Friday, August 7, 2009
Follow Your Burning Desire - without burning out
I've been working on a proper marketing plan for Liberated Life Coaching and following a path that seemed to resonate with me, and I ended up in the category of burnout in the holistic practitioner market. It was an interesting cubby, I thought, as a life and business coach, to help practitioners identify and manage burnout. There's a reason these things happen. Call it Law of Attraction, synchronicity, kismet, coincidence, what have you: I'm pondering dozens of articles about burnout, printing them, making mindmaps of a variety of concepts on my whiteboard, digesting all this information. When I got to the second article, or was it the third, I stopped in my tracks. That veil of ignorance or is it denial suddenly fell down and I was looking at a profile of myself on paper. Signs & symptoms of burning out vary from person to person, but enough of them fit my former incarnation as a web designer that I realized that I was at minimum at very high risk if I had not already succumbed. I won't go into all the symptoms here and now, the list is tremendous, but I checked in with my life coach, Sheila Pearl about it. So our meeting this week was an overview exploration of my burning out, whether complete or in-progress, and what I needed to do to start getting un-burnt. Causation or correlation, no matter, when you burn out you are no longer living your dreams, no longer taking care of yourself, not maintaining a steady energy and beneficial stress (eustress) level, and you are succumbing to exhaustion, lack of motivation, distractions, and sometimes a sense of fight (gripe) or flight (change careers, change cubicles, something). I have an extreme problem in how I frame my "to do" list. It's my "Do I have to?" list. It's full of should's, have to's, musts, someone will get upset with me unless...but on the other hand the entire list, top to bottom, are things that I decided, wittingly or not, to accept onto my plate. How something I've said "yes" to (even if only by not saying "no" to it) suddenly transforms into this heavy weight of obligation is beyond me, but it does. I recognize that I did the same at my last employer too. At every weekly meeting I was given a few more things "to do" aside from requests that came in from staff during the week. I ended up with a "Do I have to?" list of over 100 items, frozen in my tracks unable to define an action plan or prioritize the list, and I was fired. That's ok, I usually would burn out and leave a position in about 3 years -- long before they wanted to get rid of me. I've only been fired twice out of a dozen jobs, and I take being fired as a great learning experience. It's only taken 3 years to learn this particular part of the lesson, and I've never said they were wrong to fire me. Well, I have to fire my "Do I have to?" list. It's now becoming a "Want to" list. This is a challenge for me, having been blackmailed out of being comfortable with saying I want something in childhood. The fear says that "When I want something, someone is going to use it against me." So if there's something on my "Do I have to?" list that can't be reframed as "I want to..." then I'm going to have to -- oh, there I go again -- then I want to get rid of the sense of obligation. I want to find the person who handed it to me (yay monkeys! Which book has the monkeys again?) and give it back. I may be doing a lot of apologizing, but at least I'll be able to sleep. Oh, I see 2 paragraphs above, I did it there too: I WANT TO fire my "Do I have to?" list. **Phew** This is tough work. Sheila asked me to spend time this week exploring why I'm reluctant to label things as "wants" rather than "shoulds" or "musts". For example, I caught myself this afternoon saying "I should check if there's a UPS number for my book order" and corrected myself to "I want to check if there's a tracking number" because there isn't even a client involved. Checking for a number won't change when it gets here. It's not an obligation, and it's absolutely unreasonable to call it a "should." It's an unnecessary burden -- framing my desires as obligations is hurting my ability to finish even my personal projects. As I work on my own burnout, I'm also taking note of the process I'm going through. I will be helping others with this process in the very near future.