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5 Ways to Combat Stress and Burnout in Your Career

podcast May 26, 2020

Can't listen? Here's the transcript:

Hey Dethroners. Today I want to talk about your Inner Critic and your career because I think this is one of the places where our Inner Critic screams the loudest. And I am certainly no exception, which is why I can support people in gaining freedom and peace from their Inner Critic because I have had my own journey with my Inner Critic as I have built my business.

I have had a lot of twists, turns, unexpected setbacks, and failures. And through it all, dethroning my own Inner Critic has been the only way that I am able to stay centered, grounded and at peace.

And I work with a lot of business owners, entrepreneurs, coaches and executives who began working with me because the stress, overwhelm and burnout they feel professionally has also caused a ripple effect in their relationships, their physical well being, and their overall life satisfaction. We have become a culture that is so used to operating on top of stress that it is just considered normal to operate in a high-intensity mode. 

I hear time and time again, ‘This is just what it takes to be successful.”  And that is what I believe to be most dangerous because most people don’t see any other way to be successful, particularly the C-suite executives I work with, many of whom are burnt out and unhappy. The cultural practices of many organizations and their leaders are working late, burning the candle at both ends, and being available 24/7.  These practices are accepted, and sometimes even encouraged, by both the organizational culture and the leaders within the company. And many people who are drawn to leadership positions have been perfectionistic, type A overachievers since childhood. 

And what I really think is that so many people are completely unaware that their automatic minds have been running their lives for so long and they have been on a merry go round of believing that pushing themselves harder and harder will actually lead to feeling good someday, "when I make partner, when I get the CEO position, when I make enough money to have my kids be comfortable” and they are really convinced that misery now leads to happiness later

When the automatic mind has been ruling our lives forever, it is difficult if not impossible to wake up to the fact that we are waiting until some arrival point in order to feel the sense of fulfillment, value, and peace that we are so desperately craving.  And we live in a culture that perpetuates this.  

There are thousands and thousands of people who are living lives of quiet, screaming desperation working long hours at jobs that they hate, or jobs that are unrewarding and unfulfilling, to buy things they don’t need, and to impress people they don’t like.  And the truth is, that your job or career or promotion or title or status is not going to be the thing that is going to finally make you feel good. 

The responsibility for a fulfilling and rewarding life lies with you. So the real issue is: What is the type of life you want to live? Because if YOU are not designing your life, then someone else is doing it for you. So many people have been trying to fill their worthiness tanks for their whole lives, and they don’t know any other way to live. They don’t even see that they are now allowing the cultural definition of success to design the life they are living. 

The quality of your life is yours to create--not anyone else’s responsibility. It can’t be your employer’s responsibility, your spouse’s responsibility, your child’s responsibility, and the quality of your life CERTAINLY cannot be about trying to fulfill what our culture says we need to be.

Companies are designed to get as much out of you as they possibly can. That is the whole point of the company. Even the “good” companies, the ones who try to take care of their employees' needs, are still focused on their bottom dollar. And we live in a culture that perpetuates fear where leading a more balanced life means that we won’t be as successful as the person who is working 24/7 and putting their career above all else. 

We are the only ones who need to be responsible for setting the boundaries we truly want in our lives.  And most people feel stuck, like they have no other choice than to burn the candle at both ends. I am working with an executive now, a VP who has been driven by needing to prove his value to the CEO of his company.  And because the current CEO has no boundaries in her life, he doesn’t feel that he is entitled to set any for himself or else he will not be valued enough and will lose his position. 

And this value-driven life goes all the way back to his childhood, of course. He has spent his life needing to feel smart, accomplished, valued, and now it is impacting his marriage and his relationship with his kids. And this is how most people are operating!  They are living for tomorrow. I will find balance when I retire, when my kids are older, when I finally reach my financial goals. And by then it is too late because the ripple effects on your physical and emotional health, not to mention the effects of your relationships, are too far gone. 

