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April 6, 2021

Burned Out? Make a Move Towards Sustainable Success

The conversations about burnout, overwhelm and feeling like we have too much to take care of with too little support and time isn’t new. What is different however, is that over the last 50 years since women fully entered the workforce, the pressure to do more with less has increased.

1 in 3 women will die of heart disease, that number used to be 1 in 4. 

We are burned out and fatigued because the pressure – emotional, mental, energetic and physical – is too much, even for strong women like us.

The added pressures of the last year – from homeschooling, to working from home, and the pandemic – were like lead cherries dropped on top of a sundae that was headed for a topple or a complete meltdown for years.

You know it. I know it.

If we were being honest, we’d admit that we’ve felt unsupported, stretched too thin and like we are not getting what we need for a long time.

Not because we are weak or doing something wrong, but because the pace and expectations are too much. And our systems and structures aren’t set up for how people or this planet work or prosper best.

If we were truly embracing our power we’d speak up and say:

“This way of working isn’t working. And it has to change now.”

I came to this realization in 2007 when I had my first super woman sob. Super woman sobs are what I call the breakdowns that happen to us when the pressure is too much to hold, and the tears just flow. Too often, after the tears stop, we just suck up the sniffles, take a day or weekend off, and then head back into our unsustainable reality, expecting something to be different, which it rarely is. So eventually, we find ourselves in another super woman sob.

However, what I have learned is after the sobs subside, if you get still within, and tune into your deeper intuitive knowing, the calm after the storm comes. Your inner wisdom speaks. And often you receive a breakthrough.

In this particular case, my breakthrough was a flash of awareness that illuminated this:

We have imprints within us about what success is and what we should do to create success that we have received from our education, our current culture, and our training both as employees or entrepreneurs.

Imprints like:

  • Successful, strong women can do, be, and have it all.
  • You have to work hard to get ahead.
  • If you want financial success, you have to sacrifice your personal life and needs. That’s just how it works.
  • A good woman sacrifices herself for the wellbeing of her family or for the sake of a bigger mission.

These ‘imprints’ are like programs running our internal operating systems, which create the standards and expectations we hold and drive ourselves to. The problem is we often don’t see the programs, they run under the surface. Which is why no matter how hard you work, how much you invest, or how much you give, it never seems to be enough.

It’s not our fault we haven’t been able to find truly sustainable ways of living and working, structuring our businesses and organizations, or balancing our material and financial needs with our heart and soul needs.

The models, paths and expectations for success and how much we should be able to do or handle, are set ups for burnout and self-sacrifice, not well-being, wholeness and sustainability.

The societal systems and ways we think things have to be are products of a “more, more, more” over-culture. One whose marketplace demands constant growth for success which trickles down into how we approach our careers, goals, choices and perspectives on how successful we are.

We just don’t see how infected and affected we are by the distortions this kind of culture creates. And if we do see it, it’s so overwhelming, we don’t know what to do about it.

So what do we do to change this?  

The most effective and powerful personal, organizational and social transformation happens when:

  1. We give ourselves space to see things differently first, to gain a deeper level of self and systemic awareness. You “contemplate” a perspective, a piece of wisdom, or a question, without having to have an answer.
  2. You take this contemplation into your life and start to see what’s really happening. You get wise to what’s under the surface.
  3. Then with a deeper internal awareness, you move into intentional, empowered action. You have the clarity to focus on where the significant shifts are. So you stop band-aiding the symptoms.

This article is part of a series I will post here focused on how we can liberate ourselves out of the ways of working and living that are not working. So we can then experiment with different ways of working, living, leading and succeeding that are rooted in wellness, wholeness, and sustainability at the core, not as an afterthought.

Read through the three wisdom bites below, which come from a decade of research I conducted – and lived – to get to the roots under burnout and to find different paths for success in life, business, and society. Then using the inquires I wrote out, which come from my recent book, Overwhelmed and Over It!, contemplate how these are showing up in your life today. Then if you want to go deeper, you can tune into resources at the end.

3 Contemplations for Creating Sustainable Success

ONE: You can do and be anything AND you have to make choices.

