If you have been feeling exhausted, unmotivated, or really challenged lately it might be time to re-evaluate your leadership mindset before you end up in burn-out territory, if that isn’t the case already. A shift in mindset can only occur if you are open to the possibility and curious about creating a different outcome than the one you are currently experiencing. If you glance over the headings below and find you are arguing to justify why the old mindset is important for your success then it is highly likely you are creating your own overwhelm.
There’s an old adage that says “A tree is known by its fruit.” What was true more than 2000 years ago is equally true today. You can’t expect apples to grow from a pear tree. Nor can you expect happy, engaged, and high-performing employees to grow and flourish in a workplace environment if you aren’t feeling motivated and inspired yourself.
This is easier said than done. How do you cultivate a corporate culture that both feeds the needs of your workforce, satiates your own needs, and supports the bottom line? The answer may well lie in one or many of the items below.
The following paragraphs will outline what we see as the most common unconscious mindsets impacting leaders and preventing them from experiencing more joy at work. We will also cover some quick tips on what can be done to resist or revise these false beliefs.
Work No Longer Aligns With Your Passion
Life is best lived doing what you love. There can be several potential reasons you aren’t enjoying your work any longer. The most common reason we see is that people lose passion for what they do and no longer have the sense of purpose that once motivated them. Sometimes this is due to a change in the direction of the company, a shift in leadership priorities, and/or feeling an inability to influence the direction of the company.
We are purpose driven beings so if you as a leader aren’t feeling aligned it’s very likely your employees aren’t either. It is key to find a way to get back on track with feeling passionate about your work, otherwise, it can feel like a heavy obligation or burden to show up daily.
One potential mindset shift is committing to revealing what is going on for you rather than withholding it. For example, if you aren’t feeling aligned with the direction of the company, make time to share your thoughts and if they are repeatedly not received you might want to consider making a change. The practice of revealing, especially when you feel heard, can often help shift you out of feeling stuck by opening the doors to a new potential way of working.
The other common thing we see depleting passion is when the majority of your work isn’t aligned with your naturally given strengths or zone of genius. When we are doing what we love and are good at, it becomes an effortless task. Too many people are either unaware of this concept or are afraid of making a change to get better aligned with their strengths. Frustration comes when we work too many hours a day doing tasks we don’t love.
If changing your job isn’t an option then is there something about your current role that you enjoy doing and could find a way to do more of it?
Unconscious Commitment to Struggle & Work Hard
You don’t have to be an old school titan of industry to know the common hard work mindset: If you want to build a thriving career, if you want to lead your team and your businesses to the pinnacle of success, then you have to give it your all. You must, to paraphrase Churchill, give it your blood, sweat, toil, and tears.
But what does that mean in actionable terms? Our culture has trained us to think that success can only be achieved with long hours and strenuous effort. Time is money, after all. The early bird and all that jazz.
Well, maybe not so much. In fact, there’s mounting evidence that these seemingly universal truisms actually may not be true at all. Indeed, the simple wrong-headedness of traditional, and ubiquitous, business models may well account, at least in part, for the phenomenon of the Great Resignation. It may also help to explain why 45% of businesses fail within their first five years and why 90% of start-up businesses fail.
There’s also increasing evidence that long hours do not lead to greater productivity and profitability but also that overwork in fact diminishes productivity and performance, which in turn detracts from profits.
Extended hours may temporarily boost your company’s output and revenues, but they also take a tremendous toll on you and your employees. Worse, that toll has a cumulative effect over time. So what may have generated a short-term gain ultimately leads to a long-term loss.
With all this in mind would you be willing to shift your mindset to one that generates bigger outcomes with less effort? In other words, would you be interested in an approach that invites ease and flow as opposed to struggle and working hard? An example might be re-evaluating your goal to scale a company that keeps hitting roadblocks versus looking for ways to significantly increase profit with a different marketing strategy without the need to scale, especially if that pathway is easier. Often the same result can be achieved in the bottom line without the need to struggle and work so hard.
Scarcity Mindset with Time & Money
The root cause of years of struggle and working hard comes from the unconscious scarcity mindset around time and money. The fear of there never being enough time or money pushes us to work harder instead of helping us work smarter and more efficiently.
To illustrate this, one need only to look at the vast and growing amount of research that speaks to the deleterious effects of overwork on workers and businesses alike. For example, in a study of more than 2000 Korean men, Woo et al. (2020) found that long working hours were associated both with lower health-related quality of life and with poor sleep quality (1). In other words, these subjects were trying to work hard to get ahead but instead experienced years of poor health and sleep.
Woo et al.’s findings on the negative relationship between long work hours and health and sleep have been confirmed by a host of other studies (5). Kubo et al. (2021) identified significantly elevated mortality risk among Japanese truck drivers experiencing long working hours and sleep deprivation (2). Similarly, Lunde et al. (2020) found that industrial shift workers exposed to long work hours were at a significantly higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than the general population (3).
The impacts of long hours are far more than physical, however. There is ample evidence affirming the profound, and profoundly negative, mental health effects of overwork, including substantially higher rates of depression, anxiety, and burnout related to overwork (4, 6, 7).
In short, time is not money. It is health. It is well-being. When balanced between work and personal life, it is the investment in long-term productivity, performance, and profitability.
The good news, though, is that there are definitive, positive steps that you and your employees can take to achieve a healthier work/life balance, one that will enable you to perform better and produce more in less time than the salaried employees that are always at work (14). For example, to overcome the scarcity of time concept you could start creating clearer boundaries for when employees are expected to respond to emails or text messages outside of regular working hours. By modeling this behavior yourself, you can help employees better observe the key boundary line between work and home without the fear that enforcing these boundaries will have negative ramifications for their job (15, 16).
