Eradicating Burnout Requires Self Honesty
Many people see burnout as an organizational issue. Much like offering extra vacation days off or promoting a company sponsored walk for mental health, the pressure for organizations to create psychologically safe workplaces is on the rise.
For the most part, I agree. However, defining burnout as an organizational issue alone is not the whole answer.
In the real world, organizations thrive on the backs of high achievers. Of course, you can encourage employees to take a vacation or “work from home” and in doing so, feel good about your attempts to provide work life balance.
However, without shining a light inwardly, focusing solely on organizations won’t eradicate burnout.
We all have that one “super high achiever” on our team that delivers impressive results. We can’t say enough great things about them. We know that they are working around the clock, and we acknowledge them with raises, promotions, and rave performance reviews. If we are honest, we need them, and high achievers love to be needed.
As a result, the cycle of burnout continues.
Adding more wellness days or asking employees “what they need” won’t work — because unless an organization’s pockets are deep, hiring more employees is often not an option. To add, high achievers don’t like to show weakness and asking for anything is hard for us. That’s where the following solution comes into play.
By committing to living in integrity with oneself, we can eradicate burnout and live much healthier, balanced, and sane life.
On this basis, here is a practical guide on how to practise integrity in your everyday life at work.
Define what living in integrity means
If you’re serious about living with integrity the first step is to define what it means for you.
How do you define integrity? What’s important about working with integrity? And most importantly, what are your long-term objectives?
Personally, it was a gamechanger for me. When I left my executive role in 2021, it was clear that I was no longer living in integrity with myself. I was living a split life. On the one hand, I was doing things that I knew I hated – mindless excel spreadsheets and reports. On the other hand, I was in love with my evolving coaching business, but I was pushing away those desires and I was emotionally exhausted as a result. I was in denial and out of alignment with what I knew was true deep down. That misalignment led to free floating anxiety that I soothed with “toxic busyness”.
I had a long term goal. The goal was to take my sizzling side hustle as a coach and make it long term. As such, my mini burnout of 2020-21 had a purpose. That helped me let go of my high achieving tendencies and be willing to forgo some of the validation I had become used to as an executive.
The main challenge resides in knowing the ways in which your yes to others is a no to yourself. Like any endeavor, your reason for saying yes to everything will shed light on the deeper reasons contributing to your burnout. And that’s why you need to define what living in integrity means to you. What feelings are you overruling or ignoring? Therein lies a clue.
Become an “integrity finder”
Once your goals are defined, it’s critical to practise living with integrity.
You might want to become an “integrity finder”. You want to stay home on Friday night and read versus go out for dinner with friends? Using this example, living in integrity means you honour your desire in this situation, which is to stay home.
In theory, it sounds simple. Just do whatever you want, right? In the real world, however, we all have commitments, children, obligations, and friendships we really enjoy. On a similar note, we don’t want to be labelled as selfish or “all about us”.
That’s why we need to assess how important these decisions are to your emotional and physical health.
For most people, saying no to dinner plans is easy. For others, it’s not an option, especially if it’s a corporate dinner. I said yes to everything as an executive, for fear of missing out. Even when it kept me away from my family and created familial strain.
First, you have to understand how to create and maintain boundaries that are self-honouring, without alienating people. If you are the high achiever type, you won’t find this easy. However, by becoming an “integrity finder” you can practise saying no to small things. In return, you will be strengthening a new neural pathway that you can then rely on in the bigger things.
As with many personal growth endeavors, the secret is consistent and repeated practise. In NLP terms, I refer to this as “chunking down”.
Chunking “Integrity” Down
The term “chunking down” can be used in many different contexts.
According to NLP it’s:
“The process of getting more and more specific.”
In simple terms, chunking down can work wonders in uncovering the deeper reasons we overwork, if you progressively apply it.
“Living in Integrity” is a broad concept, so when we “chunk down”, we might ask “what is important to you about living in integrity?” If you were to ask me this question, I would respond with “feeling aligned and at peace”. Chunked down further still, I would ask “what is alignment an example of?” I might answer, “that time when I really listened to my kids rather than scroll on my phone” …. Can you see how after few rounds of really getting specific, you’ll be very clear about what living in integrity looks like even down to the fine details of everyday life?
Instead of seeing “living in integrity” as something a yoga instructor would say to you while in downward dog— using the chunking method you gradually make sense of it and apply it practically to your everyday life, including at work.
It will take time — and the results won’t be instant, but long-term, you’ll reap the benefits, and living in integrity will be how you slowly eradicate burnout behaviours.
Understand the correlation between living in integrity and burnout
Another crucial point when it comes to eradicating burnout is the connection between burnout symptoms and living a life of “ignoring your desires’.
In this regard, eradicating burnout only works in conjunction with a life of continuous self-discovery. If you don’t know why you want a more balanced life, you won’t have any incentive to do anything about improving your situation.
That brings us back to the goals of living in integrity, but there is more.
Once you realize that living in integrity is key to banishing corporate burnout, you can apply the lessons of living truthfully to other aspects of your life. You’ll start to be more intentional at work, in your personal life, and in how you make decisions.
You’ll always consider the honesty of your decisions — and you’ll be less likely to conform or “people please”.
Lead Self & Others with Integrity
To conclude, living with integrity is about leading yourself and others in a way that feels right to you at the deepest level.
Eradicating burnout is not only about a wellness spending account or more time off. Those are important factors in combating workplace burnout, but they don’t tell the whole story.
The primary benefit of living in integrity is that you regain control over your life in a way that is self-empowering. Your decisions —professional and personal — form a career and a lifestyle that goes a long way to living a burnout free life.
In the end, you’ll slowly lead a life that I describe as a “true joy”.