You and I were never meant to achieve success by striving to do, be and have it all or by trying to fit into fixed ideas about the ‘path to success.’ We were meant to believe in our very core that we could do anything we committed ourselves to, anything that our hearts compelled us to be. But with the wisdom and understanding we had to make choices along the way.

The truth is that while you and I can do and be anything, we cannot do it all at the same time. And not everything you could do or be is in alignment with who you are and what really fulfills you.

I have worked with and mentored many people who have reached ‘success’ only to realize that the personal or professional reality they created didn’t nourish or fulfill them, no matter how much money they made or how much their mission mattered to them. They created a reality that didn’t fit what they wanted for their lives. Didn’t allow them to be themselves. Cut off parts of themselves. Or didn’t sustain them.

Reflect: Consider a time you reached a goal, and while your mind was satisfied, your heart and soul sank because you created a reality that wasn’t aligned or sustaining for you. Actually, just more work and more to take care of.

It’s okay, we’ve all been there. And there are reasons why.

TWO: The systems did not sufficiently change to support women in the workforce, so we’ve just kept doing more, because we had to.

As women gained more rights to make choices about our careers, bodies and lives, starting back in the 1970’s and 80s, the systems didn’t shift to support the expansion of these possibilities and responsibilities. Microchanges, maybe. Some significant shifts that enabled us to cope and survive, yes. But sweeping societal and organizational change – no.

It’s like the systems said, “Okay ladies have your rights, get educated, have careers. But we, the educational, health-care, financial, familial, governmental and corporate institutions are not going to make changes in how we work that are needed to support this new constellation of your lives, families and responsibilities. You are going to just have to do more.”

So we sucked it up, played the game that the ‘go, go, give, give, more, more’ systems demanded. Got good at the game, or fed up left it.

REFLECT: Think of your own choices throughout your career – when you sucked it up, played full out, or got fed up and quit. Whatever your choices have been, consider this – we’ve been playing the wrong game.

THREE: Now is the time to change the game – to say NO MORE to just doing more. To embrace your power to create new realities and re-define success, through your choices.

First, I want to acknowledge all the ways you have felt like you were not at full choice within your life, where you didn’t have the support, resources or consciousness to make a different choice. Whatever the pressures, we have all made choices to stay in unsustainable jobs, relationships, living situations, careers working arrangements and family dynamics because we couldn’t see another path.

And today, at this time on the planet, that reality must shift – for you, for me, for all women and really all people and the planet. Collectively we have the power to redefine success. It starts with our choices – the big ones and the day to day ones – where you have control or influence. And with how you choose to see and feel about who you are, and how you choose to live.

Creating sustainable success for yourself and those under your care, is a path and a choice, not an overnight transformation, or a 7-step panacea.

First, you commit and make the conscious choice that success must include your health and happiness, your wellbeing and your whole life, or it’s not really success.

Will you stand as an advocate for yourself, and put that stake in the ground?

With this commitment in place, the path to a different reality starts to open for you when you increase your awareness and honesty about the current reality and dynamics running within you and within your life.

Use the three inquiries below to contemplate what isn’t sustainable for you any longer, and reveal where the simple and significant shifts might be. Then take one simple but significant action to get the momentum towards sustainability.

  1. In what ways is your current life feeling out of alignment with who you are, what you desire and what is true and right for you? It’s time to make a different choice.
  2. In what places and relationships in your life have you just been adding more on – without feeling successful or sustained? It’s time to stop the imbalances.
  3. What is no longer sustainable for you – in how you are working? In your relationships? In your life design? It’s time to take a stand for your sustainability.

Turn the self-awareness into self-empowered action: Choose one thing that is no longer sustainable – and take one simple yet significant action to say NO MORE to this dynamic in your life.

Consider this article momentum to prime the pump for shifting the dynamics in your life, work, organization and relationships to create a reality rooted in wellness and sustainability. Imagine that together we can create realities where you can achieve what matters, take care of those you love, including yourself, and receive what you need to be sustained on all levels.

This is just the start. And we can surf on the momentum of the many daring, courageous people who have come before us who dared to do things differently, and take a stand for humanity and themselves.

To go deeper, tune into the Feminine Power Time podcast series on Soul Aligned, Sustainable Success (episodes 151-153). And come back for the next article in this series on sustainable succcess.

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