We live in a culture where accomplishments are our currency. Whether it is spoken out loud or simply insinuated, there is an expectation that you will be productive and have results to show for your efforts. 

But sometimes we can take this too far and it’s easy to fall into the trap of burnout when you focus almost exclusively on being successful rather than building a life. 

I recently interviewed Jamie Getgood, an award winning leader formerly in the Australian automotive industry. Jamie was someone who came into an organization that wasn’t performing well and poured his heart and soul into the business to help it thrive.

Sometimes even when you’re really good at what you do, you might still be a small fish in a big pond. The entire automotive industry in Australia decided to close down and this affected up to 100,000 people. Jamie got involved in the closure and transition program for General Motors, the company that had hired him. He also sat on the task force to help the supply chain and industry close. 

While his work was meaningful and earned him awards, it also took its toll on him. In addition to feeling burdened emotionally, Jamie was working long hours. When he felt the effects his work was having on him, he kept it private. He didn’t reach out and share it with others or seek out support, perhaps because of his “pride and ego at the time,” but perhaps because he didn’t want to burden others with his struggles. 

 

The Weight of Expectation

 

Jamie is a combination of a Doer and a Feeler. He is very action oriented, which means he puts many hours into his work, but he’s also someone who cares very much about other people. His role at the time was to help people transition during the closure of the industry. Today he is properly titled with the role of Chief People Officer. Part of the reason he focuses on doing, perhaps, is to fulfill others’ expectations and meet the volume of work they need him to fulfill. 

One thing that happens when we distribute our resources unevenly between work and family life is that we suffer and we hurt the people we love. Not only was Jamie suffering silently, he wasn’t able to be present for his kids and spouse. He talked about trying to be a “good dad” but feeling like he wasn’t as present as he should have been, and ultimately his relationship ended in a divorce. 

Feelers are very family-centric, so having your family life fall apart can be heartbreaking. Imagine feeling burned out because of the sheer volume of work you’re expected to do, the emotional toll of supporting thousands of people as they grieve their losses, and on top of that watching your marriage fall apart. 

Like many Doers, Jamie worked all day at the office, then got home and would continue to work. His entire purpose in doing this was to “make sure that everyone was taken care of.” But when you try to take care of everyone, you ultimately fail. Your expectations are not realistic, especially when taking care of yourself is not at the top of the list. 

As the stress piled up, this once confident, smart man with a can-do attitude became cynical and started thinking he “couldn’t handle things anymore.” He was feeling fatigue, started seeing his performance decline, and was filled with the anxiety of imposter syndrome whereby he was asking himself, “Am I good enough?” 

It’s not surprising that if the real reason he was working this hard was to ultimately take care of his family, when his family life was falling apart, he no longer even wanted to juggle the workload, the expectations, or the responsibility. 

 

Cashing in On Your Relationship Currency

 

I got to a point where life was pretty tough. And when I was at my lowest point, there were some things I had to do to try and pull myself out of that. And luckily I had the right people in my camp.

Because Feelers value relationships and invest so much of themselves in others, in time of need they have the advantage of being able to lean on others. In Jamie’s case, the pastor of his church showed up in just the right way. Jamie describes going through a journey with his pastor who “Told me how I really am and not, you know, how I was viewing myself at the time.”

Jamie stopped bottling everything in. He started opening up, getting stuff off his chest, and started the healing and recovery process from burnout, grief, and identity shifting.

 

Doing vs. Being 

 

Jamie learned his strong work ethic from his father’s role modeling. As a kid, Jamie saw his dad work many hours. On top of his full time job, Jamie’s father was a leader at the church. He was “always busy” and this sent Jamie the message that “You have to  put in hard yards for your family.” That explains the notion of having to work to the point of burnout for a Feeler. Making a living supports those you love. It’s what gives your work purpose. 

But when this purpose takes you out of balance, life makes corrections for you and this has been Jamie’s lesson which he now shares with the world. In his words, “It has to be a balance between putting the effort in to support your family, but also being there for your family.

We can work less hours and less time and spend more time with our family and have probably a richer life from a wellbeing and a heart point of view than any dollar’s going to give you.”

