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Purpose

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QUIET QUITTING – THE ANSWER TO BURNOUT?

This trending topic is receiving a huge amount of attention which shows that it is really striking a chord. I want to explore it because it is just not in my psychology. I’m too black and white, either for something or against it. If I don’t like a work situation, I’ll leave. I’m probably more of a Great Resignation rather than a ‘lie-back’ person.

When I posted about quiet quitting on LinkedIn a few days ago, one of the people who responded wrote this:

“It’s heart-breaking to think anyone could feel the need to do this in any aspect of their life. ❤️‍🩹”
”Life is a gift 🎁 something so precious 🌟 that we only get to enjoy once & when it’s gone, there isn’t a re-run we can apply for 🙏🏼
”If “quiet-quitting” is as good as it gets for some people, what are they waiting for? ⏰ Who do they think will make the changes in their life & why don’t they see they deserve so much better?! 💪🏼 
”I’ve heard of ‘controlling the controllables’ but if we don’t own our shit, then we leave the door open for anyone else to do that for us. And we all know people who will happily step into those shoes for us😠

“Rant over 😂 great post Hilary Rowland & a terrifying concept. I just hope anyone who is in this trap has the support around them to realise the stars are only a moment away 💫”

It got me thinking that, while quiet quitting, the art of doing no more than is required of you, may be the right response to burnout for some people in a few desperate situations, but to be emotionally and mentally healthy it should be intentional, thought through, a deliberate plan.

There are many people who are very burnt out and I recently spoke to someone who is intending to take time out of the workplace to recover. As the saying goes, ‘They who fight and run away live to fight another day.’ But that’s the point, it’s not giving up the fight whatever that represents. It’s regrouping, refreshing and recovering.

Perhaps those quiet quitters feel they’ve had too many demands made of them, been asked to do things that are not their fight and without support and recognition, and therefore why should they bother? I’m with them on that, but to really benefit from stepping back, it needs to be part of a larger plan for life, one where they own the direction.

There’s no doubt things are very difficult in many ways at the moment.

What do you really need? We can help you think it through. Our retreats offer the opportunity to step back, take some time out, decide what’s right for you. Act now. 

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Walking the talk

This week I’m back on the Scottish island of Iona. I came here last year for a retreat feeling very burnt out like many others. It restored my soul and a sense of perspective.

When I look back over the last year, I’m aware that we now have an even greater focus on wellbeing together with our partners Cesar Gamio and George Anderson. I’ve written a White Paper on the wellbeing needs of senior executives and we’ve designed some programmes for them which involve both retreats and coaching.

I’m a great believer in eating my own dog food and having my own retreat is so important to be able to do what we do. It is a privilege and an honour to work with people so dedicated to their personal growth and to see the transformation in them and their lives. The changes seem to encompass so many areas:

  • Family – rebuilding and investing in relationships with partners and children
  • Business – building self-belief, valuing himself and his contribution so that he can ask for the fees he deserves
  • Discovering new abilities – who knew she had artistic talents?
  • Finding a network of people that have your back and will encourage you to keep growing.

It’s made me think about how I’ve invested in my own wellbeing this year and what has made a difference as I’m not going to Iona burnt out. A bit tired but not burnt out.

  • Setting aside time for a weekly meditation
  • Putting routines in place, having set times for writing and generating content
  • Keeping my mornings, when I have most energy, for important things and work which requires greater concentration. I keep afternoons for calls and meetings when I need the interaction with others to reenergise me
  • Planning my week every Friday so that I hit the ground running on Monday, not faffing around trying to work out what I’m meant to be doing
  • And finally, not a difficult one for me, exercise – cycling, swimming, walking and Pilates.

Iona is a very spiritual place which is one of the things I love about it. Spirituality matters to me as it does to a lot of us, but we don’t seem to feel comfortable talking about it, perhaps because of the fear that it will spill over into religion which can be so contentious. For me, it’s about the connection with something much bigger than myself, as well as what makes my life meaningful and significant.

What works for you in managing your time, energy and contribution?

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Your Wellbeing or Personal Indulgence?​

This is a big topic at the moment. It attracts so much attention and creates so many headlines that it would almost seem to be a global obsession. It may have got to the point that people switch off when they hear the word even though the need has not disappeared.  Tech companies seem able to sell any number of apps and gadgets to measure every aspect of physiological function, but for many people, does it go beyond measurement and the possible creation of even more anxiety caused by the results?

