Burnout to Leadership

Ep#50 You are not broken

October 20, 2022 Dex Randall Season 1 Episode 50
Burnout to Leadership
Ep#50 You are not broken
Show Notes Transcript

Burning out is what your brain does to protect you when you've been going too hard for too long and need to slow down. Nothing is fundamentally wrong with you, and you will make a 100% recovery when you learn how.

Listen to real life examples of men experiencing burnout - it's different for each of them.

BUT the recovery toolset works for everyone. With coaching, you will learn all the tools and I will help you apply them to your flavour of burnout to recover your mojo, your success and your enjoyment at workand in the rest of life.

Come talk to me about exiting burnout

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To recover from burnout, start here mini.dexrandall.com
For more insights see @coachdexrandall

Hi, everyone. My name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout To Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends, this is Dex. I've got a real good episode for you today, 'cause what I want to talk about is why you're not broken if you're in burnout. None of you. Not one. And to start that off, I'm just gonna share some stories of men that I've spoken with who are experiencing burnout. First of all, Ismat, he's a radiologist. And he tells me he's over identified with work, as many physicians are, from their training and early work conditions they experience. And his well being is kind of centered around work. And also because patient care really also pivots around the quality of his work, he started worrying more and more about diagnostic accuracy. And when he makes a mistake, he falls into this tailspin of depressive thinking that lasts for days. And he's always kind of on the alert for what's next, particularly since he was a witness in a litigation case. He's hard on himself about learning from his mistakes. And this cloud hangs over him, causing sadness and angst, and preventing joy and work satisfaction. And when he's talking to me, he's slumping heavily in a chair, and he really looks jaded and exhausted. Then let's hear from Bryan, who's working very long hours in a managerial position in the business that he recently sold. His work is consuming him, and it's really become the focus of his life. And he really would like to quit obsessing about it and shut off at the end of the day, in his own words, without needing a couple too many drinks, and instead, he might only get a couple of hours sleep a night. And then he's over tired, short with the kids, impatient, not really present with his wife. He's not working out, and he wishes there were six more hours in the day, even though he knows for well he'd just used them at working. He tells me all of this is impacting his mental health and relationships. And I believe that, I can really see it in his defeated air. 36 year old Andy has the opposite problem. He worked sales at trade shows pre COVID, but then he switched to work from home. So now, his kids see what he's like when he's working. He really tells me he doesn't need the money, he doesn't need material things, he's already got all of those. And somehow because of that, he's lost motivation to get work done. It kind of doesn't seem worth the effort. And whenever challenging tasks come up at work, he becomes really quite stressed and panicky, and he just walks away leaving 300 unread emails in his inbox. The problem is kind of running out of control, and he started to hide from people, not answering phone calls. Finally, there's Pete, a senior manager for 10 years at the top tech brand, who had an accident two years ago and almost lost a limb. He never recovered mentally, and he says his bosses were callous throughout his recovery process. He finds it hard now to do the basics of his job, even reading emails, because he's very negative and bitter, and he's lost his drive. And because he's no longer the top performer he was before, although he's experienced enough to mask some of his poor performance, he's now being managed out of his job. And he was treated for PTSD after his accident, but he tells me he's still pretty fried, and he can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. He's thinking about taking a year off. Now, I've shared those four real life examples with you so you can hear a tiny bit how burnout is a different experience for each person. But it also has some common themes, particularly how disappointed each man is about his own performance and how he feels like he's failing letting people down. That sense of defeat that knocks the wind out of their sails. They've tried their hardest, but they didn't win; instead, they've been succumbing to exhaustion, and that causes him to lose heart. Because none of them is hopeful that a solution is at hand.

