A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the category “Fear”

Paradigm Shifter #1 – Trust your gut

Paradigm Shift

I’ve observed that many of us rely almost exclusively on quantitative evidence, while ignoring or even disparaging our more subjective qualitative insights.

Is this indulgence in data-driven, linear analysis due to our fear of the unknown?

Are we so driven by “hard” data that we are blocking the “soft” insights available only through our gut feelings?

But, are our data-driven and intuitive minds really so diametrically different?  In other words, why is it so common to believe that a linear way of looking at a problem is the only way to look at that problem?

Anyone who has truly mastered a skill has what seems to be an uncanny ability to “see” things that others who are less skilled simply overlook. In fact, someone who has mastered a skill or craft often does not engage in the machinations of “hard” data analysis, but can “see” the solution to the problem or potential outcome quickly.

Should this master’s insights or suggestions be ignored? Hardly, because it often is the result of experience and a finely honed ability to recognize patterns or trends that lead to those insights.

Is our gut instinct based on this same foundation?

Gut instincts nag us to do something – even if it’s not necessarily what we had planned to do.  Often these gut feelings contradict our more linear perception of reality and we don’t heed the advice:

  • Remember that “funny feeling” you had when you accepted a job offer that sounded so good – even though “something” was telling you not to accept it? You only discovered (after much angst) that what the employer told you about the job wasn’t the reality of the job.
  • Or what about the time that “something” told you to get off the plane in which you were traveling? More than likely, you ignored your gut – but then gave yourself a head slap when the plane had to make an emergency landing down a runway filled with firetrucks and responders in hazmat suits. (This actually happened to me!)

In both of these situations, did you question why you didn’t listen to your gut?

So what leads to these gut feelings?

While the specific mechanism of what creates a gut feeling may not be fully understood, it seems that we humans are wired to have them.

In fact, I haven’t met anyone yet who does not acknowledge that they have experienced a gut feeling about a person or situation at least once in their lives.  Although the feeling may have defied logical analysis, the insight ultimately came true.

The sad reality is that gut feelings are often only acknowledged after the fact.  In other words, we recognize or admit to having that gut feeling only in hindsight.

Given the ubiquitous nature of gut feelings, the number of people who actually listen to their gut (anecdotally based upon my observations) is substantially smaller.

The question, of course, is why are we so afraid of acting upon our gut instincts or using them in our decision making? Why is it so challenging to accept these gut feelings before we act – rather than recognizing their wisdom afterward?

Perhaps it is the fear of being wrong or failing that prevents us from accepting the spontaneous insights of our guts. But what if our gut instincts are simply the result of processing information at a much higher speed than our more linear thought processes?

The Brain and the Mind

For lack of a better location, our gut instincts emanate from our brains – and the full capacity and capabilities of this amazing organ have not yet been fully mapped.

I’m sure that you’ve heard the recurring myth that people use only 10% of the total capacity of their brains. However, this assumption from the early 1900s has been debunked by current research.  The reality is that nearly every part of our brain is constantly active:  although only 3% of total body weight, the brain uses 20% of the body’s total energy.

In other words, the brain is constantly active processing, organizing, and storing external and internal information.

Maybe our gut instincts are the result of our brain sensing patterns or similarities with information that it had previously stored – information that would take longer to detect using purely linear thought processes.

So, why not become a little more receptive and accepting of the quicker insights of our gut feelings?

I’m not suggesting that quantitative data be ignored in decision making. Instead, I am suggesting that data be viewed as a tool that needs to be analyzed and interpreted by using both parts of our brains:  the linear quantitative and the creative qualitative.

Our experiences have shown that hindsight is always 20/20. But imagine how our lives would be enhanced if we finally learned to trust those gut feelings when they happen!

Trusting your gut is essentially a commitment to trusting yourself.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a change management/HR expert and passionate advocate for eradicating burnout in the workplace. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, university professor, and researcher, she is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as a popular keynote speaker and corporate trainer. To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI. She can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.

 

 

 

Paradigm Shifter #48 – Identify your life’s purpose

Paradigm Shift

You will always leave a legacy – whether you intend to or not. To intentionally leave a legacy, you must identify and act boldly based on your life’s PURPOSE.

This advice is perennial: success requires that you understand why you are here…at this time…in this place…with these specific talents.  Your legacy is, therefore, the result of the interplay between your internal talents and the external circumstances that create the fabric of your life.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe that this unique amalgamation is random or dictated by a higher power. What matters is that you identify for yourself the “why’s” of your life.

But it is often much easier said than done.

Boldly asserting your life’s “purpose” can be frightening:

  • Will I become so focused on a single goal that I miss out on all the other things that life has to offer?
  • Is it egotistical to believe that I am here for an important reason that can impact society – or even a small portion of it?
  • What if I want to achieve this purpose so badly and commit so many resources to it…then don’t achieve it?

