The Changemaker's Burn Out Traps

Apr 27, 2021

I have been hearing recently from many changemakers that they are skirting burn out.  Now there is definitely a Covid factor here. But that is only part of the story.

10 years of working with changemakers - be it in the corporate or the positive impact world - have taught me they all have one thing in common. Their dance with burn out.  This applied across the board - even when they believed in the change they were bringing in. Sometimes their passion actually made things worse.

The usual antidote is learning resilience tools to manage stress. And yes that helps. Let’s be honest changemaking is not a walk in the park and is stressful. But that will only get you so far.

Beyond tactics, breaking this burn out pattern takes a mindset shift. The crux of it is that there are three blind spots. They in turn set up three burn out traps changemakers easily fall into.

1. The Sacrifice Trap: From Duty To Inspiration

In this trap we are driven more by the ‘shoulds’ than by the ‘would really love tos’.

We deeply care about the change we are bringing in. But we forget that our purpose calls for it to be done from a place of joy and inspiration.

So we set the bar too high. We try and make the biggest impact. Without checking in with ourselves that that feels really inspiring. And that the journey there can be a joyful one.

We sacrifice ourselves to the cause. Instead of trusting in and following what feels good to us.

2. The Implementer Trap: From Doing To Aligning

Here we take everything on our shoulders.

As changemakers, we are usually very capable and versatile. We can do a lot and we are naturally giving. Add to that that it is not always easy to explain to others what we are trying to do. We end up taking on things that are not meant for us.

The thing is that doing so actually creates chaos. Add a touch of perfectionism and you get a perfect burn out spiral.

I believe that changemaking is actually meant to be a peaceful endeavour. One where we feel at peace with ourselves and our contribution - because we are aligned to our innate talents.

The bonus is that this personal alignment in itself gives us energy and breaks the cycle.  So instead of getting lost in our giving. We allow ourselves to focus on what is truly for us to do. And we learn to communicate better the value that feels true for us to add.

3. The Martyr Trap: From Unconscious To Catalysing

One of the things that is exhausting about changemaking is that you are always out of synch with everybody else. And it can feel like you are constantly trying to dodge the punches.

Navigating resistance is actually at the core of the job. That is in fact the job.  But we forget that. So we don’t prepare ourselves for it in the right way. We don’t build our energy up.

Deep down we still kind of hope that we will speak and that everyone will jump onto our bandwagon. That it will be effortless. And then when it is not, it takes its toll.

We find that we don’t have the extra energy it takes to neutralise the negativity and compassionately guide others.

The shift here is to become conscious that changemaking is about catalysing transformation. It means sustaining as the lighthouse no matter how big the storm. It asks that you match lovingly the amount of resistance coming your way. And that takes energy.

As I say to my changemakers, it is like taking on a full second job on top of your day job.  We go in with our eyes wide open and we remember that it is our quantity and quality of energy that makes the difference.

Until Next Time,

Louise

Louise is a Next Generation Career And Leadership Catalyst who supports leaders to step into their unique purpose, blueprint and impact. She is the Creator of The Positive Energy Leaders' Academy - A Next Generation Leadership School To Create Fulfilling, Meaningful Work And Become The Inspiring Leaders Of Positive Transformation You Are Meant To Be. She can be reached at [email protected]

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