What you will learn:
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 hope you're well today, and I'm rather chipper myself. And today we're gonna have a look at frustration, that most endemic feature of burnout. And when I look up the definition of words like that in Google, I often get a surprise as if I never really knew what the word meant in the first place, and frustration is no exception. So, frustration, the feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something. In burnout, you can say that again, right? I think I'm gonna add to that, that we get very frustrated at other people when they don't behave as we would like them to. And we also get frustrated at ourselves for not performing how we should, and frustrated at our environment for the odds we see as stacked against us; time, the weather, long meetings, traffic, bureaucracy, work demands, kids' lost uniforms, even in my case the laws of physics when my toast lands on the floor, butter side down. Believe me, I can really get into frustration when I want to. The other definition of frustration is the prevention of the progress, success, or fulfillment of something, typically something we think we can't do without, something that turns out to be fundamental to our well being, approval for one thing. Anyway, this one is about being thwarted, and I encourage you just to pop up your hand if you feel thwarted at work, and I really wish I could see how many hands are going up when you do that. So, why are we frustrated? Well, here's the beginning list to which you would doubtless had a bunch ofyour own:
Lack of autonomy, expectations of ourselves and others, overwork, overwhelm, loss of reward, loss of sense of achievement, loss of meaning or making a difference, lack of recognition, impotence, unproductive or poorly designed projects, lack of connection with colleagues, customers, and so on, disconnection from the results we produce or the benefits of those results, too many meetings, lack of purpose, not doing what we see is the right work, lack of career or financial progression, under performance of ourselves, colleagues, or our bosses, lack of clear direction, and so on. But notice that all of these are subjective. We think them, they're just thoughts, not all people would agree. The biggest burden of frustration is the way we choose to interpret what's going on around us. We expect the world to be different than it is, and that hurts. In burnout, we actually develop a very entrenched pessimism and judgment that really exacerbates frustration. And when we stoke the fires of frustration, we're, in fact, cultivating a victim mindset, which doesn't service at all because it's a helpless state. Holding on to frustration about someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, similar to anger in that way. So, if our cup of poisonous frustration is photo overflowing, what can we do about it? Well, here are my best four suggestions. Number one, drop expectations that people and things will change, will be different than they are. All human life is filled with experiences we label as good or bad according to our beliefs. But let's say we have 50% good and 50% bad experiences in any typical day, week, month, year, and that's how it's meant to be. Because imagine a world where everything was dandy, you got 100% good experience all of the time, you wouldn't even know what good was, there'd be no contrast, 'cause we only appreciate spring when we've come through winter. So let's say we've got 50% good, 50% bad experiences according to us, having expectations then will result in disappointments statistically about 50% of the time. Expectations of every kind here about ourselves, about other people, about the world, but here's the thing, we can choose to drop expectations, they're just thoughts we have. We can drop them as an act of surrender to reality, and then we can just be in the not knowing. When we drop expectations, it doesn't mean we don't try and do anything, it doesn't mean we forget to try our best or give up. It means we try our best and then we really let go of the outcome of whatever is gonna happen next. And for some people, faith is a way to access that, faith in God or the universe or the basic goodness of life. If we have faith that things are basically going to turn out okay, that we're fundamentally being looked after, it's easier just to be present to life as it is. It helps us know that we can relax with what is on purpose. Dropping expectations allows us emotional freedom, freedom from the chains of thinking we know how the world should be, because the world shouldn't be that way, it should be exactly as it is. When you think about it, how many years have you been alive? Plenty, probably. A happy accident has happened to you every single day, this has kept you alive, kept you functioning. For most of you, functioning at a very high level, and in a very smooth and enjoyable way actually at a basic level, you've got your needs met. So next time you want to now come from something and you don't get it, maybe you can ask yourself instead, "Can I be okay with that just now? Is there truly a problem here? Or does it serve me to fight this reality that I see? Is there perhaps also some silver lining to this? What is there for me to learn from this experience?" And that might sound hokey, but I've tried it, and it's a very, very powerful way of thinking about things that we might have labelled adverse. Generating gratitude on top of that is a really great antidote to