Whether expressed out loud or just simmering in our subconscious, these fears powerfully sabotage our ability to really achieve success on our own terms.

The fear of “missing out”

I am adamantly against the idea that anyone can “have it all” – but I just as adamantly support that you can have what you want.

Several years ago, I was the keynote speaker at a university’s conference on women. My topic focused on transcending the guilt-inducing societal edict that we can – and should! – “have it all.”  Instead, I recommended that we focus on our personal priorities in order to achieve what’s most important to us.

While many of the women agreed with me, I was astounded at the anger and vehemence of a few of the women. In fact, one attendee said that the topic should have been that “Geri Puleo has it all.”

Why did this well-meant advice create such astonishingly diverse reactions?

Having the courage – and, yes, it takes courage – to proclaim what we want and then act accordingly holds a mirror up to our lives. Our actions reflect our priorities even if we profess something entirely different.

Realizing that we can’t “have it all” but that we can “have what we want” is profoundly life-changing.  It takes away the guilt if we don’t try to do everything…for everybody…but often not for ourselves.

This insight also might lead us to take actions that will upset or hurt other people because we may need to say “no” to their requests in order to say “yes” to what we need to do in order to achieve our life’s purpose.

But when we live our lives based on what we believe is our guiding PURPOSE to be here at this time, in this place, and with our unique talents, then saying “no” becomes much easier.

And the people who truly support us – our “tribe” – will embrace us along our journey.

The so-called “egotism” of a higher calling

When we finally muster the courage to define what we want (our life’s purpose) and decide to go for it, we must also let go of that which does not support that purpose.

And when that involves letting go of (or at least distancing ourselves from) certain people, it is far too common for them to demean us in order to assuage their feelings of rejection.

So they call us egotistical. A dreamer.  Unrealistic.  Even a braggart.

Striving for a higher goal, a noble purpose, is life-affirming – even if those who are currently around us try to belittle our ambitions.

Again, it takes courage to live based on a rock solid belief in the PURPOSE of our lives.  This has the effect of propelling us toward people who also live their lives based on a higher calling.

We generally are not “discarding” the people who are currently in our lives (but don’t necessarily support us). Instead we are shifting our relationships with them on a continuum traversing friends who have moved to the periphery of our relationships to those who are toxic and thus no longer a part of our lives.

But, even more importantly, living our lives based on PURPOSE makes us much more compassionate and empathetic toward others. In fact, we tend to be more open and give more of ourselves to those who also want to make a difference – and the probability of supportive reciprocation is vastly increased.

Defining the difference that we want to make – whether it is on a small familial level or on the greater world stage of society – is the essence of identifying the unique purpose of our individual lives.

And there is no egotism in wanting to achieve something that ultimately helps others.

The fear of failure

I really don’t believe that there is an objective difference between a “winner” and a “loser.” The truth as to who “wins” and who “loses” rests solely in the eye of the beholder.

Life is a journey. Anyone who has achieved greatness has also had the gnawing fear of “what’s next” and “how do I top this?”  You still have a life to live after you achieve the goal that you defined as identifying you as a “winner.”

Because life is a journey, living with PURPOSE creates a better sense of balance. Goals become benchmarks on the path to creating an intentional legacy.  If a particular tactic doesn’t achieve a goal related to the overall purpose of your life, then it is much easier to adapt and shift.

The biggest fear comes from not achieving the scope of your life’s purpose.  Maybe you won’t save the world, but your daily actions aligned with your purpose will undoubtedly create small successes and even joy.

There will be challenges, but your journey toward actualizing your PURPOSE will also be energizing and enjoyable – something that you don’t want to “miss out” on. When your purpose is based on a higher noble goal, it is the antithesis of egotism.  And, finally, recognizing that “failure” is really an opportunity to learn creates curiosity and commitment.

Living in alignment with the PURPOSE of your life transcends the siren call of society’s more mundane definition of “success.” Rather than living with fear and second-guessing, a life lived with purpose is a life well lived and produces a sustainable, intentional legacy.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert whose goal is to eradicate burnout from the workplace. She is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as a popular keynote speaker and trainer. To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI. She can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.

How to Overcome Job Burnout – NEW Online Course!

BANNER - Final

Is your job burning you out – but you can’t decide whether to “tough it out” in your current job OR take the step to find a new job?

  • Does your current job offer security – but you feel like your burnout is literally killing you?
  • Do you want to explore other employment opportunities – but you’re too burned out to harness the energy to take action?
  • Are you afraid of what might happen if you don’t take action to overcome burnout NOW.

What should you do?

