Burnout: What’s Really Going On and What to Do About It

Burnout: What’s Really Going On and What to Do About It

Burnout…

 

Burnout.

What is it?

Why do some people experience it?

Why do we feel exhausted at some times and exhilarated at others?

Is it how we deal with stress, rather than the stress itself?

Or is there something else going on? Something counter-intuitive that is the source of all the stress and anxiety in our lives?

And, if that’s the case, then maybe we’ve been looking in the wrong place for a solution…

These questions and more are the topic of today’s conversation with Lisa Swanson, an expert in burnout and work-related stress.

Lisa and I talk about the nature of burnout, how it shows up in our lives, what people normally look to, and why the place that we take our clients to is often more effective than traditional solutions and provides a completely new way of looking at the challenges people face in life and at work.

Enjoy the interview!

 

 

Have you had an experience of burnout? How did you get through it? (or are you still in the midst of it?)

Did anything we talked about resonate with your experience?

I’d love you to get in touch and let me know.

With love,

Cathy

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Imaginary Dragons and the Pointlessness of Fighting Them

Imaginary Dragons and the Pointlessness of Fighting Them

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

 

I was talking to Ellen earlier in the week. Ellen is a passionate social entrepreneur trying to figure out her next step. As we talked she remarked,

“London is too noisy. It dampens my creativity and I find it hard to stay fit and healthy.”​

Hmm, that’s an interesting perspective.

I see how it might look true to Ellen, that where she lives, or where she works, affects her productivity and well-being but there’s a lot less truth in it than she realises. At the heart of what she’s saying is a misunderstanding.

Ellen isn’t alone.

We often think our environment or the people around us affect our personal well-being. Why does that look to be the case? And is there any foundation or truth in that belief?

 

The Meditation Metaphor

 

As the conversation with Ellen continued, she told me about her meditation practice and we drifted into a metaphor that I often hear from meditation teachers, that our thoughts are like clouds in the sky and, as we enter a state of meditation, we can see them drifting by but we are not attached to them, nor do we desire to change them.

We become an observer rather than a protagonist, or at least, that is the state that is available to us. (And, by the way, it’s available to us whether we have a meditation practice or we don’t!)

If one of those passing thoughts took the form of a dragon, when I’m in the observer frame of mind, I might say,

“Oh, that’s interesting!”

I might be curious about the shape, which part of the cloud was the tail, and whether there was any fire, but as soon as my attention drifted elsewhere the dragon would be forgotten.

It wouldn’t occur to me to do anything about the dragon; I wouldn’t be racing off for my dragon-fighting weapons. I’d simply move on to whatever was next on my agenda, or whatever ‘cloud’ drifted into my awareness next.

 

Sometimes There Really IS a Dragon

 

If, however, I forgot that the dragon was a cloud and I really believed he was real, breathing fire at me from the sky, then my reaction would be very different.

I might try to avoid him, cower away and make myself small —-

“If I don’t look at him, he won’t see me and I’ll be OK!”

Or, I’ll rush to fight him —- I’d whip out my metaphorical sword, mount my trusty steed and gird my loins for battle; a battle to the death if that’s what it takes. Because he really is out to get me.

And, those of you versed in personal development might even have come across a third option. Something that made Ellen laugh because, I suspect, she’s heard it before, only given as advice rather than a suggestion of what-not-to-do.

Perhaps, rather than seeing a dragon, you have some notion that dragons don’t exist, that it’s somehow illusory (even though it looks and feels real), so you would try to change your thoughts to change the monster from a dragon to a puppy.

“Oh how cute, now I no longer have anything to fear!”

At least, that’s the promise.

If you’re in that camp, then how’s it working out for you? Always have a clear head? No, I didn’t think so.

Our reaction to the dragon might vary across time and circumstances — we might run and hide, we might fight, we might bring other people along to do the fighting for us, we might retreat into our cave, but we would ​do​ something. Because, after all, we’ve got a fire-breathing, mean-spirited dragon on our tail!

