I felt 100% trapped. I was stuck, right where I was. You may have heard the term, “the golden handcuffs.” And that’s what happened for me when I hit my absolute breaking point, and I believed my only option was to quit my job. I couldn’t see how that was possible, because here my family and I had built a certain lifestyle, and it was very dependent upon my job.
So I felt stuck – that if I wanted to keep our lifestyle, I had to stay in my job. But I did something different. I felt stuck, but I didn’t actually quit my job. In fact, I stayed in the same position for several months, and then I stayed at my same company for four more years. And all that while, I was coming out on the other side of burnout.
So when people ask me, “Colleen, what do I do when I feel stuck? I’m burnt out, but I’m stuck. I’ve got to stay here. What can I do?” I’m going to share with you the number one, the very first thing that I did that drastically and immediately changed what was happening for me. Now again, I didn’t change my position, I didn’t get a new family, nothing else changed around me. I started doing this one thing, and I call it my energy remedy.
So every morning I would get up early, come downstairs before the rest of the house was awake, I’d turn on a soft lamp, sometimes I’d light a candle, I’d sit quietly on the couch, and I’d turn on my phone timer for roughly five minutes. Most mornings was about five minutes; some mornings, maybe three, some mornings, seven or ten. But about five minutes, and then I would close my eyes and I would ask myself one question.
Now back then my question was, what makes me happy? I encourage you to just shift that word happy to, what brings you energy? And you are going to ask yourself that question over and over and over again, for the entire five minutes. When the five minutes is done, journal. Pen to paper, old-school pen to paper, write down all of the things you thought about. And then guess what? You’re going to do it again the next day.
I did this practice every single day for about five minutes for nearly two, three weeks, asking the same thing over and over and over again. And here’s why – because when you first asked that question, what gives me energy, it’s the obvious things, the things that are at the forefront of your mind. Oh, you know, going out with my friends, watching a movie with my family, all of the things that are obvious are going to come to mind.
But what we want to do is dig deeper. You are going to start recalling times where you had energy. For me, I would think about, what was my best day at work, when was I happiest? When did I have the most energy? Oh, it’s when I went into Rosie’s office and I worked directly with her and we solved a problem together, and I saw the light bulb moment. That’s when I felt the most energy.
Or, I felt the most energy when I would be teaching at the gym and an older member would come up and say, “Colleen, I’ve been coming to the gym for a year and my doctor just told me, I no longer need to take this medication.” Like, oh my gosh, that just energized me so much! So I started to recall these situations, and what was I doing in those?
So for me, the overarching theme was when I was training in some way; teaching, coaching, or training. Even though my current job description didn’t have trainer officially on there, I just tried to find ways that I could integrate that, either in my day-to-day role as a leader, or additional things.
Now, when you’re on the verge of burnout, you feel like you’ve taken on too much. I still had the same job, but I asked my Vice President, my leader, “Hey, could I do this little lunch and learn?’ I felt energized to do that. It wasn’t burning me out; in fact, it had the opposite effect.
The more I was doing things that brought me energy, the more that the day-to-day stuff felt lighter. I started to enjoy those even mundane things to a greater degree, and it was helping me start to build out of that burnout. So I encourage you to take practice, try this energy remedy, and see how it works for you.
Uncover what those things are that bring you the purest sense of energy, and find ways to integrate those into your everyday role, professionally and personally, and see how that starts to change your attitude, as well as bring about the perception from people around you.