The One Thing You Need in Order to Avoid or Bounce Back From Burnout

Highlights:

  • Over the course of a long career, everybody experiences burnout to some degree or another.
  • ‘It’s not a case of if peak performers burnout, but when.’ – Steven Kotler, peak performance expert and author.
  • The one thing you need in order to avoid or bounce back from burnout is clarity.
  • Clarity is about seeing things clearly, especially the big, important, fundamental aspects of life, of our careers, of business.
  • If you don’t have clarity around the big, important, fundamental elements of something, you don’t have clarity.
  • It was my decision to go against my intuition during business school, which was actually the start of my weakening, the start of my slow slide into burnout.
  • The progressive and imperceptible nature of burnout, is something we’ve all got to very carefully manage.

To learn more about avoiding or bouncing back from burnout, or about creating lots of clarity around your career, business, or life, or if you’d simply like to learn how to take your enjoyment and performance in your career to the next level 👉 8 practices for creating next level career clarity and impact!

Video transcript 🗣

The following is the full transcript of this video. Please note that to connect as much as possible with you and my broader audience, my videos are filmed unscripted and in one take. Enjoy!

Burnout is a state of exhaustion that’s brought on by prolonged stress – most commonly from our careers and our working lives.

The symptoms of burnout can range from really mild and imperceptible, all the way through to totally debilitating and life-threatening. The symptoms of burnout commonly include feeling overwhelmed, stuck, trapped, anxious, worried, stressed, tired, lacking energy, lacking motivation, and sometimes feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

It’s important to note though, that over the course of a long career, everybody experiences burnout to some degree or another. Everybody experiences a bit of exhaustion here and there, and, this is especially true for peak performance, because they’re people who look to push their limits, to test their limits, to expand their limits in different areas, including in their careers.

In fact, Steven Kotler, who’s an expert on peak performance said in 2020 (and this is after decades of working with peak performers in lots of different areas of life and researching and writing a few different books), that it’s not a case of if peak performers burnout, but when. This is because they’re pushing their limits and when unexpected things happen like in their lives, perhaps with a relationship or something happens at work, it’s easy to find yourself doing too much, to feel overwhelmed, to exhaust yourself a little bit.

So if you’re looking to do your best in life, in your career, in your work, if you’re wanting to maximise your career performance for yourself and for your loved ones, it’s very important that you carefully manage and mitigate the risks around burnout.

I myself have always identified as a peak performer in business, in sport, in life, and this drive to do my best and to get the most out of life played a big part in a serious burnout that I suffered – which in 2014, led me to awake during the night with what I thought at the time was a heart attack – rushing off to the emergency department – but it turned out to be a severe case of physical anxiety.

This was after about two years into an investment banking career, a career switch that I’d made from engineering after doing two years of business studies, an MBA, at London Business School, in between.

This kind of slide into burnout, when I started investment banking, it emerged pretty quickly that the hours and the culture weren’t that well aligned with who I was and what I valued in life.

I found that I was working until after midnight most days during the week. I worked at least a part of most weekends. And, I nearly worked on all of the holidays I went on, and, those are the holidays that weren’t canceled due to something last minute coming up. And so over this time, as I was getting less and less sleep and working more, there was this general weakening of mind and body, of my values, of things like my sleep, fitness, health, and relationships.

In terms of friendship and family, I was canceling on a lot of engagements last minute, due to my work. And I can see in hindsight, that this weakening was occurring at an increasing or compounding rate. And, that, was what eventually led my mind and my body to throw in the towel with this case of anxiety. Which was the wake up call I needed.

I went on to quit investment banking, and I embarked on a journey back to health. It took quite a while to fully recover my health. Our bodies and our minds are naturally very strong and resilient. So when we do weaken them, when we do burn out, it generally occurs over a relatively long period of time. And so it correspondingly takes quite a lot of investment over a reasonably long period of time to get back to health.