frustration. So number one, drop expectations that things are going to change. Number two, acknowledge where we can be leaders and offer or make change. Because once we accept the world as it is, paradoxically we've got greater freedom and power to make change, and we can choose to lead even in situations where we don't see that we are leaders, we can offer solutions and support. We might think about how we can get a result we want and the others want too. When we're in kind of service and solution thinking and gratitude, we've got much more access to the win win. For example, if the boss assigns you a new project you don't want or value, ask yourself, what does the boss really want or need here? Because satisfying people's wants and needs is often the quickest way to a solution. Maybe they just want it off their plate, maybe they want to produce a result for their reporting, maybe they have a problem they can't find a solution for, or maybe they're being pressured to take this project off someone else to avoid a headache. When you know why they made their decision and what they really want, you might be able to help them find a solution. Sometimes you can't find a solution, of course, but offering to work with the boss towards what they want to achieve is a win all by itself. So number two, acknowledge where you can take the lead and be proactive about that. Number three, limit work, sounds easy? Don't think you can do it? If you're frustrated at your work load, you might have more agency over that than you think, don't indulge too long in frustrated thinking, because it too takes up time and the energy you could use to get stuff done. Excessive thoughts of frustration can also trigger feelings of overwhelm that are gonna limit your actual progress too. Being in a negative mental state slows you down and it stops you finding creative solutions to your work. A few other thieves of time include procrastination's born so often by, I don't want to do something or I can't do something. Another one being unwilling to delegate, sometimes there's room for that. Another one being unwilling to say no, or people pleasing saying yes to everything. Taking on other people's work because you think you'll do it better or quicker. Allowing 24 by 7 communication instead of time boxing it. I can encourage you to think about that, it's a great place to reclaim a bit of time. Phone mail is another one, failure to unsubscribe from emails or excuse yourself from meetings you don't belong in. By accepting unsuitable work, that's not in your wheel house or where you can't really add value. So if you're frustrated about work load, I'm gonna do some more episodes on techniques to tame that and reclaim time, energy and enthusiasm. It's an area I do spend a lot of time on with my clients, and there's plenty more to review about that. So we'll come back on that later, but number three, limit work. Number four, connect more deeply with and support others and also ask for help, be real, be authentic. When you're out of your depth, perhaps going harder isn't always the best solution, even though you're pretty likely to try it as a reputation saver, if nothing else. When you can fix things yourself, you do centralise all the power on you, but, is that where you think it belongs? Because guess what, research shows that hands down, the biggest predictor of success at work is not your skills, your talents, your experience, however good those are, it's the power of your social connections. Teamwork always wins over solo work. Being a superstar is a very finite strategy, as you can never have the resources and breadth of thinking of a group as one person. Notice also, that burnout is a function of wanting to fix everything all by yourself. The other aspect of this is that people might respect you for your skills, but they connect with you through your humanity, your flaws, your shortcomings, your fails even. No one believes you're perfect, trust me. People love to help and you yourself, you love to help, right? But it's a two way street. When you ask for help, as well as offer it, people will really warm to you, and often they'll go out of their way to help you. They'll trust you a great deal more than if you're trying to go solo. They'll also share their resources with you and recommend you to others more. And you don't really have to be an extrovert to do this, I'm an introvert, it's no barrier at all. You just have to be sincere, genuine, and respectful, a man of the people. So there we have it, what frustration is, why we get it or more accurately how we generate it and a few tips to work with it. The techniques I've shared with you are some of the ones I teach and practice with my clients in burnout, it can be very successful. I'm pretty sure about that. They're being very effective with my clients over time, and also in my own personal practice, you can try them any time you're frustrated and see how you go, and remember that when you're trying... Be a bit gentle with yourself because any win is a good win, any learning is a good learning so, take your time, go easy. That's what I've got for you today. Next week on the podcast, we're gonna talk about how to set yourself up the very best to overcome burnout. And thank you for listening today, really appreciate you being here. You can visit my website at dexrandall.com for the show notes, and please subscribe and rate this podcast. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book 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.