But here's what I say:

Each of these men, in fact, all the men I work with, all the people, all the humans I work with, have just hit a bump in the road. I mean, admittedly, it's a big bump, big enough to create demoralization and exhaustion to puncture their sense of self, as workers and as men or women. And the gremlins in their heads have chosen that opportunity to punish them with every thought of wretched defeat. No wonder they despair, really. But I mean, which of us hasn't had a bit of life happen to them? And if those life incidents arrive more than one at a time, or if they stay for a lengthy period, or if they're in an area we rely on to run smoothly in our life, then bang, burnout can happen to any high performer. So for the love of all things, let's destigmatize burnout. Let's move away from the shame, the guilt, and the blame. Not least because burnout is a temporary condition. It's occurring in hard working, dedicated, capable, intelligent, normally motivated, and well intentioned people. And so if that's who burnout when it happens to, then how really could we regard them as broken? They're usually super achievers, they're some of the best we've got. And these people don't lack heart; they don't lack a desire to serve their fellows; they are not lazy, neglectful, careless, or mean spirited. They're just extremely tired of trying to do the right thing, and feeling like they're not succeeding. And I actually think the worst thing we might say about them is that they're trying too hard, and their standards usually very high, which, while it can't be completely appropriate to their role, it impels them to drive themselves and other people very hard, and perhaps with a little bit less grace than they might. "People in burnout are suffering. It's not a fun condition. They're broken." No, I don't agree with that. If they are broken, how could they recover so quickly? How could they go on to be highly successful leaders, excelling again, rising through the ranks, mentoring others around them? How come the projects they dream up after recovery and the goals they subsequently set for themselves are so altruistic, normally? I prefer the alternative view that they're very tired. In the soul tired, and they're kind of crushed by this super autonomous effort to beat the machine and hyper perform their way out of trouble. And if you've experienced burnout ourself, you know that's a pretty difficult trick to pull off, because it's that drive to succeed that both creates burnout and is the means by which they can recover. So, here's what I was told to those guys in the example, and I would say exactly the same to you,

if you came to speak to me:

You only need to bring two things to recover from burnout. Just two. The first one is sufficient misery to create the willingness to embark on the recovery journey. You've probably already got that, right? But number two is the willingness to show up then and do the work of recovery, without the security of knowing exactly how the journey will unfold. And that not knowing can be very uncomfortable. Because no matter how deep your misery, though, exhaustion, your frustration, right now, no matter the depth of darkness in your head or the hole in your heart, recovery is a 100% waiting for you. You might not trust yourself to be able to recover, because you're probably feeling such despair. You're probably sunk in a pit of endless, unrewarding work, constant, irritating demands, that never get you way trying to go and don't employ your talents to the best of effect. And also give you no time left over, and no energy, either, for the rest of your life. And your family might be frustrated with you, and you with

them. But if so, know this:

There is so much good still available to you, whether you see it now or not. I can't stand for you to be suffering unnecessarily, and there's a much more satisfying life around the corner. Getting to a better future isn't really about the recovery process itself, because you don't know what that is yet, right? It's really about being willing to seek a new experience, desperate enough, in fact, to seek a your experience, even when your head wants you to shut down tighter to preserve that tiny whisper of workability you're still clinging to. Because when you decide to show up for recovery, everything else, you can learn as you go. Just show up. If you're not firing on all cylinders right now, that might be why you need to recover, but it's not a barrier

to recovery. So here's the deal:

If you bring your misery to me and simply show up, I will teach you everything you need to recover, guaranteed. It's a simple process. Anybody can follow it, and it's gonna buy you back the time and energy you think you need to recover.