To help you decide, I am proud to announce the first course in my new Online Training Academy:  Job Burnout: When to Stay, When to Go, What to Do.

This totally online course is available ON DEMAND, and will help you finally decide:

  • When you should STAY in your current position
  • When you should LEAVE your current position
  • What you can do NOW to overcome burnout

You’ll have full access to each of the 6 modules PLUS downloadable e-workbooks, audiopodcasts, webinars, short readings, Quick Checks, and a private interactive online discussion board – and, yes, I’ll be on the discussions to answer questions and give you even more tips on how to overcome job burnout.

Job Burnout: When to Stay, When to Go, What to Do is on-demand, so it is accessible 24/7 anywhere around the world.  Complete the lessons at your convenience on your computer, tablet, or smart phone.

BONUS:  You’ll have full access to the course for 1 year – absolutely free!

The price for this course is $149 — but I am offering a special limited time discount through April 30, 2016.  Use discount code 70APR2016 and save $70 off the normal $149 price (only $79).

For More Information:  https://app.ruzuku.com/courses/12975/about.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a passionate advocate for eradicating burnout in the workplace.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, she is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as an author, researcher, and popular keynote speaker and trainer.  To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  She can be reached at geri@gapuleo.com

Paradigm Shifter #8 – Every day can be a new beginning IF you want it

Paradigm ShiftMany people view the New Year as a time for new (or renewed) commitments. I have also found that just as many view the changing of the calendar as just another day.  Is one view better than the other?

What if there was a third way to view the start of a new year? What if we could look at every day as a new beginning – regardless of the date on the calendar?

As anyone who has ever been a member of a health club will tell you, the first few weeks of January are filled with people who have “finally” decided to get in shape. Unfortunately, this causes only a temporary problem with delays and waiting for machines because all of these new year’s athletes’ staunch resolutions to “finally” do it have…well, vanished by February.

I also know clients, colleagues, and friends who believe that the New Year is really just another day. “Nothing new to look forward to – just the same old, same old.”  Unlike the New Year’s athletes, their resolve to do something new often vanished long before January 1st.

Very different perspectives yet, in both of these cases, there is a common theme: a nagging unhappiness.  Maybe it is the belief that something in our lives is wrong.  Maybe it is a fear that we have no control over our lives.  Maybe it is an anger that our current lives are not what we had anticipated or hoped for.

Henry David Thoreau’s observation that most of us “live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in [us]” is uncomfortably familiar.

But what if we instead recognized that every day (and every individual moment within each day) is brand new? That every day has never happened before…and will never happen again?  How would this paradigm shift change life as we know it?

While I agree that the New Year can be a “good” time to “finally” take action on that which we want to achieve, why limit ourselves to only one day in the year? For both the New Year’s athlete whose resolution starts out strong then fades away and the person whose life is one of monotony without change, it may mean the beginning of the end to the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that we feel.

We can (and, I believe, should) embrace the challenge to view each day as a new beginning:

  • Let go of the past. Easier said than done, but all of those “wouldas,” “couldas,” and “shouldas” are powerful “guilty glues” that feed our fears of wanting and doing something more.
  • To let go of the past, we need to remind ourselves that we are NOT our pasts. The amazing thing about humans is that we have an innate capacity to change and adapt. The paradox is that we are often afraid of those changes due to an unending litany of “what ifs” that prevents us from moving forward.
  • Learn from the past – but remember that this is valuable hindsight and not necessarily inescapable foresight. Just because it happened before doesn’t necessarily mean that it is inevitable now. This is true for both victories and failures. The consistent practice of self-reflection helps us to recognize patterns so that we can avoid repeating past mistakes or proactively replicate the factors that contributed to past successes.
  • Don’t be afraid to open up to the road ahead. To do that, we need to stop looking backward in the rearview mirrors of our lives. What lies ahead? Where do you want to go? What do you want to be? How can you use your God-given talents to get there? (Surprisingly, many people with whom I’ve spoken to have absolutely no idea what their ideal life would look like – without a destination, it’s nearly impossible to map out the best route to get there.)
  • Take three deep breaths and just do it! Nike was on to something when they branded themselves with those three little words. Yes, we’re all afraid of what might happen! Yes, it is inevitable that there will be surprises along the road! And, yes, we might even decide to change our destination! But not doing something empowers our minds to weave powerful, self-righteous “what if” fictions that rationalize and reinforce the “guilty glues” that are keeping us stuck and unhappy.
  • So what if we fail? Most failures are NOT – I repeat, NOT! – the end of the world. Failures lie on a continuum from minor upsets to life-threatening catastrophes. What’s fascinating is that the same “failure” can be viewed as earth-shattering by one person, but only a minor pain to another. Our perceptions create our realities.

