The Fear Of Complacency Drives “Burnout” — Here’s The Solution
On the heels of what has felt like a multi-year public conversation surrounding the phrase “burn-out” I wanted to pop in and introduce a thought pattern allows us to confront the root mindset that leads to “burn-out.”
The way I see it is that each day we set out to accomplish a day’s worth of tasks. Some days we finish them all, other days we call audibles, both proactive and reactionary, which delay the completion of our original set of tasks. When this happens, we have two choices:
Finish the goals of the day, at any cost.
Be content with what has been accomplished today, admire ourselves for our flexibility, and recognize that tomorrow or the next day will provide us the time to complete the original tasks that remain. Often, in my observations, we finish the goals of the day at any cost. A decision that leads to “burn-out.”
We’ve arrived at this state of ego where we now brag about how hard we work. Better yet, the volume of hours we work is worn as this badge of honor. A merit. Glorified are the weeks of little sleep and going into the office on the weekend. We’ve begun to decline invites citing “work” as our excuse, using a tone that expresses resent while truly desiring our audience to think highly of us because of this commitment to “work.” It’s gotten silly.
When I move through my days, I choose the latter. I choose to be content with what I accomplish. I choose to admire myself for my flexibility and I choose to recognize that tomorrow or the next day will provide me with the time to complete my original tasks.
I believe this attitude towards work is sold as being competitive and hardworking, but truly it is a fear of complacency. I believe that fears of complacency stem from a focus that is short-term. This fear of complacency is what then drives the unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy decisions to continue working while ignoring balance and our wellness.
Translation, this fear of complacency leads to “burn-out.”
However, when we embrace the long term success of our mission, we introduce an ability to be content in our daily accomplishments without fearing complacency.
I structure my days in such a way that they embrace my investment in the long-term. By scheduling according to this, I am able to prioritize a morning ritual that includes sleep, tea, water, meditation and movement, and an evening ritual of supper, nurturing relationships, reading and again sleep. The moments between my rituals are reserved for my work.
Moving through days this way allows me to operate with intention as I show up for myself and my work each day. I am never rushed to meet a deadline. I am never fearful of complacency. The reinforcement of this mindset has birthed positive behavior patterns, the ability to prioritize, and true enjoyment of this journey.
In an effort to celebrate this mindset, I introduced an exercise at the end of my day. Prior to closing my laptop, I record daily celebrations. These are my wins for the day. What did I accomplish today that I am proud of? Some days it is a major relationship made, or opportunity earned, while others it can be as simple as a walk. Regardless of the magnitude of an individual celebration, it is the marking of another successful day. It is an exercise that reinforces my commitment to myself. It reinforces a belief in myself and my ability. My plan. My strategy.
With my embrace of the long-term success of my mission, I understand the value of compounding. Each day that I am able to be content with my day and have a celebration is an indicator of growth. As I write this, it feels like a millennial interpretation of the tortoise and the hare's race.
And many when reading this may nod in agreement, but I encourage you to go beyond and understand the practicality of this mindset. By embracing this mindset, you are then able to accomplish more by showing up day after day, fresh, creative, thoughtful, and quick. The focus on the long-term not only dismisses a fear of complacency but attaches a value to balance in such a way that you no longer seek the weekend or yearn for a vacation. It’s not meant to be dismissive of hard-work, or “grinding,” if anything it allows you and your peers to avoid days of lost productivity due to recovery. What you are building will not disappear tomorrow, so why do you grasp it desperately as if it will?
When I propose a new process of cognitive behavior I poke my holes or seek additional support. For this, I evaluate how we measure success.
Have you ever heard this: “Look how far you’ve come in the past year!”
We measure success in milestones, usually not shorter than one year. Tenure at a company, relationships, sobriety all have celebrations of success marked annually. We are satisfied with annual measurements for these events because we have committed to the duration of which we want to be involved in them. So, if in the most important moments of our life we have already put this into practice, why can’t we do so with the one we show up for daily? Why can’t we look forward with the same excitement, contentment, and measurements as we do our past?
The risk of not doing so is too great.
The risk is carrying a burden so heavy that we never do reach a milestone to celebrate.
The risk is that we allow this fear of complacency to drive unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy decisions that will lead to burn-out.
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