Now, many people mistakenly think that balance is about eating better, exercising more, and sleeping better. That is important. But what is most important is that we need to redefine what a balanced life is. I have another client who is an ivy league educated marketing strategist. And she has jumped from company to company throughout her career because she could never quite find the fulfillment she has been craving.  She has had tremendous success but continues to feel fundamentally unfulfilled and unhappy.

And what I find over and over, whether it is a client who is early on in his or her career, or has achieved a lot, no matter what the stage is, no one is fulfilled. Why is that?  I believe that what our culture has taught us is that work and career is a means to an end that never comes.  

We are too used to living on this hamster wheel. And setting boundaries that honor our emotional and spiritual well being, is very uncomfortable. We risk the possibility that we won’t be valued enough by other people. We might lose our status, our position, we won’t ever reach the goals that our Inner Critic has laid out for us oh so long ago! 

Ultimately, we are really afraid we won’t ever have that feeling that we finally are more than good enough. We are afraid that if we don’t reach that imagined level that we think is the answer, our life will be meaningless and for nothing. But, what if we have been on this treadmill for so long, trying to prove our worthiness, that we don’t recognize what a race to nowhere it really is? 

The only way to feel fulfillment and joy that we really want is to find it right here, right now. But it is really scary to let go of doing life the way we have always done it. And I don’t mean quitting your career. But I do mean doing it very differently than the way we’ve been. The way It’s been is all we know! 

It feels safer to just stay inside our comfort zone, even if our comfort zone is totally uncomfortable. It’s all we’ve ever known and it’s predictable. And this is true for so many areas of life. Many people are not really living their lives, they are surviving.  They are the walking dead because they are staying in relationships and careers and jobs that are ok at best. Because they are not willing to step into the unknown and really look at the life they really want to be living. 

But the paradox is that we can’t have the life we really want unless we are willing to step into the unknown. And when the unknown becomes known, to step into the unknown again! It is like skydiving. If you want the thrill of the jump, you have to be willing to sit in those really uncomfortable moments where you have jumped off the plane, and your parachute hasn’t opened. It doesn’t get scarier than that! Not that I would know, because I have never skydived. But, I have stepped into the unknown many many times in my life. 

I built my business because I have risked stepping into the unknown over and over again. And sometimes it didn’t turn out the way I expected it to. But now that I have some distance, I can see the perfection in the journey that has led me to this exact time in my life. If I wasn’t willing to repeatedly stand in the unknown and take risks, and create my life the way I wanted, I would have continued to be in my office, seeing clients one at a time. I wouldn’t have a global reach. I wouldn’t have this podcast. I wouldn’t be writing a book. 

And life would have been fine. But life wouldn’t have been THIS. And with THIS, comes unknown after unknown. But here’s what else comes with being in the unknown-- possibility! I know that my life will continue to take me on a journey.  And I don’t need to know how the journey is going to go. That’s the thrill of it. 

I can just keep taking actions that are in alignment with the life I want to create and then watch the journey unfold in all its magic. This is really outside of our comfort zone because our automatic Inner Critic mind wants predictability. But when we bring awareness to that automatic mind and uncover what it is REALLY seeking and why it wants predictability and control in the first place, what we inevitably uncover is that our automatic mind is always about finding worthiness. 

Every human suffers from some form of unworthiness. That is what has us on this treadmill. We only want whatever we want because we think it will make us feel a way we want to feel. When you really see how much of your life is designed around trying to prove your worth, it can be pretty painful and scary. Because it feels like you are cliff diving right out of your comfort zone. 

And with that comes fear, uncertainty, and your Inner Critic’s favorite game of future tripping into worst-case scenarios. That is just your automatic mind, hard at work trying to ward off any threat or danger that might lie ahead. And when we are letting that mind run our lives, we are not able to access our deeper intuitive wisdom.

We are really only able to use our primitive brain, which is only meant to help us survive.  It is not meant to help us thrive and grow and live our dreams. If we are making choices from that primitive part of our brain, we are trying to work harder, fix and control everything and everyone around us, and settle for our current situation, and deal with the stress, stagnation and dissatisfaction we feel. 