Success has never been and will never be a linear path. Many people who ultimately succeed often admit that they have “failed” their way to success.  They learn from the past.  They don’t let their pasts define their futures.  And they don’t wait to make the necessary changes in their lives based on a date on the calendar.

I hope that every day in this New Year can be a new start and an awakening for you. Happy New Year!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert whose goal is to eradicate burnout from the workplace. She is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as a popular keynote speaker and trainer. To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI. She can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com

Lemons, Lemonade, and Lemon Drops: The 3 Possible Responses to Any Challenge

Lemons

It has been said that “life is what happens when you’re planning something else.”  Our responses to these unwanted, unexpected, or “unfair” situations are the determining factors of how our lives will continue after these situations eventually end.

These responses are more profound than the simple choice between optimism and pessimism. Instead, our responses to any situation reveal our “go to” reaction to the inevitable challenges that life throws in our paths.  Do we persevere, seek revenge, or retreat from the situation?

Whenever life throws a curve ball, we are blessed with the innate power to control how we perceive it and respond to it.  Really.

Over the past 6 weeks, I was deep in the demands of being the executrix of my father’s estate. For what appears to be unfathomable reasons to “everyone,” selling his house (the primary asset of his estate) was fraught with difficulties, lies, and unethical treatment by the professionals with whom I entrusted the marketing of this property.

But, more importantly, these challenges caused me to scrutinize my reactions to this enormous and prolonged challenge (he passed in May 2014) that life had thrown in my path. My responses ranged from high hopes and confidence in the predictions that it would be a very quick sale to frustration, anger, and (ultimately) apathy toward the entire process.

The problem was that I couldn’t simply walk away from it. The house had to be sold in order to get out from under the surprisingly high costs of maintaining it.

I am a firm believer that there is a higher truth attached to everything that happens to us.  Each person and event in our lives ultimately provides us with opportunities to learn the lessons that we need in order to move beyond them and go forward toward our destinies.

Since my descending emotions mirrored those that lead to burnout (see my Burnout During Organizational Change [or B-DOC] Model), I was well aware that I had to develop a proactive response to these challenges.

In order to avoid a full-blown, long-lasting, emotionally and physically debilitating burnout, I had to take stock of not only what was happening but also how I was interpreting it.

What I discovered is that when life throws the inevitable lemons onto our paths, we have the choice to respond with lemons, lemonade, or lemon drops.

The Lemon Attitude: Lemons are valuable ingredients to bring acid and brightness to a recipe. The lemons that life tosses onto our paths have the potential to do the same:  to bring brightness and clarity from a tart and challenging situation.

But responding to life’s challenges with a lemon-based attitude throws additional acid onto the situation. It simply sours the entire experience by responding with pessimism and negativity.

A lemon-based response keeps us focused on the tart acidity of the challenge. Lemons blind us to the complete circumstances of the problem by reinforcing our frustration and anger.  Lemons focus on devising diabolical ways to “get back” at that which is causing our distress.

Just like too many lemons in a recipe can cause the dish to be inedible, responding to life’s challenges with a “lemon attitude” overshadows all the other aspects or “ingredients” of the problem — aspects that can be transformed into a more positive outcome.

The Lemon Drop Attitude:  Lemon drops are a very popular alcoholic drink – since they taste good, we might end up drinking a little (or a lot) more than we should. The result is that we escape and “forget” for at least a little while.

Responding to challenges with lemon drops is akin to being ostriches with our heads firmly buried in the sand. Instead of responding in a forthright manner to the obstacle that life has presented to us, we ignore the problem.  Or we refuse to take responsibility for our potential role in solving the problem.  Or we adopt the role of a victim by blaming the whole thing on someone else.  Or we put on a “happy face” and just “hope for the best.”

The result, however, is the same: we do nothing.

But we erroneously rationalize our lack of action as evidence of our “patience” — when, in fact, it is the result of fear or exhaustion. And, despite our attempts to “escape” the problem, it gnaws away at us in both our waking and sleeping hours.

While there is a time in every prolonged challenge to take some “time off,” I personally believe that the amount of time has to be limited. Otherwise, it can easily become a self-defeating habit:  ignoring a problem will never lead to the results that we desire.

The Lemonade Attitude:  We’ve all heard the old adage of turning lemons into lemonade when life throws challenges at you. It’s a lot easier to do when the problem isn’t big, prolonged, and financially or emotionally destabilizing.

But this change in our perception of the problem is the only way to proactively address it. We summon the courage to face our own fears that caused us to perceive the situation as a challenge in the first place.

After all, our perception is our reality.

The lemonade attitude is not a vacant affirmation that “everything is going to be all right.” The lemonade attitude requires courage, self-understanding, and a belief that there IS a way out of this debacle (but we just haven’t discovered it yet).

