This is a guest contribution by our wonderful client Jess Stuart – author, coach and speaker
According to a 2020 study by the Mental Health Foundation a quarter of New Zealand adults are at risk of struggling with their mental health. And even pre pandemic Southern Cross showed a 23.5 per cent rise in stress across businesses in their 2019 study.
Why is burnout becoming so prevalent and how can we navigate it to be at our best?
I believe the key lies into tapping into our brilliance. Brilliance can mean many things. In the dictionary it’s defined as cheerful, happy, lively, optimistic, bright, clear, dazzling, light, positive, smart, intelligent, sharp, quick, talented, inspired, skillful, excellent.
These are the things we aim for with peak performance and the things we experience when we’re at our best.
It’s the feeling we get when the sun lights up a room we’re in, it’s that light bulb moment when we have an amazing idea, it’s the 5 star rating on our performance when we’re at our best and it’s the light that shines on others when we move through work and life being our brilliant self.
When we’re brilliant we shine and so light is an intrinsic part of this concept of being brilliant. In fact it feels light to live this way and when we’re closer to burnout we know it’s a heavy load to bear, a darker place to be.
It’s why I love the lightbulb metaphor here and for me it also represents energy, which is key to us sustaining our brilliance. When we’re at our best we have more energy and like a light bulb we always shine brighter when we have more energy. We also know what happens when we leave the light on too long, it dulls and eventually goes out.
Brightness is also synonymous with intelligence and of course when we’re being brilliant our intellect is at its sharpest and our brains are functioning at their full capability.
Brilliance in Bhutan
When I was in Bhutan, the kingdom famous for measuring Gross National Happiness in place of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), I was surrounded by brilliance, in terms of the light emanating from the people and the priorities their government had around environment, culture and sustainability. Many of the temples I visited had rooms full of butter lamps; there always seemed to be lights burning bright. It is said in Buddhism that light is the knowledge that dispels the darkness of ignorance.
This, for me, perfectly sums up this concept.
How do we move from the ignorance of busyness and burnout to tap into our true potential and brilliance?
It starts by looking in the right place and we’ve been distracted over recent years. Distracted by a myth that more is better. We need to do more, be more and focus on quantity. What we’ve seen is that as a result quality has suffered; of our health, our work and ultimately our brilliance. I believe in the concept that more is not always better – in fact, constantly striving for more may be the very thing contributing to our undoing. In fact, the visions we’re sold on Instagram are not achievable or real, and our organisational ways of working are built on an outdated model intended for the industrial age.
The ‘more is better’ attitude has pervaded our society, and resulted in marketing messages that only get us into debt, a mania for comparison with others (keeping up with the Joneses) and even hangovers and obesity! We all love a slice of cake, but the ‘more is better’ mantra can lead to us eating the whole thing and feeling sick. More is not necessarily better, even for the things we enjoy.
It became a marker of success at work and something we’ve attached our self worth to with disastrous consequences.
In fact it may be true that our pursuit of brilliance has been our undoing and what’s led to so much burnout. Being brilliant isn’t about doing more or being perfect (those are often precursors to burnout). It’s about aligning with our skills and capabilities, believing in what we bring to the table and then of course having the energy to deliver on that.
I believe a fresh approach is required to ensuring we are a sustainable resource, equipped with knowledge on going from burnout to brilliance. There is a way of doing less to achieve more, it’s less but better because brilliance is about quality, not quantity. This approach enables us to move from the destruction of busyness and burnout to tap into our true potential and be brilliant.
From the new book, Burnout to Brilliance, here are my top tips:
- Mind your busyness – it’s not a badge of honour or a reflection of how valuable you are. It’s a sign you’re not at your best if you’re always busy. Slow down so you can be effective, not busy.
- Notice your language – what are you telling yourself? Do you use the word busy, should or I have to do x,y,z a lot? What’s your self-talk like and do you have control of your inner critic?
- Prioritise rest and self-care to build your resilience
- Know your triggers when burnout is approaching, audit your energy levels and fuel the tank as necessary
- Focus on less but better, quality over quantity and reduce the overwhelm in the process
- Master the art of tiny gains and focus on one thing at a time
- Structure your life for success (harness the power of good habits)
- Get your flow on – the art of flow increases our productivity and focus allowing us to access a state of deep work
- Go easy on yourself – expect realism not perfection!
Jess is an author, coach and speaker championing the power of mindset, leadership and performance. Get your copy of Burnout to Brilliance here and be ready to redefine peak performance as you know it.