When we strive for predictability, we become the walking dead. And for many, they never wake up to anything else. But I think if you are listening to this right now, you are not the walking dead. You have woken up to what your soul really wants.  You might not know how to get it, but you are starting to realize that a survival-based life is NOT it. And sometimes, you have to learn to fly by stepping off the cliff and then trusting that you will find your wings.  

One of the most important lessons you can ever learn in life is that resisting the feeling of fear and uncertainty will have you become the walking dead. So if you really want to live the life you were meant to live, you have to master the art of being afraid. If you spend your life running away from the fear of the unknown, you will stay paralyzed and you will never reach the life of your dreams. Because trying to live a life of certainty is living in an illusion. 

The one thing that is certain, is that nothing’s certain. This pandemic has shown us that...and embracing this idea can change everything. So the question is are you willing to take a risk on uncertainty for the possibility of a life in which you are thriving rather than surviving.  Because what I promise you, is that if you are willing to take a step into the unknown, eventually the excitement of what is possible eventually grows bigger than the fear of uncertainty.  

So here are 5 ways to combat your Inner Critic’s attempts to keep you in survival mode 

  1. Recognize your comfort zone. This means practicing awareness, in every way possible, every day. Setting boundaries and saying no is not comfortable. You’ll have to wake up to how you feel, what’s going on when you’re in and out of the zone and start recognizing your habitual patterns of fear. Journaling helps. Meditation helps. Using the moments of your life as a training ground helps. Give yourself permission to feel everything and be curious about when you feel you’re stepping out of that zone and what your reaction is.
  2. Notice when you bump up against your Inner Critic’s attachments to worthiness— maybe you have a victory of some kind, like a promotion, or landed a big account. Now’s the time to practice more awareness. Those things feel really good. But they are not the reason for your worthiness.  Pay attention to your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors right after the event. Again, be curious about this. Journal your thoughts and ideas. The idea here is to shed a light on it all. Call out your Inner Critic who is using these victories to fuel your attachment to your ideal pictures.  
  3. Feel everything after what you perceive to be your successes as well as your failures.  Feel it physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Listen to your inner critic chatter and recognize the voice. Hear your fear voices. Hear your attachment voices.  As you do something you thought you couldn’t do, or thought would never happen, the elation will feel like a drug, and then it’ll wear off. Pay attention to what you feel as it wears off and your habit of thinking that sabotages your inner peace. The awareness here will be the way through it.
  4. Practice extreme self-compassion through this process. Try treating yourself like you’d treat a small child, with patience, kindness, and gentleness. You wouldn’t trash talk that child if he/she made a mistake. You wouldn’t say things like, “You idiot, look what you’re doing!” or “You’ve gone and screwed this up again!” But we tend to say these things to ourselves. Self-compassion along with awareness is how we can remain at peace no matter what life throws at us.  
  5. Keep reaching for your dreams, desires, and goals that you’ve worked on relentlessly. But instead of waiting for the arrival point, align your current thinking, dreaming, believing, and taking actions with letting go of your attachments. Enjoy the journey along the way by having your own inner peace and gratitude be the central focus. 

You’ll have to repeat this process with every step of your journey. The practice will be the way you master it. Through that practice, you’ll gain momentum and ease. The better you are at noticing the pattern, the quicker you’ll change it, and the faster your next level of life will arrive.

Try taking this on like a game. Have more fun when you notice your automatic thought patterns and say things to your Inner Critic like, “Thank you for trying to keep me safe in my comfort zone. But I am ok. I can sit in the unknown!  Each one of us is the master of our universe. We hold all the answers to our well-being. No one else does. So whenever you feel burnout, stress or overwhelm approach, remember, YOU OWN IT and only you can fix it.

Is Your Inner Critic Keeping You From Success?

Find out what your Inner Critic is saying to sabotage your success and how you can move past her limiting beliefs. 

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