The recipe for lemonade is quite simple: lemons, water, and sugar – but they have to be in the right balance.  Adding the right amount of sweetness or positivity to our perception of the situation is what transforms the tartness of the challenge into something that is not only drinkable, but can also be enjoyable.

Yes, I am saying that any challenge life throws at us has the potential to be enjoyable. (And, no, I haven’t drunk too many lemon drops in order to believe this.)

The foundation of my personal belief system is based on life-long learning – not just in the “book” sense, but also in the more esoteric realm of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and self-growth. It is not an empty “feel good” affirmation, but an energizing “live good” journey.

At no time in my life was this belief system more challenged than in the past 18 months following my father’s death. I am glad to say that the house sold at the end of October and I am in the last steps before closing the estate.  It was a difficult, challenging experience but one for which I will be eternally grateful.  It challenged my beliefs and I came out stronger than I was before.

Life’s lemons are inevitable. Will you respond with more lemons, mind-numbing lemon drops, or a revitalizing lemonade?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #5: You’re only as good as your last gig

Paradigm ShiftAndy Warhol stated that everyone will experience at least 15 minutes of fame.  The scope and reach of that fame might be different, but everyone will be in the limelight at least once in their lives.

The problem occurs when we cling tightly to our previous “moment in the sun” – and forget that yesterday is NOT today.

Couple this human tendency to dwell on our previous “glory days” with the enormous amount of information available to us and you have a society in which people’s focus is constantly being redirected to whatever is new or “trending.”

According to one blogger,

“one bit of information leads to five facts, which leads to three articles, which leads to an interesting interview you must listen to right now, which leads to 10 pages in your browser.”

Whew – no wonder we feel overwhelmed by the information overload in our lives! And no wonder many of us don’t even remember a lot of what we see, read, or even do.

The old cliché of “time marches on” has never been more apparent than today. Instead of marching, time seems to be running a never-ending sprint, constantly moving faster as we leave things behind.

So, even though we may remember the exact details of our past victories and successes, others will generally remember (at the most) just the highlights of our successes – and vice versa.

We have become a society that forgets.

While this might be depressing to some, I believe that this creates an opportunity for us to continuously re-invent ourselves. Instead of resting on our past laurels, we are presented with unlimited possibilities to create something new in our lives.

Dwelling in the “glory days” of our past prevents us from moving forward. As we learn more, grow more, and experience more, the types of successes that we can create ultimately expand well beyond what we were capable of in the past.

If we’re dwelling in the past, we can’t be fully present in the now.

Artists and musicians have always been aware of this fact. The curse of the “one hit wonder” is something that successful artists often use to fuel their creative drive so that they will be the ones who beat the curse and have a lasting body of work.

Why don’t more people in business embrace this perspective? Is business really so different from the arts?

Throughout my years in business and working with clients, I have found that it is all too easy to get “stuck” in one’s past triumphs. Change resistance is rampant. Just like the old joke about the size of the fish that keeps growing when compared with others, many business successes are glorified – even though important details and preliminary sequences are lost in the re-telling.

For example, I knew a financial planner who boasted that he held the record for the highest one day sale in the company’s history. Pretty impressive. However, he conveniently omitted that he had worked on closing that sale for a solid year before the deal was signed. He didn’t do it one day.

And he never again met (let alone exceeded) that triumph.

By looking at each day as a new opportunity to grow and learn, we can appreciate our past successes as the fuel that helps us move forward to something even better. It might not exceed the previous dollar amount or be completed as fast or even achieve the same level of notoriety and awe. But it can be something new that we have never before achieved – and that is personal growth and success.

Due to the revolving door found in many corporations, our professional lives are really comprised of a series of gigs that create not only our careers, but also our professional legacies. Gone are the days when we are hired right out of college, receive consistent promotions, a corner office, and a fully funded pension when we retire.

Just like the actor will play many different roles in many different venues, we, too, will have different jobs with different employers that are often in different industries. And, just like the actor, we will have both triumphs and failures.

But the successful move forward and move on.

What about you? Are you dwelling in your past successes – or looking forward to how you can excel based on what you have learned and who you are right now? After all, to others, you are only as good as your last gig.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com. You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.

Why I Hate Labels: Are We “Should-ing” Ourselves Into Burnout?

Trapped in a box - RidiculeLabels.  They’re great for organizing things in our homes and offices.  They’re even great refrigerator reminders to jog our memories.

But when labels are used as boundaries that keep us within prescribed limitations, they’re lethal to our ability to move forward. These labels tell us what we “should” do based on preconceived notions of what others think about who we are and what we can become.

When we buy into these limiting labels, we relinquish our sense of self. Labels – particularly when they have been placed upon us by people whom we love or respect – can become so embedded in our brains and psyches that we feel guilty if we try to step outside of them.

