You’re still working at 9pm. The kids went to bed hours ago, without interrupting you. You feel trapped and helpless against a relentless barrage of demands. You Inbox is bursting with unread and unanswered messages. You’ve almost stopped caring. Too bleary to sleep at night, you turn work problems over and over in your mind.
Tomorrow: rinse and repeat?
How do we get stuck?
When you tell yourself you’re doing something at work because there’s no choice, that may not be true. We’re largely employed for the quality of our thinking. What would Steve Jobs do? What would Gandhi do? There’s choice, you just don’t want to take the risk.
If you feel frustrated and irritable, it’s because you’re making unconscious decisions based on what you THINK others want from you, not what you’re good at. Decisions that take you away from your own power base, your field of excellence. That’s when you feel stuck and helpless.
When we don’t make our own decisions, someone else will always make them for us. Guess what? They don’t really know what they want or why, either. Both you and they are operating on default – the same way you’ve been making decisions all your life.
Our brains are programmed to resist change
The brain uses about 20% of our body’s energy, so it tries to economise by recycling old thoughts, rather than creating fresh ones. It’s an energy-saving trick. We’ve stacked all our learnings deep in our unconscious mind and we re-use them on demand. It’s like driving a car – we don’t think how to do that. We can tune out completely and still arrive at our destination.
That’s how you’re doing your job, for the most part, because that’s how you’re doing everything. From unconscious competence.
The trouble is, not every 20-year-old thought in your memory bank is working out for you. Plus, your brain has such a strong cognitive bias for what it already ‘knows’ that change becomes very hard. That’s why all your efforts so far to overcome burnout have failed. That’s why changing any habit is such a struggle.
It’s got nothing to do with willpower, intelligence or desire for change.
We’re just hardwired to avoid change.
Rewire your brain
Change is about making fresh decisions. Intentional, better quality decisions. It’s about questioning what’s not working well, why you’re irritable or resentful, what you’re up to that stops you getting stuff done. It’s about going against the grain of habit.
When you feel exhausted at the end of the day, it’s not from pressure or overwork, it’s from the relentless way you’ve been criticising yourself. Then, you feel blue and waste energy trying to escape that feeling – via procrastination, social media, eating or whatever. That’s a decision too. There are other factors involved here, but simply put you can decide to stop beating yourself up. Outrageous idea, isn’t it? Only because you’ve never been able to do it until now.
When you decide to change how you respond to a work situation, the decision itself IS the change. Naturally your mind will not want to change. It will want to go back to the old way. But who’s the boss here?
Coming out of burnout is simply making a fresh set of decisions
Strengthening your ‘purposeful choice’ muscle.
Taking charge again.
If you knew you could reduce your work hours, tame your Inbox and still get more done, would you?
If you could stop work before dinner and not think about it again, would you?
New decisions. What’s yours?
Getting unstuck is just a choice
If you want help recovering your work mojo, come and talk to me. Burnout is 100% optional. You’ve got more in the tank than you think.