“How do I know it will be better if I leave?”
Beth, a Partner of a very high-profile consulting firm was often dishevelled, exhausted, low energy, and overworked. While she made an enviable income working at a Top 5 consulting firm, she couldn’t recall the last time she had a weekend off. 60-hour work weeks became the norm, and the transition to remote, while at first promising, worsened her anguish. Forever trapped in endless client and stakeholder meetings, her day often started earlier and ended later. When she sought out my coaching services, Beth was suffering from extreme burnout but didn’t want to give up on the organization.
“All consulting companies are like this”, she told me. “It won’t be any better anywhere else. Plus, I have been there for 8 years”.
Beth’s situation is not uncommon. While her emotional state was worrisome, she didn’t want to come across as ungrateful or be seen as a “quitter”. Yet, her intuition was telling her that something was up. She was unable to sleep, was frequently erupting in outbursts at home, and wasn’t exercising or eating well. Beth knew in her heart, she told me, that she was on the verge of an emotional breakdown.
I understand. I was raised in a family culture where we stay in situations, circumstances, relationships, to the very end. To the bitter end. The prevalent message of my youth was “the grass is not always greener”. My parents were fond of the expression, “don’t rock the boat” and encouraged me to always look on the bright side of things. On the surface, there is nothing inherently wrong with their advice. However, it unfortunately kept me in joyless and exhausting situations and circumstances for far too long.
What I eventually came to learn was that I am over-resilient. When someone is over-resilient, we tolerate adversity for too long. We stay in toxic relationships or careers far past their expiry date. At work, this can translate into putting up with heavy workloads, like my client Beth, or it can also mean sticking it out with boring and unfulfilling careers — and particularly bad bosses — for longer than what is healthy for us. An article in Harvard Business Review refers to this as “the dark side of resilience. Convinced that either the problem resides with us, or we simply need to “tough it out” characterizes over-resilience.
As does denial. We minimize our suffering. It’s not that bad, I am just being too sensitive. Hundreds of different rationalizations flood our consciousness and we do nothing. To be in the heart means you live awake, self aware, and conscious. You are willing to see what is really going on. The new ideal could be that you want to earn a living that is totally in sync with your soul. No guilt, no hesitation. It’s a declaration. You just want it. Knowing the ideal you aspire to brings you closer to joy.
Now, I quickly catch myself before I become overly invested in a maladaptive situation or relationship. As soon as I get a whiff of misery coming up in my life, I pay extremely close attention to my body. Specifically, to my heart’s guidance system. Being heart-centered means that I am self-aware. It means that we make choices that align with our core desired feelings, values, and beliefs. To be heart-centered means that I am up for the hard work of staying the course only when my passion is ignited.
That requires we go within before we go without.
Here are 5 Heart-Centered questions you can use to go within:
- Am I still enthusiastic about my career? Do I feel lit up? Do I feel expanded and excited most of the time?
- Is my career working in its current form? Something might not be working but that doesn’t always mean you need to quit. It might mean that it’s time for newness. That could be a correction, an adjustment, a refresh, a new habit. Sometimes, the simple admission of “what I need to stop doing” can bring immense clarity.
- Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Or is there a worthwhile struggle in staying that is pulling you toward exploring your career intentions in a deeper way?
- What are the benefits of no longer fighting? Will you have more time, energy, creative flow, freedom? What is the potential relief you get from giving up?
- Is there grief in letting go or do you feel more open-hearted expansion?
I am familiar with the stay or go tension. There are times when we have no fight left because it’s no longer appropriate to be fighting the fight. However, when what I am doing still feels meaningful, I always have more fight left in me. But if I am off-track and neglecting my well-being, my family, my sources of energy and joy, then I stop. I used to think of that as defeat, but now I view this as a deep insight. I have a fuller life to live.
“Do you have a fuller life to live?”
Now, we can go outside:
- Is the trajectory of your company moving toward more compassionate, heart-centered leadership?
- If not, are you up for the challenge of trying to change that? For being a culture shaper, change agent or force for good in your company?
- Or are you going to leave and go to where you can experience more resonance, emotion, and heart in your career?
- Are the company’s actions flexible or rigid? Are you witnessing a cultural softening toward positive workplace behaviours?
Using this analysis, Beth decided to stop fighting. Through our work together, she decided that what she wanted more than anything else was ease. She started to believe there had to be a different way of doing things in the consulting culture, and ultimately, she sought out environments that energized her and softened her heart. Beth eventually left to become partner in a smaller boutique firm that aligned with a deeper passion of hers in the field of environmental sustainability. She still works longer hours, but not every weekend, and she loves the fresh energy of the work. She chose newness, refreshment, and a slower pace. As a result, she suffers far less because she can quickly access where her joy is.
When you stop struggling to make something go the way you want, the force ends. You stop trying so hard. When you practise heart-centered leadership, your whole nervous system exhales. You can access your deeper intuition and have more clarity to go for what you want.
Now, are you all in? Or is it time for you to let go?
Book a call with me here if you would like to delve deeper or check out how we help women in The Crucible. To learn more about heart-centered leadership by Danielle Laporte, let’s discuss how I can help you socialize into corporate leadership.