While many labels that define prejudice and discrimination have been discouraged through laws and regulations, the most dangerous labels to our ability to succeed are those which we place upon ourselves.

The Stickiness of Labels

When we have a strong sense of self and a true understanding of who we are and what we stand for, we are much better able to remove the “glue” from the labels that others try to stick on us. But it’s not easy.

The problem is that many of the labels that we use to define ourselves (consciously or unconsciously) are not the result of recent experiences – or even our interpretations of those experiences. Instead, they are the result of what other people have told us about who they think that we are and, as a result, what we can become. For example, how many of these labels have crossed your mind in response to different challenges?

  • “I’m a control freak.”
  • “I don’t like change.”
  • “I guess I’m just too sensitive.”
  • “I can never overcome what happened to me in the past.”
  • “I can never be a/an [fill in the blank].”

Just like pulling off a bandage, pulling off a label can be just as painful. By saying that the label no longer applies to us, we automatically have to say that what other people told us is wrong. If the label came from our parents, family, friends, or even an admired boss or co-worker, the act of removing the label from our psyches actually changes our relationship with that person.

Consider the labels that society and families placed on women in the Baby Boomer generation. An “acceptable” job (which you only kept until you were married) was generally a teacher, nurse, or secretary/administrative assistant. Anything else was “shocking.” Although other women were in different careers, they were the exception and not the norm – and you were told that you weren’t one of them.

Although Boomers pushed back and opened the doors for women to enter any career, it was not without a great deal of anxiety and second-guessing.

  • Working women were directly or indirectly criticized for either not having children or for “deserting” their children when they were at work.
  • The “glass ceiling” surreptitiously appeared in corporations – although women could see the higher level jobs within the organization, they were effectively barred from moving into them.
  • Pregnant women were often forced to quit their jobs due to their “unseemly” situation – a practice which led to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
  • But even today, there are countless cases of sexual harassment against women when they enter into fields that have been traditionally male dominated – and often times the women never file complaints against their harassers.

While these pioneering Boomer women pushed through these doors, many privately expressed doubts and concerns as to the “wisdom” of their decisions. Although they loved their jobs and excelled in them, a nagging voice inside their heads often made them question their choices – particularly when others were nonsupportive or blatantly accusatory.

With doubt often comes guilt and, with guilt, comes anxiety. When anxiety couples with unmet expectations of what “should” have been the result of a decision, the result is burnout.

Puleo’s Pointers:  How to Pull Off Unproductive Sticky Labels

Labels only appear to be permanent but, in reality, the glue that sticks them to our consciousness is only temporary. Instead of affixed with super glue, we have the power to change that adhesive to one that is used on the little yellow stickies of Post-It™ notes.

When we permit ourselves to continue to hold on to the label that someone else gave us, we essentially relinquish our control to someone else’s judgments of who we are and what we can become.

To move forward, we have to let go.

If we believe that the glue of a negative or unproductive label is permanent, then it will be permanent. Why? Because we become who we believe we are.

Here are some tips to help you finally remove the caustic labels that are preventing you from achieving the success that you want on your own terms:

  • Try to discover the source of the label.  Was it something that your parents told you growing up? Was it the opinion of a manager who didn’t really understand you? Or was it a general consensus within society at a specific period of time? (It may take some time, but be patient.)
  • Determine what was going on when they affixed this label to you.  Did you make a mistake, but were then unilaterally labeled as a “failure?” What was going on in the labeler’s life at the time – could it be that the boss was belittling you with this label because he or she was afraid that you would take their job? (Remember: the label was placed on you by someone else’s reaction to you – so taking account of what was going on in their lives at the time helps you see the bigger picture.)
  • Consider when you used this label as a “safety net” to NOT take action.  One of the biggest problems with labels is the attached “should” that prevents you from taking a desired action – because the label says that “you’re not that kind of person.” Be very clear and detailed about the opportunities you’ve missed because you bought into someone else’s label of who you are. (The more you personally buy into this label, the more you increase the super glue-iness of its adhesive.)
  • Identify who (if anyone) would be “hurt” if you relinquished this label.  Many times we believe that if we change, we’re going to upset others. However, in the end, only you are in charge of your own life. Besides, the people who really care about you will adjust – and, if not, then they aren’t the type of people who are conducive to your success, so limit your interactions with them. (This is the first step in destabilizing the super glue.)
  • Imagine all the positive things that could happen in your life if you let go of this label.  Instead of dwelling on who might be upset or the even more scary unknown future, vividly visualize how much more free you can be once the label has been ripped off. Life is full of boundless opportunities – but you need to be free of the unproductive labels in order to take advantage of this abundance. (At this point, the super glue will effectively change to a temporary glue.)
  • Finally, start acting in a way that is the opposite of the previous unproductive label.  Yes, it’s going to be scary at first. Habitual actions can be difficult to overcome – but you can do it by replacing the negative actions resulting from the previous label into positive actions that reflect the antithesis of that label. Just like Post-It™ notes can be placed and removed repeatedly, it will take some time until you truly believe that the label no longer defines who you are. (When that time comes, celebrate and congratulate yourself for the courage you exhibited in overcoming the boundaries that have limited you in the past. Woo hoo!!!!)

