then decided to turn around and head back to camp.

The question about the boulder was whether or not it was an obstacle or an opportunity.

Opportunity or Obstacle?

Whether or not we see something as an obstacle or an opportunity comes down to our mindset. There was (quite literally) a boulder blocking my path on the way up the mountain.

In life, we will experience similar obstacles. Unexpected bills. Job loss. Sick family members. A late-night phone call beckoning us back to work. At various times and in various ways, we will experience boulders all around us.

Our mindset determines our outcome. The difference between opportunity and obstacle is not the size of the problem, the timing of the event, or the outcome.

It is firmly planted in our mindset. How we see the obstacle will determine how we traverse the landscape and overcome adversity.

If the current issues in your life are obstacles, you, like many of my friends on that hike, will quit. Choosing to give up instead of pushing through what may seem like a temporary relief to the heartache and struggle.

But I also know that when you don’t push through, you can’t ascend the mountain top and see the amazing views.

My friends who quit never made it above treeline. On your quest for success, if you don’t develop the daily grit and habit of pushing through, you’ll never get above the tree line in your life to get to the mountaintop. 

Three Things

Pushing through the hard things in life, and transforming circumstances into opportunities is a key characteristic of high achievers. Never settling for a second-best “Plan B”, they keep their mind engaged towards growth.

If you want to do the same, here are three things you can do to change your obstacles into opportunities:

  1. Ask: “How have I already been equipped to deal with this problem?” Too often, we think that each problem is insurmountable. Not true. Instead, look for ways you have already overcome similar situations and what you’ve learned and could implement here.
  2. Ask: “Who do I know?” You don’t have to do this journey alone. A trusted coach, friend, mentor, or loved one can help you navigate those areas and find forward momentum.
  3. Ask: “What’s at stake?” Many times, we lose hope because we aren’t clear on what’s at stake if we quit. Will you lose your job? Passion? Sense of purpose? Money? There are many potential motivations but the deepest failures are the ones where we lose a bit of ourselves. Get clear on what’s at stake at commit to act so you don’t lose it.

Bonus Tip: Ask: “If I overcome this circumstance, what else would be possible?” Don’t limit your thinking to the difficulty in front of you. Think long term. Overcoming one area of difficulty can lead to another, another, and another. Small wins lead to big wins. Big wins lead to transformation. Transformation leads to success. Success leads to lasting influence and legacy.

Comment below: What’s one brave choice you can commit to today to help overcome a difficult situation?