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    « Four Weeks In: Laughing, Reading, and Writing | Main | Making Meaning of It All »


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    Oh how things work out! This morning I was wallowing in my burnoutedness. I was looking into career changing and looking up engineering. I found a site discussing engineering with a little advertisement on the side for a small college boasting, " we have lifetime career placement". I thought that I should check out my school's lifetime career benefits - and on the page I found you! I proceeded to click on the link for your blog, and it was like the get-back-on-your-feet gods sent me! The very first entry is so very relevant for me - right now, in this moment! How coincidental is that?! Thank you for this post. If you have only helped one person today, know that you have helped me! I will definitely check back to read all about your road back to joy. I'm just hoping to find that road for now, let alone traveling down it. Thank you!


    Katrina--I'm so glad that writing about my experience with burn out has helped you. Thank you for the gift of that feedback. I had been working on this post for over a week. Hearing the timing of how you found me, I'm glad I hit the publish button when I did.

    Your comments have also prompted me to make an addition to the original post, as a nod to all the support that I've gotten from clients, colleagues, friends and family over the summer. We are never alone.

    Marc Miller

    About a year ago, my blood pressure was up, the stress levels were horrendous and then I was put in a highly unethical position at work. I went back to my psychologist, talked to my friends and looked for an answer. About this time, I had a dear friend collapsed with a massive heart attach while riding his bicycle. My friend was in remarkable condition for anyone much less a 68 year old athlete. Within a minute of him collapsing on his bicycle, someone stopped their car, got out and started CPR. My friend was dead for 10 minutes. Yes, 10 MINUTES before EMS was able to get a heart beat.

    After a quadruple bypass he is back to normal with no brain damage. This was all because a complete stranger got out and did a life saving procedure within a minute of him collapsing.

    That stranger walked away. We have no idea who is was. This was a clear message to me that life is too short.

    At that point I decided to accelerate my business plans and quit my job. Life is too short. The stress and the environment got to me and I chose not to take it any longer. Therefore, I chose to get off. It is a choice but the problem is we often do not see it as a choice.

    It took me a good 3-4 months before I felt well again. We all have to pay attention to the signs of burnout. I am running at much slower pace now and being mindful of taking care of myself, something I have not done a good job of doing in the past.

    Carol thank you for sharing!!

    Ellen Ingraham

    Hi Carol, I am thinking that what you are describing is totally a part of the entrepreneurship journey. Since you are writing from your heart, many will resonate with you and many will be helped. I may even mention that you helped me through several of these valleys when we worked together at A Bigger Voice and the Networking Naturally Program. Because you are able to feel it, analyze it and document this experience so well, I would not be surprised if you help and inspire many more by incorporating it into your arsenal of how to help others find their purpose and vision through story. Love and miss - Ellen

    Laurel Bailey

    Carol, you are a brave and honest woman. Writing this has probably already helped a number of people, in addition to how it may have helped you to express your struggle. Do what you need to do. You will be stronger for it. All the best to you.


    Mark--thanks for your own story of burnout and wake-up calls. The most powerful gestures can be the kindness of strangers. Your point about choice is so true--it's easy for our minds to go to "shoulds" and "musts" when in reality it's about tradeoffs and choices.

    Thanks, Ellen, for all your support over the last few years. I appreciate it.

    Laurel--Thanks for the kind words. I'm not sure that this experience has made me stronger. Rather, it's opened my eyes to what will be life-giving to me going forward. I'm still working on the idea that life is about experience, not achievement.

    Hanna  Cooper

    Carol, it's good to hear your voice again here. I've gone through my own experience of fried this summer, brought to light by unexpected health issues. Looking back, I can similarly see what the signposts were that I ignored. Finding the elusive "balance" in our lives is an ever present and ever changing need. I cheer you on in your transparency about your experience, and modeling the way!


    Hanna--glad that we can reconnect through this post. Sorry to hear about your own experience with burnout, especially when its accompanied by health issues. I hope that you are taking good care of yourself. Balance is indeed ever changing. I've found that balance looks very different when the reserves are still being built up.


    Fried (the book) is helping me right now - I bought it upon reading this column and it is great. 10 years into a line of work I never wanted to go into (and only barely tolerate) has me up against the wall - to the point where I'm starting to think that being fired or sued for malpractice and disbarred would be great, because someone would make the choice to cut the cord for me, and without me. Bleargh. I'll survive, mainly because advice and acknowledgements are out there that we CAN survive because others have been there too.


    MJ--so glad that the book recommendation is helpful!

    I have worked with clients who are approaching burnout from their job. One of the questions that I ask is whether a leave of absence is feasible--in terms of company policy and personal finances. I've found that when my reserves are depleted, it's a horrible space for effective problem-solving. I can't see myself through to a good solution. So the first priority is to fill up the reserves, which often means extended time off.

    You may also want to read the post, "When It's Time to Fire Yourself", published on Oct 7, 2011 on this blog.

    And yes, people do survive and limp along in bad situations. But the downside is that I've seen people tolerate deadening circumstances for months or years (I was one of them) when they could be moving towards a more vibrant life.


    Carol, if I could fire myself I would! Totally!

    Leave of absence is not feasible due to workplace (if I had a legitimate physical injury they might tolerate it - mental health is for wusses here, and I'd like to leave on my own terms, not because someone took away 100% of my work for being a "weak" "girl" when I was out). I'm not even sure if it is permitted for attorneys - only support staff are allowed to have stress, grief, exhaustion, etc. Good news is that friends who went out on their own (several of them) and are surviving keep telling me that I can do it (and showing me why). I'm making plans for a life where I might have a little more control and also don't have to work at law firm levels. But if I could leave tomorrow I would too.


    MJ--I'm glad to hear that you are making plans to move towards a better situation.

    If I may offer an insight--the stories we tell ourselves determine the life we live. And at any time, we have the power to tell ourselves a different story. I think our willingness to tell a new story is the first step to overcoming fear and creating big change in our lives. I'm not saying this is easy, but I think it's a necessary step.

    To give you an example, I'm moving from an old story of "my son is an introvert and needs the refuge of his family to be happy" to a new story of "my son is a college student and can be happy on his own, learning valuable skills on a new adventure". If I hold on to the old story, I'm pretty miserable as a mother. If I am willing to look at the new story, I can be at peace and feel good that he's a thousand miles away from home.

    You have a current story about going out on your own vs. working for your current employer. I hope you'll take some time to explore a new story.

    A great book that brings this concept home is "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years", by Donald Miller.


    Carol, I've heard the coach talk about the stories we tell ourselves before. I'm just reporting on workplace climate. The person who admits to stress and takes a break will find him/herself in the situation as all of the part-time women who are mothers - cut out of projects and visibility. Know the repercussions before you buy them to avoid unpleasant surprises...

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