Probably the most impactful thing for shifting this scarcity mindset is changing your inner narrative. Instead of constantly telling yourself you don't have enough time or money, change the language to “I have plenty of time and money”. This doesn't mean you should go out and spend lots of money and ignore any time commitments, we are instead suggesting you see what happens when you stop telling yourself that you don’t have enough, When working with clients on this, they often find that time expands, they are more present, and they enjoy the experience without the anxiety of possibly running late. The primary thing we are suggesting you shift is your relationship with time and money.
Much like the myth of needing to struggle and work hard to get anywhere as a leader, the idea of an efficient multi-tasker is also fiction. What was once heralded as an aptitude essential to business success has increasingly come to be recognized as a doomed effort that ultimately only serves to undermine both the effort and the morale of your employees.
Studies have shown that the human brain simply is not capable of dividing its focus effectively or efficiently (11). Indeed, the evidence indicates that even among high cognitive performers, clear and immediate performance deficiencies emerge from the effort to multitask. For example, Woods et al. (2018) found that medical students charged with completing two or more complex tasks simultaneously were forced to conserve their cognitive resources by underperforming on essential but less “significant” communication tasks.
Similarly, Uncapher et al. (2017) found that children and teens who frequently multitask while using technology suffered significant impacts across multiple cognitive, psychological, and social domains, including experiencing deficiencies in memory, cognitive processing, and impulse control (13).
What this means for business is that leaders and employees alike must abandon the myth of the marvelous multi-tasker and shift to a more focused solo-tasking. Now, more than ever, the research is clear: Presence, being focused and attuned to the moment, and the task at hand, is the key to success and the antidote to anxiety.
The Tension of Perfectionism
Excellence does not require perfection. Placing a lot of pressure on yourself and being hyper-critical of yourself and others does not always yield the results you might be looking for.
As a business leader, do you find yourself struggling to embody some ideal of entrepreneurial perfection for your employees? Do you feel guilty if you take a vacation, or even merely a day off, especially if your employees know it? Do you feel embarrassed if your employees “catch” you in a quiet moment, a moment when you’re not burning the candle at both ends, when you’re not spinning plates, juggling balls, rescuing babies, fetching kittens from tall trees, and cutting multi-million dollar business deals all at the same time?
The fact is that perfection is also a myth. No one can win all the time. But, if your employees see you constantly striving to embody superhero status, they’re going to either try and follow you or turn against you.
Disappointments and setbacks are simply a part of life, and that means that they’re an inevitability in your business in particular and your career in general. Grasping for an ideal that doesn’t exist is going to do nothing more for you professionally than rob your joy, your peace, and your creativity. Since the tenor of an organization is set at the top, this is precisely the result you can expect in the employees for whom you, as a leader, are the role model.
What this means, fundamentally, is that you’ll need to learn how to strive for excellence while adjusting your expectations. Neuroscience is demonstrating what many of us have long known: When you are subject to intense and unremitting criticism, you simply cannot think. Your performance declines along with your ability to think creatively. Neuroimaging has shown that brain connectivity is significantly impeded by chronic criticism (8). When you, or your team, are constantly chasing an unrealistic ideal of perfection and falling short, then criticism, including self-criticism, usually becomes an inevitable and devastating part of the deal.
Breaking the cycle begins with striving for excellence while learning to modify your expectations, and embracing tolerance for both yourself and others. Above all, it means learning to release the anxiety that accompanies unattainable expectations (9, 10), recognizing the opportunities within the obstacles, and the hopeful ability to grow through perceived shortcomings.
How Casa Alternavida Can Help
At Casa Alternavida, we offer an array of retreat packages for both individuals and groups. Our multidisciplinary team can help you, your team, and your business reimagine, reinvent, and redefine success. For example, we can help you abandon the superhero mindset that states you’re not performing adequately unless you’re always multitasking, always exceeding your work hours, always on the clock and available for work, anytime, day or night. In the place of this always-on ethos so prevalent today, we can help you and your team learn to recognize work as an essential, but not all-encompassing part of the larger whole of a healthy, happy, fulfilling, and productive life, one marked by inspiration, joy, and exploration! Contact us today to explore all Casa Alternavida has to offer.
Casa Alternavida was founded on the principle that there are healthier, “alternative” ways to balance life and work. This alternative is to stop the unconscious addiction to stress, overwhelm, and struggle to focus on a healthy, balanced lifestyle that yields better results. Our practitioners are trained to support you with unraveling those unconscious commitments so you can actively create the lifestyle you want to be living, take charge of your well-being, and reset bad habits. We are experts at creating playful experiences in nature that inspire deep personal insight and long-term positive behavior change. Teams walk away from our facility with new excitement for their projects, practices to work smarter, and a deep appreciation of their companies. If you are a business that cares about your employees and wants to enhance your workplace culture, we are dedicated to providing alternative ways of building resilient leaders and teams.
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Kubo, T., Matsumoto, S., Sasaki, T., Ikeda, H., Izawa, S., Takahashi, M., Koda, S., Sasaki, T., & Sakai, K. (2021). Shorter sleep duration is associated with potential risks for overwork-related death among Japanese truck drivers: use of the Karoshi prodromes from worker's compensation cases. International archives of occupational and environmental health, 94(5), 991–1001. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-021-01655-5
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