I know it’s important but that doesn’t mean I find it any easier to give it the right priority in my life. My toes curl slightly at the term ‘self-care’. If our wellbeing were a business, would we invest in it? If not, why not? Here’s the business case for the investment:

  • Protecting the company’s investment. Sports franchisees that pay top dollar for star athletes require them to exercise, eat better and take care of their overall wellness during the season. The same should be true for C-level employees as companies pay more for those roles, particularly the top job. Considering that the Economic Policy Institute estimates that average CEO pay is 271 times the nearly $58,000 annual average pay of the typical American worker, it could be said that the C-Suite should be held to a higher personal maintenance standard.
  • Supposing you depart suddenly as a result of ill health. Costs can mount quickly without an obvious internal replacement. The typical seven-figure severance package and six-figure retainer for an executive search firm are just the beginning. Board members might have to fly in on short notice for an emergency meeting. A small army of professionals — all of whom charge by the hour — begins to mobilise: communications consultants and employment lawyers, movers and relocation experts. The longer the clock ticks, the higher the figure on the meter. And those are just the hard, easily quantifiable impacts. They pale in comparison to the less visible costs. Turmoil and uncertainty at the top filter quickly down through the organisation, slamming the brakes on growth initiatives, hindering the closing of vital deals, and causing some valued employees to start looking for new positions elsewhere.
  • What is more difficult to quantify but a reality nonetheless is the cost of lack of efficiency, delayed decisions, and bad decisions as a result of ill-health, burnout or being generally sub-par.

What’s your level of investment in your wellbeing? Can you afford NOT to invest in wellbeing?

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What’s your state of wellbeing?

With most of us having had a break over Easter, it’s a good time to switch off but also have some time to reflect on our state of wellbeing.

There is no shortage of evidence to demonstrate that people at a senior level have been more adversely affected by the changes and working conditions brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic. Much as we might all have desired a return to ‘normal’, it would appear that working patterns have undergone a permanent shift with many workers continuing to prefer to work from home – another adjustment to make.

These pressures may have affected you in a number of ways. You may be

  • Thinking of leaving the workplace altogether
  • Seeking a new position
  • Finding that you are part of the epidemic of stress and burnout.

If you’re in this position, you have probably recognised the need to support employees who have been similarly, but not as badly affected by these conditions and put in place wellness initiatives in your companies. But what about you and your wellbeing needs? Many senior people don’t recognise this as a need for themselves and would rather adopt either a stoical approach or deny that there’s a problem.

This carries huge risks as the effects of your ill health can be far-reaching. Senior executives have huge responsibilities, hence the stress, and the implications for being sub-par on business effectiveness, decision making, and leadership are also great: a strong business case for their investing in your health and wellbeing. It will also have a beneficial effect on the rest of the company, your leading by example.

Why don’t you think about investing some time in yourself and the rest of your life by coming on one of our retreats? Giving yourself time to think about your direction, purpose and state of wellbeing could pay dividends for you, the family and the business.

Our next 5-day retreat starts on the 13th – 16th of June. We are having drinks in London on 27th April at 5pm at the Eight Club for people who’d like to find out more. For those who can’t make that date, we are having a Zoom call at 5pm on 3rd May. Please get in touch if you’d like to participate in either of those events.

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Here we go again?

‘Oh no, here we go again,’ I’ve caught myself thinking this last week in response to the news about another variant. But are we in the same place? No, we’ve got vaccines and we’ve got learning about how we’ve already handled the virus, but it still injects another wave of uncertainty into our lives. What about Christmas? We’ve made the decision not to travel after mid-December to give the Christmas we didn’t have last year the best chance.

So we’re making some concessions to Omicron and being sensible, but I can’t deny a degree of anxiety about all the retreats we’ve got planned next year. That’s got me thinking, what do I bring to this stage of the pandemic adventure to get me through? I wrote last week about the need to look back, to recognise our achievements and successes and that’s certainly a good place to start.

Then there are all those old-fashioned virtues that are not always prominent on Instagram – determination, perseverance, patience, perspective, not giving up. I sometimes torture myself by asking myself if we shouldn’t be building our business faster. Maybe it’s just not possible in the current climate.

But maybe as you start to look inside yourself to find what you bring and what you have to offer to all the people who depend on you – staff, clients, suppliers, family, friends, you find you’re running on empty and the possibility of getting away for a break is rapidly fading. We know that one of our retreats would be ideal to help you recharge the batteries and find the resources to keep going.

