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Three Questions That Will Help You Prevent Burnout

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A drawing of a thought cloud with a lightbulb inside.

Three Questions That Will Help You Prevent Burnout

Maybe it’s the dreamy quality of early summer in San Diego that makes this season feel so naturally reflective. Or, we’re so pulled by all the activities, options, and potential paths that we are called to slow down and relax into what’s most meaningful for us. Either way, I’m compelled to do a little navel-gazing this time of year, so let’s dive in together…

You’ve heard me say before that sustaining your leadership performance over the long haul—and fully achieving your potential—requires equal attention to both the context in which you’re leading (external/how) and the content of your work (inner/why).

Burnout prevention and recovery must include this inner and outer alignment. The question is, how do you find it?

One of the things I love most about a personality typing system like the Enneagram is that it helps us quickly identify the inner content of our lives so we can get ourselves unstuck and truly thrive. It highlights elements that we’re often blind to, like our core drives, passions, needs, fears, and automatic patterns or habits.

I’ve learned that even while we might be working inside of a “burnout culture,” it’s often the internal mental and emotional patterns that keep us hooked into ways of working that will exhaust us, regardless of how ideal our job is set up to be.

Let’s take a look. For each of us, we are run by two primary inner patterns or habits: a thought pattern and an emotional pattern. In the language of the Enneagram, the thought habits include the continuous loop of ideas and fixations in our minds, while the emotional habits typically follow those thoughts with persistent reactions or feelings.

For me (as a Type 3), I can unconsciously fixate on thoughts about strategies for success and ways of creating an image of being successful (ugh, I know). This is often immediately followed by an emotional roller coaster of striving and anxiety, fear that others will think I’m a failure, and sadness/shame when I don’t feel I measure up.

You can see how quickly folks like me can spiral into a mode of hyper-pressure, workaholism, constant scanning for acknowledgment, and ultimately, burnout and resentment. Yikes, I’m tired just thinking about it!

The point is not to change these patterns, because often that is simply unavailable to us. Instead, we start by noticing them, trying to understand them, and doing our best to meet ourselves with a dose of compassion.

When we can stop, pause, and look inside ourselves, we’re able to see when our stress is generated from our own thoughts and feelings versus external factors. That awareness can give us new access into positive solutions – moving from being run by our automatic habits of personality to intentionally choosing the thoughts, emotions, and actions that are more sustainable for us.

So, as you lie on your beach towel this summer and sleepily gaze up at the clouds above, ask yourself:

  • What thoughts and emotions tend to loop habitually in my mind and heart?
  • How might these patterns be contributing to my state of burnout/wellbeing?
  • And, what helps me “unhook” from these mental and emotional habits and move into conscious choice?

I would love to hear from you, so please share what you’re learning with our growing community on LinkedIn or Twitter. There are so many of you incredible people committed to working, leading, and giving in sustainable ways. Let yourself be inspired by one another!

Today and all year long, may these reflections serve your leadership path and offer you some new freedom along the way.

To your thriving,

Erin

PS. This is the Type 3 habit, but all personality types have their own unique thought and emotional patterns. Curious about yours? Click here to understand your Enneagram type or reach out to me for some individual guidance on how awareness of your Enneagram can support your growth.

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