When was the last time that something in your life became so overwhelming that you simply ignored it? What are you ignoring right now that will likely cause you to experience pain or discomfort in the future? What is stopping you from doing something about it?
There are plenty of things that I would love to ignore right now: a major job transition, selling my house, and preparing to move with my family to Colorado, to name a few. The good news is that these are all time-limited events, and I will push through them. The exciting opportunities on the other side of these changes will re-energize me.
What about challenges not of our choosing, and not of short duration?
I’ve read for months about the struggles of other diabetics for managing their chronic disease over a lifetime. My response had honestly been a helping of empathy, mixed in with a small dose of, “Suck it up.” I had managed my blood sugars through a strict diet, vigorous exercise, and extreme focus. If I could do it, anybody should.
The Rate of Change
One of the principles of the Adaptive Leadership theory is this: leaders should introduce organizational change at a rate that people can tolerate. The acceptable change rate is not the same for everybody, and it is the work of leaders to monitor this tolerance, and to make adjustments accordingly. In other words, we are all capable of adapting to change as long as the rate of change is not faster than what we are capable of managing.
I wonder how this concept applies to our personal choices? Are we capable of managing and maintaining lifestyle and behavioral changes? How do we know when it is too much?
A Dose of Humility
I spent fourteen consecutive months managing diet and exercise changes through focus and discipline. It was a pretty good run, and I’m proud of the substantive changes that it had on my health and my diabetes – my blood sugars were virtually perfect. The problem now is that I need to begin again.
Fourteen months with no donuts (that’s hard for an ex-cop), virtually no beer, a fast-food hiatus, and 20-plus running miles a week came to a screeching halt about 6 weeks ago. It’s not that I had a couple of bad meals, and missed a long run; I jumped into the fast-food express lane, riding my Lazy-Boy, and inhaled a doughnut (or maybe two) for the first time in more than a year. I’ve completely abandoned my approach to managing diabetes. The result: I once again have erratic blood sugars, and feel like crap, all the time.
While living with such discipline is hard – sometimes really hard – I can’t say that the lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) alone led to burn out. I’m wondering if it has more to do with the significant life changes (i.e., a new job and preparing to move my family 1,000 miles) that have pushed me past my point of change tolerance? My reaction to more change has been to focus on that which is most immediate, and most pressing, seemingly at the expense of that which is not. The time-limited, high-energy events have gotten all of my attention while the long-term health events have been ignored.
How true is this of our professional work? When we get overwhelmed, we move into firefighting mode and deal with those things that are most urgent, rather than what is more important. The long term consequence is burn out.
What has caused you to experience burn out in your job or your life? How have you overcome it?