 

When the Dragon is Real

 

The point is, that for as long as I believe the dragon to be real, it makes sense for me to act. I would be stupid to ignore him, and I couldn’t even if I wanted to.

We all experience times when we see things that look real to us. Things that appear to be problematic, a naughty child, a business that isn’t going the way we want, a boss who seems to always be asking the impossible, a political scenario or individual we didn’t vote for.

And so we fight. We fight battles in ‘real life’; battles that take a lot of time and energy and are — ultimately — unwinnable.

 

Until it Isn’t…

 

The point that’s being missed, though is that what we perceive is never real.

The dragon is always a cloud, as is the puppy if that’s the strategy you adopt.

As is Ellen’s version of London.

Now, I’m not saying there isn’t any ‘real life’. If you live in London then you’ll experience more grey and rather less sunshine than if you lived in LA for example; that part is real.

However, the idea that London can affect Ellen’s productivity, her creativity, her quality of life, is a fictional dragon.

No matter how real it looks to Ellen, it’s a cloud of thought, passing by.

Ellen may prefer to live somewhere else, in the mountains, or by the beach, and that’s fine. Me too! But to think that where I live can make me ​un​happy is the same as thinking the imaginary dragon is going to burn or eat me. How can it, it’s a fiction?

I might feel the fear, just as Ellen feels trapped by her geography. That doesn’t make it real​.

 

So, Then, What to Do?

 

As we talked, Ellen laughed. She’d started to see that maybe some of what she’d seen as true wasn’t as solid as she thought. She didn’t quite see how it was all an illusion, but she had a chink of doubt that was enough to start with.

And then she asked,

“OK, so what do I do?”

Such a common question from clients. ​”I get that it isn’t real but what can I do about it?”

There’s actually nothing to do.

If you laughed at the idea of me fighting imaginary dragons (or could see that the only time we need fight them is in a game, or a film, or a book) then you already have everything you need.

You see, when we see that what we’re looking at isn’t real, there is no need to ​do ​anything.

The leverage for me in all of these scenarios isn’t engaging with the imaginary dragon, it isn’t in ​trying to make it go away, ​or ​turning it into a puppy​. No, it’s in seeing that the very nature of what I am looking at isn’t real. That another angle, a puff of wind, a rain storm, will eliminate any and all ‘dragons’.

Because it exists nowhere other than my imagination.

Are you fighting, or running from, imaginary dragons? Or maybe real dragons? We all have them from time to time. Let me know.

With love,

Cathy

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A Tribute to My Dad, and to All Our Dads

A Tribute to My Dad, and to All Our Dads

Dunkirk

 

We had a family trip to the movies recently to see this realistic, unrelenting even, portrayal of the events of June 1940.

All the way through, my mind was focused on my lovely dad experiencing what the young soldiers on the screen were sharing with us. He was there, on those beaches, only he didn’t make that first wave of evacuation.

After walking for weeks, his regiment — or what remained of it — arrived too late for the boats seen in the film. The Dunkirk beaches were deserted and, exhausted and hungry, my dad and his comrades were given orders to march a further 400+ miles to the west coast of France.

Finally, they made it on board the Lancastria, a requisitioned Cunard liner. My dad said he only remembers being surrounded by nurses, and probably by tears.

 

The Story Did Not End There…

 

But safety didn’t come quite yet. The Lancastria was bombed, in what’s been called Britain’s worst martime disaster. I’m not sure how many went down in that one event, estimates claim anywhere between 3,000 and 6,000, with as many saved, in part due to the RAF pilot who brought down the German bombers.

My dad survived.

He credits his survival to someone he doesn’t know, one of many boat owners who came in that flotilla of small boats from the English coast to pick up whomever they could — whomever survived — exactly as shown in the Dunkirk movie.

My dad remembered little about the events, other than the relief of getting home.

