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Burnout is eroding the lives of too many of today's professionals. A landmark study by the Mayo Clinic characterized burnout as emotional exhaustion, bitter cynicism, a plummeting sense of accomplishment and "a tendency to view people as objects rather than as human beings." Whether you suffer from all the symptoms of burnout or just one or two, know that life doesn't have to be this way.
We're all born with a spark, and then life piles on. But it's possible to clear off the muck so you can shine brilliantly again.
Brilliance occurs when you feel a sense of freedom and agency over your life -- ease instead of struggle, and freedom instead of feeling trapped in a toxic body, relationship, thought pattern or job. Brilliance is the opposite of burned out, and a serious upgrade from blah. Through incremental and attainable steps, you can reignite that flame within you that has dimmed over the years.
Consider what brilliance can mean across different areas of your life -- your mind, your body, your relationships with others and your relationship with technology. For example, your mind and inner world are brilliant when you feel a sense of ease, gratitude and confidence. Your body attains brilliance when you feel strong, grounded, energized and rested. When you have brilliant relationships they are full of ease, trust and curiosity. And when you have strong boundaries around your use of technology, you can be brilliantly productive and mindful.
Use these four achievable steps to turn burnout behaviors around, and to find your way back to a brilliant life that shines with purpose and fulfillment.
1. Tame your thoughts.
Getting hooked on emotionally charged narratives of anger, resentment, guilt or fear can have devastating consequences for your physical and mental well-being. It can affect your emotional and physiological circuitry in powerful ways. Upgrade your thoughts by noticing when you think the original painful thought. Catch yourself thinking it, and replace it with the reappraisal. Repeat the story over and over until it becomes an embedded belief. Use daily routines as cues to remember to repeat your upgraded thought, like brushing teeth or walking in your office door.
2. Exude confidence.
Aligning your outward appearance and actions with who and how you want to be in the world can improve both your self-perception and how others perceive you. With some observable traits, you can make changes almost instantly: getting a great haircut, improving how you dress, making eye contact and standing and sitting with good posture. Changes to your physiology can take more time and effort, such as losing weight, feeling rested and being alert. Start a strength-training practice, either with a personal trainer or at home. You'll get both health and emotional benefits from toning your muscles and becoming more mindful of how your body feels.
3. Nurture brilliant relationships.
Toxic encounters switch on your sympathetic nervous system, putting your brain in a threat state where you're less able to access your "intelligent" brain, the prefrontal cortex. To live a brilliant life, you must attract and nourish relationships that make you happy, healthy and more effective in your life. You need people who make you laugh, who pick you up on a bad day and who remind you of your brilliance. If you're unhappy with your relationships, what qualities do you need to improve in yourself to build and sustain brilliant relationships? Do you need to be more appreciative? A better listener? More forgiving? Do you seek out new friends in places you like to frequent, like coffee shops or workout classes? Take steps to improve your relationships and connect with positive people.
4. Manage your relationship with technology.
Most of us don't use technology as much as we let it use us. Technology has created a "constantly on" environment where we actually have less free time. It takes incredible willpower to resist our screens, but our addiction to technology and our mobile devices allows us less space to just be. It also zaps our productivity. If you want to have productive, fulfilling days, you must mindfully choose not to fall into the social media or news and entertainment rabbit hole. Turn off sound notifications, leave your phone behind in meetings and choose face-to-face conversations whenever possible.
Remember one thing about brilliance: It's not a destination you reach and then set up camp. It's more like a journey with unpredictable twists and turns. It's easy to fall off the path, but with attention and shifting, you can find your way back again.
Denise R. Green is a speaker, writer, and executive coach committed to helping people go from burned-out (or blah) to brilliant. Her new book, Work-Life Brilliance: Tools to Break Stress and Create the Life & Health You Crave (Brilliance Publishing, April 2017) is about reigniting one's internal spark. Learn more at BrillianceInc.com.