The starting place to prevent burnout begins when one rediscovers their “Thinking Space”. As John Maxwell wrote in his book, How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, Center Street, 2009, “I’ve mastered the art of making myself unavailable when necessary and going off to my “thinking place” so that I can work without interruptions.”
I have come to the conclusion that I agree with John Maxwell. I can’t know everyone. I can’t do everything. I can’t go everywhere. I can’t be well-rounded. But, I can do a great deal of thinking and reflecting which can expand my perspective and generate new insights.
So, the first big question today is the following: Where is your thinking space? As Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW, wrote in her book, Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution, Spiegel & Grau, 2015, “We can’t be brave in the big world without at least one small safe space to work through our fears and falls.”
The second solution to preventing burnout is to invest in meaningful connections. People who do this can handle a lot of stress because they feel connected to those who they work with plus their own friends and families. They also can handle a lot of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty because they believe they belong to something important that is larger them themselves. Finally, they can still bring their authentic and imperfect selves to work and life do so, because they have people in their life who make it a safe and trustworthy place.
When I first started teaching back in the 80’s, I created and taught a workshop on stress management. In it, I told people the only way to cope effectively with a high degree of stress and burnout, is to have three people outside your family who you could call for support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The reason why they need to be outside your family is because your family may be the problem or your family may have heard it all already and can not offer you any fresh perspective. This network of “friends” offers perspective. They love you for your strengths and your struggles. Brene' Brown, in her book, Daring Greatly, called these people “stretch-mark friends”. As she explains, “our connection has been stretched and pulled so much that it’s become part of who we are, a second skin, and there are a few scars to prove it. We’re totally uncool with each other.”
The second big question for today is the following: Who are the three people on your list that you can call 24 hour/7day a week?
The third solution to preventing burn-out is to be more grateful for the ordinary moments. Right now, many of us are so “busy” trying to fix everything. We also are busy trying to control everything and everyone. We even get so busy trying to get it or keep it all under control that in the end, we just end up numb to it all. In short, we have lost our gratefulness for the ordinary moments
From personal and professional experience, I have learned that on the days that our lives are spinning out of control, e.g. sickness, pain, divorce, loss, etc., we pray for miracles. We pray for it all to go back to “normal”. We pray for the ordinary, i.e. the chance to get up, eat breakfast and go to work. We want to just be without pain, without sorrow, or without fear or confusion.
Our challenge is not perfection as much as the intersection between happiness and meaning. As Dr. Marshall Goldsmith and Dr. Kelly Goldsmith wrote: “In determining a personal mission, you need to make sure that you take into account both happiness and meaning. By happiness we are referring to your personal enjoyment of the process itself, not just the results. In other words, at the high end of the scale, you love what you are doing. By meaning we are referring to the value that you attribute to the results of your work. At the high end of the scale, you deeply believe that the outcome of what you are doing is important.” As they continue, “Maximize the amount of time that you are experiencing simultaneous happiness and meaning.”
The third big question for the day is the following: What are the activities in your life where happiness and meaning intersect?
During the next two weeks, I will be taking some time to reflect on these big questions and to just ponder life in general. I will be back here in touch with all of you on the morning of July 3. Meanwhile, I encourage you to do the following:
- Be kind to one another. We are all doing the best we can with the tools we have.
- Don’t throw any one under the bus. It hurts everyone.
- Pay attention to the daily miracles in your life. Wake up and realize they are all around us.
Thanks for reading. See you all again in early July!