I hope that these tips help you to stop “should-ing” yourself into the über stress of burnout. Let me know if these ideas worked for you!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Residual Burnout: Why It’s So *@%! Hard to Get Fired Up After Burnout

Frustration - man screaming - cartoonIn the hundreds of conversations that I’ve had with people who are recovering from burnout, a common refrain is, “I’m just not as excited and enthusiastic as I used to be…but I don’t know why.”

To escape the devastating effects of burnout, nearly all of these employees made the difficult decision to leave their employers.  This was accomplished either literally by quitting their jobs or figuratively through acts of presenteeism (where they were physically at work, but their minds and energies were directed elsewhere).

But simply leaving the situation that caused burnout is not enough to overcome burnout – and the likelihood of another burnout during recovery is frighteningly high.

Most people are unaware of two important conditions in burnout recovery.  First, while the descent into burnout is relatively quick, the recovery from burnout is lengthy – taking years rather than months.  Second, the recovery period is fraught with opportunities to boomerang back into another full-blown burnout at any time.

In researching my B-DOC Model, I discovered that this “danger zone” easily exists for two years following the burned out worker’s separation from their jobs.  During this time, burned out workers are extremely susceptible to a “boomerang” effect that I call residual burnout.

  • Residual burnout occurs – often without warning – during the 2 years after an employee leaves the situation that caused their burnout.
  • During this 2-year period, burned out workers are consciously trying to get rid of the lingering effects of burnout – including  the frustration, anger, apathy, exhaustion, and chronic health problems.
  • These recovering workers tend to be hypervigilant and highly sensitive to any situation, event, or interaction that triggers negative feelings that are similar to what they experienced when in full burnout.
  • “Fight or flight” reactions to these similar situations are common – usually with a vehemence and emphatic cries of “hell, no!” that are often out of character.

Sadly, workers generally receive little support or empathy from those whom they trust during this difficult 2-year recovery period.  Their logic is based on cause and effect:  since we left our burnout-producing situation, our burnout should simply “disappear.”

But it doesn’t.

The Hidden Landmines in Burnout Recovery

When we remove ourselves from the burnout-producing situation, we expect that our feelings of burnout will substantially decrease or disappear.

But when our feelings of burnout don’t disappear, we begin questioning ourselves:  “Why can’t I simply rebound back to my previous energetic self?!  What am I doing wrong?!  Is something wrong with me?!”

We tend to overlook the fact that recovery from burnout can take years rather than months.

This lengthy post-burnout recovery cycle is a treacherous part of the burnout phenomenon, but one that I believe has received little (if any) attention.  The duration and highly charged emotions of the recovery period often take us by surprise.

But what’s even more surprising to us is how quickly we seem to get “sucked back” into the burnout that we thought we had overcome.

Any situation during the recovery period can trigger us back to any or all of the previous stages of our burnout (frustration, anger, apathy, and full-blown burnout).  While the downward spiral to our initial burnout could have taken 6 to 12 months, this residual burnout can occur in just a few days.

Repeated experiences of residual burnout further lengthen our recovery.

To avoid another round of burnout, we tend to use the same coping mechanisms that we used when trying to avoid our previous burnout:  not sleeping or over-sleeping, over-eating, drinking too much, avoidance, denial, depression.

The boomerang nature of residual burnout is eerily similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Both PTSD and burnout sufferers are prone to flashbacks to the precipitating stress-producing situation.  It is a frightening, emotionally charged, and potentially debilitating experience.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the flashbacks of residual burnout can cause lingering feelings of dissatisfaction, anger, apathy, and both physical and emotional exhaustion.  When we feel like this, it is impossible for us harness our energy, enthusiasm, and motivation to move forward.

But despite these profound similarities, PTSD is a recognized disability that warrants reasonable accommodations by employers under the amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act, while burnout does not.

Without this external support, it also feels like we are in a bottomless pit and that we will never fully “get over” our burnout.

Puleo’s Pointers:  How to Avoid Residual Burnout

Residual burnout is a landmine that thwarts our forward progress to recovery after we have left our burnout-producing situation.  While often ignored by researchers and practitioners, the similarities to PTSD make residual burnout a very real and foreseeable human reaction to the all-consuming feelings of distress experienced during burnout.

