This article was originally published here on Forbes.com.
Why Purpose Is Burnout’s Kryptonite
How can you fly your plane with your fuel tank near empty? Or when your autopilot is incapable of meeting the dynamic challenges at hand? What do you do when you’re feeling drained, uninspired, and just plain meh?
Given that I’m a fighter pilot, you can probably guess what I am going to tell you to do.
You fight like hell for the life you want. You fight for focus. And you fight for purpose.
During a period of peak burnout in my life, I had to start small in my fight to regain a sense of purpose.
First, I had to let some things go, to simplify and focus on what mattered most. Business proposals were launched when they were done and not perfect, and at home, I started picking my battles. If there was enough clean laundry to get through the week, well, I was winning.
I focused on addressing what was reasonably within my Span of Control, and then gradually expanded the circle from there.
But all the while, I reminded myself of what mattered most and understood what success looked like for me, my family, and my team. Having that clear sense of purpose, allowed me to prioritize my activities each day, continue charging ahead toward my longer-term goals, and grow more resilient when things didn’t work out as planned.
There are many ways to fight for purpose in your daily activity:
- Developing flexibility. Don’t panic. Stay focused on what matters, on what is important to you and your team. A changing landscape is normal. There will always be new challenges and “opportunities,” if you are able to recognize them. Adversity is not going away anytime soon. Luckily, we don’t really want it to. The ability to bounce back when adversity strikes is one of the greatest predictors of long-term success and happiness.
Focusing on facts over fear. Take the time to plan… If you’ve taken the time beforehand to think through possible scenarios and potential threats and obstacles, your chances of responding successfully to change are greatly improved—even if the plan isn’t perfect, which it will never be, and even if the obstacles are not quite as you imagined. This is basic risk management. Don’t skip this step.
- Feeling your feelings. Don’t resist your feelings, push them down, or put them aside. Instead, experience them. Learning how to absorb the blows and harness your emotions to focus on your Span of Control, can help when it comes to countering overwhelming stress.
- Facing your failures head-on. Failure is how we learn and improve. It’s also what helps us adapt. Instead of shirking your misstep to avoid embarrassment, embrace it. Own it, learn from it, and move on. It’s what you learn from failure that lets you push forward. Figuring out what went wrong, can help strengthen your sense of purpose on your next attempt.
That’s one of the best things about purpose: it’s burnout’s kryptonite. A sense of purpose is the single most important factor in your success. It clarifies what success looks like, and it clarifies your role in making that vision a reality.