He never spoke about what went through his mind in those long days and weeks of May and June. He spoke only of the cups of tea and the camerarderie. I’m sure his thoughts went to darker places and I know he feared they would never make it back. But that was my dad, never blaming, choosing to be grateful, to see beyond circumstances and into the heart.

To me this wasn’t just one more war film. It felt very real and I felt so close to my dad, seeing on screen exactly what he must have experienced during that part of the war.

My dad survived that war, but many people, on both sides, didn’t. And don’t. Much has changed, and yet things stay the same.

We’re still in conflict, pitted against each other in the name of what we think is right. In a world where we know so much, where we have the technology to reach anyone anywhere, where there is so much to be hopeful for, we still find ourselves at war.

 

We Can’t Change History…

 

We can’t change the past, but, if we could, I wonder what we could would do differently? Or what we can do differently in the future?

I wonder if we can talk to each other differently, to stop and feel the pain we cause each other in the name of god and country.

I wonder if we can look at, maybe even take down, the walls that we build around ourselves and our communities.

I wonder if we can look for a connection across the separation we create, something to warm us through the fear that develops when we put distance between ourselves.

 

We Have Infinite Capacity to Do Better

 

We know that the human spirit is boundless, that it has the capacity for love and courage in the darkest times. And yet, I wonder, are we too quick to turn to aggression as the solution.

It wasn’t my dad’s way. He was a man who loved, who looked for the positive, laughed often, didn’t rush to judgement. He fought during that time, he volunteered for it, but he knew that fighting was rarely the answer.

Here’s to my dad and to all our dads, whichever ‘side’ they were on, or are on.

I love you.

Cathy

 

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Making Business Easy (and is that even the right question?)

Making Business Easy (and is that even the right question?)

What is ‘Easy’ Mean For You?

 

What does easy mean when it comes to business?

And, is that the question we should be asking? The place we should be looking to get to?

In this interview with Geraldine Grandidier, founder of Tidy Books, we talk about what it means to find ease and flow in business. About how it doesn’t have to be the struggle that it is for some, or that it might have been for us in the past.

We talk about making it effortless, about finding flow and allowing results to happen.

There’s a world of difference, however, between allowing the results to find us, and the appearance of being laissez-faire, acting as if nothing matters. In fact, Geraldine admits,

We’re the most structured we’ve ever been in the business.

(I think that answer shocked her!)

 

Ditch the Stress

 

In this interview, we dig into the source of stress and dissatisfaction, and not just when it comes to business — the reason we experience stress in our business is exactly the same reason we experience it anywhere. We laugh about that in relation to bringing up children.

We talk about Geraldine’s journey and about what she does differently now to a couple of years ago. (You’ll be pleased to hear that we’re not adding a bunch of tools and techniques to your list of things to do.)

We talk about what it means to be authentically aligned, and why that’s more important than the latest strategy and tips you can read about on the internet and in books.

There really is a way that business, work, or anything you want to accomplish can be much ‘easier’ than you think.

Enjoy…

 

 

This is the kind of ease and flow that I help my clients experience.

Because, developing a deeper understanding of how the mind works and how to go with the flow of life, makes it possible to create results in the world beyond your wildest expectations.

Really.

With love,

Cathy

 

 

 

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When Things Don’t Go the Way We Want and Why (Sometimes) It Feels like a Big Deal

When Things Don’t Go the Way We Want and Why (Sometimes) It Feels like a Big Deal

I’ve been at my computer for a couple of hours writing my usual weekly post (about slaying our imaginary dragons by the way).

It’s been more of a ‘battle’ than usual and I can’t get it to a place where I feel OK to post it. I have a draft, I know what I want to say, but I haven’t nailed the words in quite the way I want.

So I’ve put it aside (at least for today.)

As soon as I did that, I saw an opportunity to write about ‘the gap’ I often see with clients (and in myself). The ‘gap’ that creates all our discomfort, the ‘gap’ that we think is the barrier to getting what we want, and the ‘gap’ that, to many of us, feels like the thing we have to ‘tackle’ before we can put our focus on achieving our goals.

