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What are your symptoms of burnout? The Sunday night blues? Feeling as if every day is Ground Hog Day? Noticing that you ‘space out’ for periods of time in every meeting and conversation? Realizing that your whole life is your job?


How did you get here? You used to be excited about your work and you used to enjoy the people you worked with? Didn’t you? In my 15 years of working with professionals during my mindful leadership retreats, we often speak about the major reasons for professional burnout. Many participants remark that they are ‘successful’ but they are so exhausted that it feels as though they are missing months, or even years of their lives. On retreat there is the space and support to look closely at where they are, and how they got here.


Here are 4 of the most common culprits and some mindful leadership tips:



  1. Saying ‘yes’ to everything -volunteering to be part of every team or project is a great way to learn and be seen as a helpful colleague but, it can also become such a strong pattern for you that you may not even notice that the ‘to-do’ list is now a mile long. Learning how to take a pause before saying ‘yes’ is a necessary skill. In that pause, ask yourself your reason for agreeing to this new task. Is it aligned with your planned career path? If not, experiment with saying ‘my plate is overflowing right now, I won’t have time to do a great job’.
  2. Believing that taking care of everyone’s needs is the mark of a good leader – understanding your team members is an important part of leadership, as is helping each member develop to their full capacity. But understanding does not equate to solving all their problems. Often the greatest gift we give to someone is letting them find their own way. Taking on the burden of solving everyone’s problems deprives them of a great learning opportunity and drains your resources. Be supportive, not controlling.
  3. Failing to understand when ‘good enough is good enough’-not everything has to be excellent! As we mature into our careers, and our responsibilities continue to increase, we no longer have the luxury of getting everything to the highest level possible. We need to learn to differentiate those items that truly need excellence from those things where ‘good enough is good enough’.
  4. Believing self-care is selfish or, at the very least, a luxury-there are two common threads among the best leaders I have had the privilege of working with for the past 25 years-they are all people with bright minds and warm hearts. They are also people who have everyone else’s needs on their t0-do list before they get to self-care. Taking the time needed to attend to your physical and mental well-being is not a luxury, it is a necessity! It took me many years and a diagnosis of early heart disease before I learned this lesson. We want people to care about others but if they deserve care, why don’t you?

Burnout takes a physical and emotional toll on you as an individual and on those you serve-colleagues, patients, clients, students, and family members. Take some time to review this list and look for one small step you can take to begin to alter what you see in your own life. Each mindful leadership step will begin to pave the way to greater resilience and happiness. What step will you try right now? Are you ready to go further, why not invest in a mindful leadership retreat with other professionals?