Other bits of programming Jamie carried around with him were, “I am the man of the house and I need to be responsible. I have to be strong, so I can’t show emotion.” He wanted everything to “look rosy” and he wanted people to think he was “great at everything.” In other words, any struggle might be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

 

Learning From Our Mistakes

 

Sometimes even when we have the best intentions at heart, we get it wrong. We think we are being noble, working ourselves to the point of exhaustion, giving everything we have to take care of others. But this doesn’t work and when you find yourself burned out as a result, this can be an amazing wake up call. 

So if you identify with Jamie’s story as a Doer who’s really a Feeler and you’re spending so much time at work that you no longer have energy when you get home, bring yourself back to your “Why.”

If we were to turn back time and I was able to ask Jamie, “Why are you working so hard?” he would likely have told me “To take care of my family.” And if I’d asked him, “How is that working out for you?” he would have had a chance to slow down enough and reflect on his results, not just his actions. 

Sometimes we get lost along the way. I know this happens to me as a business owner. I get caught up in all the actions I have to take that I get so busy. Every once in a while, I make sure to either take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what I’m doing and the return on investment it is having for me or get some coaching to help me have more insight and strategy that better aligns me with my mission. 

One way you might become lost is if you focus on making a certain amount of money. Even when you have that money coming in, you continue to strive. You’ve achieved your goal but remain hungry for more. 

What would taking a step back look like for you? It might include asking some important questions like:

  • How much money do I really need?
  • How am I making money work for me?
  • Do I have more time or more money?
  • If I have more money than time, how can I buy more time?

What these questions are getting at is the biggest question of all: Do you work to live or do you live to work?

As I mentioned on the interview, “Sometimes we lose sight of what’s important and 

we’re so focused on making money that we forget that money is a tool. The idea is that it’s supposed to buy us back our time so that we can have a life.”

As a Feeler, Jamie wanted to take care of other people’s needs and he never learned to say “no.”  He said, “I felt like if I didn’t put in the effort, everyone was going to struggle.”

That’s something a lot of Feelers struggle with because they care so deeply about people. They take on a tremendous amount of responsibility for others, even when others can be fully capable to being self-sufficient. 

If that’s you, ask yourself this question: “When I say ‘yes’ to this person, what am I saying ‘no’ to?” Often that is you and your family, the very people who should be top of your list. 

And to me, this is what living an intentional life is all about. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to support and help other people, especially when they ask for help. But in order to show up without overstretching yourself and without ending up in burnout or resentment, you first have to map out what you’ve already committed to and whether you even have the bandwidth to take on anything else. 

If you help Jenny out with her presentation, will you have less time to spend with your kids tonight? Will you be eating dinner later with your family? Will you have less time to recharge after work? Will it mean that you forgo time with your spouse this evening?

Consider the consequences of saying “yes” and that will help you make an informed decision about what you can take on, how much you can add to your plate, and when you can do so. 

In the interview, Jamie shared his experience of being in psychotherapy. After six months, his therapist had recognized Jamie’s tendency to feel guilty and selfish about focusing on himself, something that most Feelers struggle with. His comment to Jamie was life altering. He said, “I’ve been listening to you for six months now and I don’t ever hear you say anything selfish. It’s always about other people. You are selfless and it’s actually damaging you.”

Powerful. 

 

Installing The Oxygen System

 

I loved that Jamie shared his struggles, his programming, and his burnout story on the podcast. But what I loved most of all was the lesson he took out of his experience and how he’s inspiring other Feelers to rethink this overgiving paradigm. 

He reminds us of what has now become so cliche – the notion that when you go on an airplane and there is an emergency, you put your air on before you put it on your kids. In other words, “You’ve got to take care of you so you can help others.”

Then, of course, Jamie takes it to the next level. 

As a leader in the business… someone’s got to install that oxygen system…You actually have to put actions in place so you’ve got air to help you when you need it.” 

How can you do that?

Jamie advises us to “take a step back and reflect on ‘What am I putting in place so that when the scenarios happen, I’ve actually got something to pull on?’”