It’s our intention to keep running in-person retreats as far as possible, so please keep in touch and watch this space for what’s coming up. Our ‘From Burnout to Flourishing’ retreat in February could be just what you need.

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Looking back

I find it very easy to be constantly looking to the future and either being excited about the possibilities or anxious about how much still needs to be done. What I don’t do nearly enough is look back and reflect on all that’s gone well and been successful. We all need to do that after the last two years that have been tough on us all one way or another.

We’ve seen so many certainties swept away, whether of being able to plan holidays, seeing people who’re important to us, pressures on our families, our businesses either tanking or flying and now not knowing what on earth to do about our staff who seem to have developed minds of their own during lockdown!

When I look back, I’m amused at the confidence and optimism with which we started a business running retreats a few months before a pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, I blithely proclaimed on LinkedIn that I wanted to live boldly and courageously and to have adventures, big and small. Be careful what you wish for, you’re probably thinking.

Perhaps I was more prescient than I knew. It was an adventure all right, a big one. I remember being inspired by something I saw on social media encouraging us to come out of lockdown better than we went in. Well, that was the first lockdown – if only we knew there would be a second and a third or more, depending what part of the country you live in. The enthusiasm for Joe Wicks wore off and we probably just got fatter!

I certainly needed courage. Like so many other businesses we tried to pivot (that much-overused word of 2020!) online, but how do you replicate a fabulous hotel, time, space, relaxation, switching off on a webinar with the kids running in and out in the background and the cat walking over the keyboard? We realised it was a non-starter.

However, there was plenty we could do. Build our brand, community, marketing assets and team, which all paid off once we could start in-person retreats. Now we’re beginning to see the fruits of our labours – people are coming to us wanting to partner with us, interview us on their podcasts and even an approach from someone in the US wanting us to run a retreat for them – before Christmas! Yes, I think I can and should feel proud.

But before you get into all the busyness and froth of Christmas and gearing up for 2022, what about you? How are you feeling about it all and where has it left you? What are you grateful for? What have been the successes? How about a little celebration, or at the least, a modest patting yourself on the back?

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Progress made in front of our very eyes…

As I’ve mentioned many times getting back in front of people has been very significant for me and I know it’s where I operate best.

That alone has motivated me to start our quarterly round tables where we aim to get like-minded business leaders around the table to discuss, debate and connect on matters close to their heart. Our first one on the 1st of December is already over-subscribed and I’m delighted.

Another big moment recently has been to see the progress made by our June retreat attendees. June was the first of our in-person retreats in 2021 and the first 3 days of our 5-day retreat, with the final 2 days concluding in September. We’ve been having regular catch-up sessions with the cohort since, and our November get-together was truly inspirational.

Each individual has made significant progress in their own personal and business wellbeing and it really was, and is, a wonder to witness.

It makes what we do so worthwhile to see physical progress made as a result of our work.

One individual has described being trapped in a narrow and dark corridor for many years and since June has seen the world slowly becoming bigger, brighter and full of opportunity. They took us on a physical journey of experiencing the narrow corridor through to enjoying the freedom of the outdoors without boundaries or barriers and being full of light.

Another has become very at peace with her outlook on her future and pending retirement, seeing the next five years as an opportunity to make her final mark and legacy on the thousands of people and businesses she’s touched with her nurturing, leadership and strategic input. She really is making hearts beat faster through her infectious character and sheer desire for inclusivity. And more important than anything she now believes and witnesses the impact she has.

Two other, intensely hard-working individuals now realise that taking time out for themselves, being kinder to themselves, not feeling guilty and not constantly beating themselves up, makes for much more rounded, at peace and effective individuals.

They are all-round calmer but every bit as ambitious and driven, just with refocused energy and productivity.

It’s progress like this that makes us tick. We continue with our pursuit of impacting ambitious and driven leaders to find the best version of themselves.

Those individuals will certainly not die with their best music left unplayed.

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Getting back to flourishing

I’ve been reflecting a lot on this recently. I’ve been very aware that as a result of the pandemic and lockdown, I’ve been far from flourishing. What does it look like when I am flourishing and thriving? I caricature, but it’s having six ideas before I get up in the morning, wanting to attempt steeper hills when I’m out cycling. That hasn’t been happening lately.

What does flourishing look like for you? The big question at the moment is getting back to offices or not and having a business based in our home I know the attractions and disadvantages of working from home. But I know that a big part of getting back to flourishing for me is meeting and working with people face-to-face. The sheer convenience of Zoom means I’ll never go back to having all meetings face-to-face but there are some that really need to be.