Ah, how wrong we are.

 

It’s Illusory

 

When I first bring up the idea of a ‘gap’ it’s possible your mind goes to somewhere in the future — something you think you’re moving towards?

In fact you’ll often hear coaches tell you that’s what they do — “help their clients close the gap between where they are and where they want to be.”

I see it differently, though; I see that the gap isn’t really a gap. It’s illusory, and therefore seeing through the illusion is more important than ‘doing’ anything about it.

Let me share an example or two…

 

The ‘No Gap’ Example

 

When it comes to my writing — like today — sometimes I’m not in the place I assumed I’d be. The post I thought I was writing is still in draft. At one point this morning I wasn’t even sure I’d post anything!

In fact it goes further: I’m planning to write a book this year and, clearly, that book hasn’t been written (yet)…

“Oh well, that’s interesting!” I say to myself. I am an observer in what is happening, I am not ‘in control’ of how things unfold.

There is no ‘gap’ (for me) in this scenario; I’m not experiencing the place I find myself as anything other than kinda interesting.

It doesn’t matter that I haven’t written the book, I’m totally content to be moving towards it and yet not know where I will end up; I have no attachment to this post versus the post I thought I was writing… what is is simply what is.

There is no pain or discomfort because I don’t feel as if I need to be anywhere other than where I am. AND, still, there is a direction to look — the direction of my next book.

 

The ‘Mind the Gap’ Example

 

However… there are other places in my life where it feels, in a very real way, as if there is a gap between ‘where I am’ and ‘where I think I should be’.

Meaning, it feels as if it ‘isn’t OK’ to be where I find myself.

Imagine, for example (well there is no need to imagine, because it’s a real example!), that, right now, I’m not as fit as I want to be (or have been in the past).

I find myself dissatisfied with my body, my level of fitness, my lack of stretchiness in yoga, my unwillingness to go out for a run. I look back to a rosy past and compare myself to the younger Cathy, or I look forward, creating an imagined life of misery and inactivity.

Ouch!

What I’m doing here is feeling the mental anguish that comes from not seeing that all of this is an illusion. An illusion that looks (sometimes) as if my present situation is not OK.

To an outsider (a fitness trainer perhaps) it could look as if my dissatisfaction is coming from my desire to be somewhere else, and therefore we could work with that to drive a change in my behaviour. A ‘burn your bridges’ approach; the worse things get the more motivation I have to do something about it.

Sorry, but no, that’s not how things work.

What’s happening for me in this example is simply that I do not see the illusion. The ‘gap’ looks real. But how can it be? I cannot be other than where I am?

 

Being With the Moment and Still Moving Forward

 

Of course, being where I am, and seeing that I am always whole and complete, doesn’t mean I have to stay in one place! (I couldn’t anyway since we are in perpetual motion.)

If I want to look towards a place of being more fit, to get back into my running, or find an alternative, more long-distance walking and cycling, maybe indoor climbing (my boys love this, why can’t I have a go too?!), etc etc, then I can do that.

The more it looks to me as if this ‘gap’ between my present reality and my imagined present reality is real, however, the more difficult it is to create that in my life. I’m looking at the illusion, not the beautiful unfolding of life.

 

The Problem Isn’t Where You Think It Is

 

The problem is never in the future. It isn’t somewhere to ‘get’ to. The gap between where we are and where we want to be is never the problem.

It’s the gap between ‘where we are’ and ‘where we think we should be right now’ that is draining us of mental energy, that is taking our focus away from doing what we want, from being fully connected with the person in front of us, from showing up as our best self, from doing the work that needs to be done.

The more clearly we see that the gap is an illusion, that it only looks real because we create it as real, the better we are able to move forwards on the path we are guided to take.

The more clearly we can see the complete irrelevance of where we are, the more things will begin to shift.

After all, where we are is always perfect.

There is no gap. (which comes back to my piece on imaginary dragons — more on that later…)

With love,

Cathy

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