When you’re in that moment of burnout, when you’re in that moment of feeling like the world’s against you and you’re actually spiraling…if you haven’t put things in place, you go to grab the help and then you’re going:

  • The help’s not there 

OR

  • I actually don’t know what to grab.”

Installing that oxygen system is Jamie’s best advice for burnout prevention. As an example, he and his wife schedule time in advance for the family. They are putting in the air system that they can pull on when needed. 

 

3 Tips for Installing Your Oxygen System

 

Jamie’s concept of installing your oxygen system is a great burnout prevention strategy. He’s already shared how he uses this at home with his family. Here are three additional ways to implement this in your life, especially if you’re a Feeler. 

Tip #1: You need to have the right people in your camp. That means investing in the right people. 

What are the right people, according to Jamie? It’s the people who you invest in who are right there for you when you need them as well. And when they recognize your burnout, rather than pretend that everything is rosy, you allow them to ask you those tough questions. You open yourself up and share how you’re feeling. 

Surround yourself with:

  • Mentors
  • Counselors
  • Coaches
  • Friends
  • Family members
  • Pastors

Just like it’s not enough to have an oxygen system installed, it’s not enough to have these people in your life. You need to make use of the system. 

I look back now. If I had spoken to my parents and my brother, in particular, the journey would have been a hundred times easier.

In contrast, the wrong people are the ones who turn their back on you when you are in a crisis. 

The lesson here is “There is a level of selfishness you need because people aren’t going to help you back how you might help them. Not everyone does appreciate all the efforts you put in.”

Consider whom you surround yourself with and whether these are the types of people who have your back. As Maya Angelou once said, “When someone tells you who they are, believe them.”

Tip #2: You’ve got to look at any crises or problems as an opportunity. 

By now you know that one of the biggest contributors to burnout is your programming and Jamie was programmed to be fierce, take responsibility, and not show any weakness. But our programming can change and Jamie is a testament to that. 

“I am a different person today and I believe I’m a far better, stronger, greater person. I have a better view on responsibility.”

While burnout is something we feel, stress starts out as our perception that we cannot cope with the demands of our situation. 

During the interview, Jamie mentioned Kelly McGonigal’s TEDx talk, How to Make Stress Your Friend. He shared his takeaway from that video.

If you see that stress is actually giving you the power to be better and to get through any situation, it’s actually powering your body. So the extra heart rate that you get, the feelings in your body that you get, it’s actually giving you a supercharge to help you through any scenario.

It’s not a bad thing. And if we view stress as a trigger in your body to…help you through this scenario, you actually have a far better health outcome. Whereas if you view stress as bad…your health deteriorates.”

How can you change your mindset about stress?

Jamie tells himself, “I’m feeling a little tense right now, but that’s my body responding to the scenario and it allows me to get through this.” Using this strategy, he is able to turn insurmountable problems into opportunities to learn and grow. 

Tip #3: You are who you are meant to be

When you compare yourself to others who are perhaps ahead of the curve, when you try to be  something you’re not, and when you hold yourself to an unrelenting and unrealistic expectation, you rob yourself of joy. 

Once again, Jamie leaned on the people in his camp to point out the parts of him that were already incredible. 

I don’t have to be a stencil of someone else. I’m my own stencil.” – Put that on a bumper sticker!

Mindset shifts to help you be your own stencil:

  • I have the gifts and abilities.
  • I have this nature to make a difference in this world as me.
  • It doesn’t matter if I’m a different shape to someone else. 
  • It doesn’t matter if I have a different mindset than someone else. 
  • It doesn’t matter if I look different or respond differently or have a different job. 
  • I am incredible as I am. 

Give yourself permission to show up as you are. 

If you are in the process of burnout, just think about Jamie’s story. Maybe there is something on the other side for you and it’s out there waiting. Don’t despair. Just be patient. Install that oxygen system and find a balanced way of taking care of those you love while taking care of you. 

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If you’re burning out, download the Burnout Checklist to see which stage you are in and what you need to focus on to recover. Go to: www.drsharongrossman.com/burnoutchecklist