As my journey continued on, I co-founded a babywear business with a friend that proved to be very successful. And, after a few years, I left that business to pursue my passion for helping people to take their careers, their businesses, their lives, from good on to incredible. This journey from perhaps burnout, to great levels of strength in every area of life.

My journey taught me that the one thing you need in order to avoid or bounce back from burnout is clarity. Clarity is about seeing things clearly, especially the big, important, fundamental aspects of life, of our careers, of business. If you don’t have clarity around the big, important, fundamental elements of something, you don’t have clarity.

I’ve found over time, that there are three most essential fundamentals around which to have clarity. Firstly, it’s essential to have clarity around your values. This is clarity around what is most important to you, this is clarity around what energises you, things like family, friendship, healthy eating, exercise, good sleep etc. And it’s about having clarity around how to strengthen these things.

The second area is to have clarity around your realities. This is how well your career and your other realities in life align with your values. Are they strengthening them or are they weakening them.

Finally, it’s important to have clarity around your vision, your vision for your ideal self and your ideal life. This is a vision which maximises you and your values, which maximizes your strength, your energy, your passion for life.

In my case, I lacked clarity in all of these areas, and that was what led me into burnout. I lacked clarity around what was important to me, and, I lacked this clarity, because I wasn’t consistently investing in effectively building clarity around these sort of fundamental areas of life.

And this lack of investment in clarity building, caused me to ignore my intuition during business school, which basically told me that, ‘no, this investment banking career path isn’t right for you. Why don’t you try Entrepreneurship which seems to be a much better fit for you.’

But I had a lot of advice around going into investment banking as well. So that’s what I did.

I also didn’t have clarity around what the reality of investment banking was. What the hours, and what the culture, would do to me over many months, over some years.

And I also had no clear vision by which to strengthen my resolve against following the wrong things into investment banking. Things like a big sign-on bonus, things like luxury, prestige, competition with my peers for a highly sought after role.

And so I’ve learned, and this is many years after this burnout, and having worked with many other people to craft better careers and lives, that it was my decision to go against my intuition during business school, somewhere between 2010 and 2012, which was actually the start of my weakening, the start of my slow slide into burnout.

This slide into burnout was quite unbeknown to me at the time, because I was very strong at that time. I was performing really well academically at business school. My mind was really sharp. I had strong relationships. I had a lot of friendships, and a lot of fun at business school. But also I was performing, in a peak sense, physically as well. As in 2012, just before graduation, I did an Ironman triathlon in Nice.

So the progressive and imperceptible nature of burnout means it is something we’ve all got to very carefully manage. And, as I mentioned, the key to avoiding or bouncing back from burnout, is to be proactive in building clarity around the big fundamental things, like your values, like around your realities and like around your vision for your ideal self and your ideal future.

This means getting really clear on what’s important, getting really clear on how well your realities either weaken or strengthen your values, and really clear on that vision for maximising your values, the things that energise and strengthen you in life.

Getting really clear on these fundamentals will naturally propel you towards the right decisions and actions for strengthening your values. And this will take you in exactly the opposite direction to weakening, to burnout.

So I hope this little post has been helpful for you. If you’d like to learn more about avoiding or bouncing back from burnout, or about creating lots of clarity around your career, business, or life, or if you’d simply like to learn how to take your enjoyment and performance in your career to the next level – I’ve created a step-by-step guide which shares:

👉 8 practices for creating next level career clarity and impact!

This guide will have you firing along in your career, and, our career is such a big part of our lives, that this will naturally get you firing along in the rest of your life as well.

Please also don’t hesitate to reach out to me for some no obligation support or guidance around career and other life challenges, such as burnout. Burnout is something I’ve experienced. It’s something I suffered from for many years, and it’s something that I really want to help people avoid or bounce back from.

I, like all who seek peak performance, have learned that our journeys have ups and downs. And, it’s perhaps one of the greatest demonstrations of human spirit, human courage, human strength, human character, to ask for support and guidance, when we’re down.

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