In fact, it comes the other way around:

You recover and you get back the time and energy. It's gonna put a smile on your face. We don't wanna prolong the misery of burnout in the recovery process. It's a bit more lightweight than that. But in case you're still in any doubt about burnout not being your front, let's talk just for a few moments about the myths of burnout. And I think myth number one is that you shouldn't be in burnout in the first place; you should be able to cope. I mean, what a lot of rubbish! There's still so much stigma around burnout. We're expected to find a way to shoulder any load, and falling short just isn't part of the bargain. Nor is shedding excess or unsuitable responsibilities, nor is needing a rest. And this applies to men, quite often still the rock of the family, quite often still having this imprint of being the breadwinner who must provide. And it also applies to women, to the caregivers, who should be juggling any amount of balls in support of those around them. That's the expectation. Never drop a ball, never put your own needs first. But of course, if you're human, I'm hoping if you're listening to this thing, you are human, if you're human, you've got limits. You're supposed to have them. Pushing yourself beyond the them is in sickness. And how, if you get into sickness, or debility of any kind that further limits your ability to get everything done you wanted to get done. So, saying yes to every ask, every demand, comes at an inevitable cost of your well being. So yes, if you're a type A personality, if you've given or try to give beyond your means, then it's quite proper, actually, that you're in burnout. That's the natural consequence of a self driven person working too hard. It's nature's way of enforcing a slow down so you can have a rest. And so in this way, burnout is actually protective. And if we can't work in today's culture, there's this kind of implication, are we weak? Are we a bit entitled and don't think we have to do the work? Are selfish? Should we just be pulling our socks up? Interestingly, I think, although we live in a cult of celebrity individualism, expectations of hyper performance, it hasn't always been this way. And in some cultures, even today, selfishness is defined as giving generously to and supporting other members of the community, forging strong bonds in order to develop belonging, trust, mutual support, and of course, finally, survivability. Individualism as a concept, the idea that we should self support in a personal quest for success and riches, just doesn't fly to mammalian level. Have we been sold a pap? Well, in fact, yes. Selfishness really requires more integration with other people, not less. Lack of social integration is a really huge predictor of stress, anxiety, burnout, chronic illness, addiction, low self esteem, injury, mental health problems, and you'll be glad to know, early death. So our shame, then, in not fulfilling our role and then experiencing burnout is completely misplaced. And if you think everyone else around you is coping so that you should be coping as well, well, look around. Are they really? Can you see into their hearts? Are they thriving? Or are they trying to be good little worker ants just like you, and hiding their stress and distress? It's burnout, really. It's a fairly natural consequence of the way we live and striving to perform better, whilst feeling disconnected, is what entrenches burnout. So I think that was dispelled, myth number one, that we shouldn't get into burnout in the first place. But myth number two is that then we should be able to solve burnout by ourselves. It's like, "You got into it, so as an adult, you should fix it. You should get yourself out." But if that were possible, if that were true for you, you'd have probably already done it. You don't want to be in burnout, right? You're probably very hard working, a fixer, a do or die kind of person. You're not voluntary there sitting on your tush thinking how great it is that you get to avoid working any harder, right? So the myth of fixing our own burnout, it's really just another hole we dig ourselves deeper and deeper into. And then we throw all of our hope in afterwards, don't we? At the same time, we get really bitter about the system, the way it treats us. Because it seems like it's depriving us of reward, recognition, meaningful results, and also reasonable work hours and breaks, the ability to rest and sleep well and wake refreshed. The energy we need for our families and those we care about. And the pursuit of hobbies. Remember them? I lost mine in burnout, and that is for sure. So let's just set aside the idea that we can fix ourselves from burnout. Because quite honestly, I'm a pretty determined little so and so, and if I couldn't do it, and I couldn't get them backup to help me do it from the usual channels at work, then I don't reckon it's all that available to you, either. And that's certainly not what I'm hearing from people who come to me. And this isn't to undermine you or your qualities or capacities, but let's face it, really. I think it's the system that's prevailing so far, huh? Not you. So here's what really happens. Human well being comes first and foremost from connection. We are wired for connection. And health is communal. Just look at all the science. Our nervous systems can't handle being alone. We become sick mentally, emotionally, physically, and I would argue, spiritually. We can't thrive alone. Otherwise, why is solitary confinement the worst punishment there is in a prison? Or if you wanna put it in Australian cattlemen's parlance, which just came into my mind, why did all the old drovers, the cattle drovers who are running out back for long periods alone, why did they all go a bit ratty, as the word says? A bit soft in the head? Burnout is a condition of disconnection. Ask yourself, are you feeling lonely? Are you feeling unseen or uncared for, or unrecognized, unrewarded? Have your relationships become unsatisfying? Are you withdrawing or isolating? If the answer to any of those is yes, then I think that really tells a little bit of a story. And certainly, all of those were true for me when I was in burnout. But then if it is, then your recovery from burnout is gonna spring from this kind of enriching reconnection with everything that's good about you, about your people, and about life itself. And work, of course. And I'm gonna teach you exactly how to do that in a way that feels safe, warm, fulfilling, and enjoyable.

