“The greatest gift you can give anybody is your own wellbeing.”
– Khalid Halim
A few weeks ago, in the Reboot coach’s slack channel, someone suggested that with so much musical talent in the room we could start a company band. We could call ourselves Radical and the Inquiries, and travel as part of Jerry’s book tour. Everyone found their place by volunteering instruments and skill sets, from guitars, piano, and vocals, to managing ticket sales and the schwag booth. Someone suggested that we revise Johnny Paycheck’s song “Take This Job and Shove It” to “Take this Job and Love It.” After all, that very shift in tunes comprises so much of the revised lyricism that we help our clients write for themselves.
Folks come to us at various stages of burnout, moments of transition and trial, or when they know what got them here won’t get them where they need and want to go. For most, this is an inflection point that denotes a pending change away from what came before, even though what comes next might be unclear. The choice is to opt for something better, something more suitable and sustainable, and that may feel entirely new at the edge of what’s possible.
Alex Rethore, startup executive and guest on this week’s podcast, found herself in a similar shift after arriving at burnout from the previous startups she worked at. When she was ready to start working again, after taking ample time off for rest and recovery and reconnecting with joy, she was concerned that she’d lose all that she’d recovered in her post-burnout recuperation. How could she move towards “Take this Job and Love it” without reverting back to the original version?
What leads us to burnout is not an essential factor in success, and clearly not an essential factor in achieving successful wellbeing for anyone. Yet, we don’t always believe that having what we want (and what’s good for our wellbeing) is possible at the intersections of work and life and purpose. Yet, our wellbeing is necessary to doing good work. And, good work is necessary for our wellbeing. Being attuned to our wellbeing is the necessary ingredient for taking the lead role in our life.
We often hear doubts and disbeliefs mumbling from clients in a conundrum: “Can I really have the life that supports me, and do good work?” and “Is it really ‘work’ if I’m not stressed and panting all the time?” Building something and maintaining wellbeing is not about ‘not working hard,’ but we can certainly work smartly to orient ourselves differently in our approach to work.
Working in accordance with our wellbeing is an important threshold to cross, especially when it comes to our relationship to work. If we are in control of our own lives in the choices we make, we can blaze our trails–familiar and unknown–with all that fosters wellbeing. You can choose you, versus choosing to sacrifice or compromise you for someone else, an ethos, or vision. The questions to ask are: Who am I, and what do I need to be fully me? Where do I collapse my boundaries and lose myself?
“The world is run by those who can’t make love, or those who do it badly,” writes author Gunelli Gun. “That’s why the world is in trouble.” Perhaps her words hint at how we can find ourselves in miserable situations in our work life. One aspect of a healthy relationship requires that you know who you are and where you are in space as a whole, complete being. Then, you can be in relation to others who are also whole and complete in their space. Through this space between, there is room for connection and mutual respect of our differentiated selves. Think of two circles touching at their edges, osculating, but not overlapping. (To ‘osculate’ means ‘to kiss.’) These circles are not consuming each other. They stand together, side by side, each as whole parts in communion.
To stand in your circle means to feel yourself, differentiated. Sometimes, the fear we can feel in the mumbling conundrum about having wellbeing and doing good work is the fear of being consumed (again, OMG, ugh!) by something. How could it be so good when it always seems to end up so badly? Such a situation is a legit uncomfortable and diminishing place to be. Yet so often we forget that as adults the powers invested in us allow us to make better choices, and not be subsumed by the younger reasoning that has lodged into our shrinking or collapsing or other self-denying patterning.
Ultimately, the choice at this crux (and arguably the choice at the osculation point of any relationship), is: Do I choose myself? We need to notice: Where and when do I cave in? What parts of myself do I lose? How can I take a stand on my own two feet and relate from that place?
When you choose yourself, you do not abandon yourself. Your well being is the greatest act of love. It’s the greatest gift you can give others and the world. Radical self-care is a revolutionary act in that if you are being true to yourself, you’re anchored from an inner locus, and rooted in a way that defies any subscription to lemming mentality, or what you think you “should” do. You’re likely not leading from an outer locus, snagged and hooked on the externalities and wishes and wants of what the outside world thinks or asks of you and your attention. You’re the captain of your ship, not a passenger on someone else’s.
Leading from this place could be called leading from love. It could be called ‘letting the soft animal of your body love what it loves’ (ala Mary Oliver). You’re leading from an inner knowing, guided by what you need for your wellbeing, and your choices hinge on integrity to that. Your connection to the world – to work, to lovers, to partners, to family – hinge on integrity to that. That could be the hardest work we do before, as, and when we commit to focusing on companies we’d be proud to work for.
From there, there’s no going back to burnout-land. You’ve taken refuge and sanctuary in your very self. This is the BIG move. This becomes your ground. This is how you protect your magic. This is how you become a good lover – of yourself, and others – so that the world is filled with better leaders. This is how you begin to write your version of “Take this Job and Love it.”