In my own experiences and when working with others, simply knowing that it can take two years to fully recover from burnout can be very helpful.  Although it is frustrating to know that a full recovery is such a long process, it helps us to remember to be kind to ourselves and our emotionally raw reactions after burnout.

  • We need to take the time and make the time for rest, exercise, and relaxation.  “Being kind to ourselves” is something that we often “forget” to do when we are in the downward spiral toward burnout.
  • We need to self-reflect (a critical stage in the recovery process) – but not necessarily on what we “did wrong” that caused our burnout, but on the interplay between what was going on in our lives, how others responded to us, and how we felt and reacted.  The goal is not guilt, but a core knowledge and understanding of who we are, what we want, and how we react.
  • We need to vigilantly observe what is going on around us – to be on the lookout for situations, events, and people that we believe are very similar to those found in our previous burnout-producing situation.  Perception is reality.  By identifying and categorizing these experiences, we are better able to move toward more proactive decision-making in regard to how we will (or will not) respond to these stressors.
  • Finally, we need to specifically describe what it is that we expected to happen after burnout.  Burnout often occurs when, despite our most diligent efforts, the reality does not meet our expectations.  Therefore, it might be unrealistic to believe that we will be the exact same people that we were before we burned out.  Burnout (like PTSD) is debilitating and demoralizing to its victims, so we cannot expect to view life the exact same way that we did before.  But we can use the knowledge and insights gleaned from our recovery from burnout to help us move forward in a newer, healthier way.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Letting Go of Dream Stealers: How to Spot People Who Will Sabotage Your Success (Webinar presented by Dr. Geri Puleo)

We humans have an innate need to dream and grow — yet many of us must deal with people who undermine or sabotage our chances for success.  While these “dream stealers” may appear to have good intentions, they are actually transposing their insecurities on you.  The challenge is that dream stealers are often the people who you care about or respect.  As a result, they can have a profound influence on how you move toward and feel about your success.

This 7 ½-minute “mini” webinar provides helpful tips on how to spot the telltale signs of dream stealers in your life, as well as understand why they are trying to sabotage your success.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #55: Life is about impermanence

Paradigm ShiftNothing is permanent.  But even though we recognize this fundamental truth, we nonetheless are often surprised when things come to an end – or anxious when they don’t come to an end soon enough.

Impermanence is a concept that can be disturbing or even depressing to many people.  After all, we want the good things to continue as long as possible (if not forever).

  • We love the newness and emotional high of a new relationship – yet we are dissatisfied when the newness fades into a predictable routine.
  • We relish the feelings of calm relaxation while on vacation – yet we replace these feelings with anger when we must deal with the backlog of work when we return.
  • We are exhilarated when we are recognized for our professional success – yet we are offended when the people around us forget what we accomplished.

More than anything, we want to be happy in our lives – for as long as possible.  And, for some strange reason, we think (or hope) that bad things won’t happen to us.

Even though we regret the impermanence of the good things in our lives, in the height of a particularly challenging “bad” experience, we forget that “this too shall pass.”  In fact, when it comes to the bad things in our lives, we want them to end – sooner rather than later!

If nothing else, we humans are paradoxical creatures.

When faced with these inevitable challenges, we tend to revert back to the previous good times and then ask ourselves why these “bad” things are happening to us.

But bad things are just as fundamental to life.  In fact, we can’t really cherish the good things in our lives without the counterbalance of the bad.

The good news is that both the good and the bad don’t last forever.  By internalizing this basic truth, Buddhists say that we have the key to happiness, mindfulness, and balance.

When we recognize that life is impermanent, it changes our daily decisions and consequent behaviors.  When we know that nothing is forever, we are not only better able to weather life’s inevitable challenges, but also cherish every moment that we are alive – because we realize that we, too, will come to an end (hopefully later rather than sooner!).

The practice of mindfulness – the act of being present every minute of our lives – dramatically changes the way we live, work, and love:

  • When we recognize that our new relationship will change as time goes on, we better appreciate and are fully present during the good times – we can also bask in the newfound security of growing more comfortable with that person over time.
  • When we acknowledge that our calm feelings on vacation will be challenged when we get back to work, we can make the choice to not get angry about the workload that accumulated during our absence – we can even use our emotional memories of that calm relaxation to take us back into that state even if we are bombarded when we return.
  • When we are humble in addition to being exhilarated when people recognize our professional success, we also acknowledge that memories are short, life goes on, and we need to continue to move forward toward new goals.

Instead of dwelling in the past or dreaming of the future, realizing that life is impermanent helps us to concentrate our minds on the present moment.  Because, after all, the past is but a dream and the future is just an idea, but the present is all that we really have to live our lives to the fullest.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

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