So that's myth number two:

You should be able to fix it yourself. Load of bunkum. Myth number three, that you should be grateful for what you have. Now, most of us live pretty cushy lives compared to past generations, let's say. We're pretty well paid on the whole, we should be grateful for you from having a job. And when we're given perks at work, like work from home, decent pay, travel, subsidized time off, table football, yeah, I know. Interesting opportunities. Any hint of autonomy, well being initiatives, group yoga, stuff like that, we should be grateful and automatically feel better. Well, I agree, it's nice to be offered perks, and it's even more wonderful to be grateful for whatever we have and for having a living wage, something s many people in this world don't have access to. And yes, we can also be grateful for our standard of living and the opportunities that affords us. For example, supporting our families, education, outings, dinners, driving a nice car, travel, whatever. But what does that have to do with burnout? Stuff all, really, for most of us. It's not lack of perks that cause burnout. So it's not perks that are gonna fix it. Tokenism of any kind specifically won't fix burnout. What will fix it is reconnection, trust, empowerment, autonomy, safety, continuity, genuine team building, belonging, relationships. It's feeling that our contribution is worthy, sufficient, and valued, and our voices heard. Because two irreducible human needs are attachment and authenticity. Attachment, the presence of a deep, nurturing, unconditional relationship, this one; and authenticity, the freedom to be exactly who we are without fear of rejection. And of course, those two needs conflict at times, but if we're lucky, we learn to navigate between seeking approval to belong and asserting our true inner needs, values, and personalities. One of the problems with that is many of us never had secure attachment as kids. And attachment always trumps the need for authenticity, because it's a primary survival need, of course. So, we're always gonna be hanging out there, perpetually needing more approval than we actually get, unwilling to be the whole person that we are, in case we experience rejection. So in this constant state of stress, looking for safety in the environment, not getting it, especially at work, and we're drawing even further inside ourselves looking for a sense of safety that never comes, where we're perpetually living on eggshells, and maybe that describes a little bit your experience in burnout. So, being grateful, terrific as that is, and worth cultivating for its own sake, will not, of itself, fix burnout. In a culture that demands so much without seeing us as intrinsically valuable, unique people, without looking us in the eye we trust, and supporting our sense of place and agency in, in such a culture where we feel perpetually a little bit vulnerable, we need to learn new skills that we've not been taught before. We need to learn how to thrive and protect ourselves from burnout. And those skills, my friend, can be learned. I'm here for you. I want you to have those skills. I want you to enjoy your own life. You are good enough now, and actually, I can prove it to you, if you give me half a chance. So, if anything you heard today struck a cord for you and you'd like a little bit of help with burnout, stress, anxiety, overwork, and all the rest, for goodness' sake, don't hold out on yourself. Don't wait for a solution to drop out of the sky. Come and talk to me right now. Book in for a chat at dexrandall.com, that's dexrandall.com. Let's make a plan to have you feeling good again. There is absolutely no shame or blame or judgement here. I already believe in you completely. And I can guarantee that the solution is available, so, come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably and get back to your best performance, and leadership, and most of all, enjoyment inside work and out. Thank you once again for listening today. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout To Leadership program. You can look in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you, and let's make a plan to fix it.