We’re looking at launching a regular networking meeting in London, once a quarter. We’re planning it at the moment and just doing that is exciting me, making me feel that we can start to overcome feelings of isolation and being cut off from relaxed easy interaction with others.

Martin Seligman, founder of the positive psychology movement, defined flourishing as to find fulfilment in our lives, accomplishing meaningful and worthwhile tasks, and connecting with others at a deeper level—in essence, living the “good life”. If we can enable that for others, either through our retreats or meetings, I will feel deeply satisfied.

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What’s your next chapter?

As I write this I am looking forward with excitement to Monday and Tuesday of next week which is the second half of our five-day retreat which began in June. Since then, we have been meeting the participants at regular intervals on Zoom calls to find out how they’re getting on and to support them in making the changes they want in their lives.

The group which included three MDs and a partner in an accountancy firm came with different motivations: one to take their leadership to the next level, one to completely change careers, another to think about the last few years of their career and into retirement, and one with a lifestyle that was killing them. We used the Japanese concept of Ikigai to help them articulate their purpose and then write their next chapter – to be revealed on Tuesday!

We work with people’s stories of both success and failure. One of the key moments in the retreat is when we get people to tell stories about experiences that have been difficult, and which have held them back in some way. One of these stories is told in this blog https://thenextchapter.guru/time-for-a-retreat-i-dont-think-so/  Retelling these stories enables people to make some real shifts in their lives.

One thing we have noted in our Zoom calls between the two halves of the retreat is the extent to which people are making big changes not just in the externals of their lives but in their mindsets and attitudes and in developing new habits. As we all know, these changes are sometimes the hardest and then it’s good to have some people with you who’ve been through the process with you, understand what you’re trying to change and why and are your biggest cheerleaders.

Of course, these kinds of changes can be made in lots of different ways but the retreat acts like a reset button. It’s five quite intensive days spread over three months, but the changes happen more quickly than when you’re working on your own exerting all your self-discipline which is hard when you’ve got so much else on.

We’d love to talk to you about what you’re trying to achieve in your life and whether one of our retreats will give you a kick-start. The next one starts on 1st – 3rd November so you need to get in quickly.

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Why do business leaders find it hard to invest in their own wellness?

Recently a number of companies, Nike, LinkedIn and Bumble have announced that they are closing for a week to give their staff time to recover from the burnout caused by the pandemic, lockdowns and the negative effects of working from home. All well and good and the right thing to do, but what about you, the leader and owner of the business? There’s a lot to feel anxious about – hybrid working chaos, supply chains, staff shortages, inflation, OK let’s not depress ourselves too much! As a business owner myself, I know it is very hard to switch off from thinking and possibly worrying about the business and the future.

What would it feel like if you felt really rested and energised? What are the chances of that at the moment? Some of us have had holidays, but I was talking to someone the other day who had just come back from a holiday with the family (including granny and mother-in-law!) and he didn’t look and sound at all rested. You may have had a week in a tent in the indifferent weather we’re pleased to call summer in the UK. Not exactly the break you were hoping for.

Now the autumn’s here, how are you feeling? Ready for the upturn in the economy or anything the pandemic still has to throw at us? If there’s one thing that we’ve learned over the last year or so, it’s the extent to which the constant uncertainty and lack of control eat away at our resilience. Your holidays may have provided a change of scene and activity but may not have given you what you need to really renew and regenerate.

Why do business leaders find it so hard to invest in themselves and their health, mental or otherwise?

• They feel ashamed about asking for help especially as workplaces don’t support slowing down
• They often equate stress or burnout with a physical illness like a cold and think that a weekend away will sort it
• Investing in addressing burnout is a sign of weakness and that it’s best dealt with by working harder.

Left untreated, burnout can cause people to become depressed, anxious, and distracted, which can impact not only their work relationships but their personal interactions, too. 

Time to do something about it?

One of the best ways of dealing with it is to take ourselves out of the situation altogether.

It’s hard to admit that we need help perhaps because there seem to be so many other people who are worse off, and that we’re being self-indulgent. How many people depend on your being at your best?

Take time to regain some perspective, take a proper break. An ideal way of doing this is coming on our next retreat which starts on 1st – 3rd November. Finding your focus and direction and reconnecting with your purpose and values are core ways to restore mental balance and improve your resilience. Your business, family and friends will thank you.

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