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How To Prevent Burnout? Part 2: Expanding Your Definition Of Success

How different is your definition of success from society's definition of 'success'? Why does this difference matter? How can it change your life to expand your definition of success based on *your* why, *your* values, *your* definitions of what matters to *you*, and *your* own priorities?

Ultimately, whatever anyone else has to say for the five minutes that your decisions cross their mind, you're the one living into your every day personal and professional choices. Day in and day out, we're surrounded by mainstream ideas of success. These often include heterosexual marriage, biological children, home ownership, making partner at work, getting that promotion, pension plans, retirement travels, and so on. Is there anything wrong with any of it? Not even kind of.

These are beautiful dreams and it's wonderful to strive for them if/when *you* want to. Whatever the case may be, *that's* the idea behind expanding your definition of success. I invite you to imagine and tune into what *your* truest and most beautiful life looks like, feels like, and sounds like. Yes, this goes for your personal *and* your professional lives. Why? Because you're still a whole person when you're at work *and* you're still a person who needs to work in order to participate in society as it's currently structured. As such, I invite you to make this human experience as *yours* as possible.

Cool... How does this connect to preventing burnout, though? By understanding how *you* want to feel in your life, to whatever degree is available to you at any given moment, you can set up the conditions and mechanisms of action that can get you there *without* burning out or living in chronic overwhelm. I invite you to consider that an expanded definition of success includes these three ingredients:

1. Work: aka "work" in the broader sense of whatever it is that you're working through. This can include professional work, as well as parenting, navigating the healthcare system, facing gender bias, doing a constant cost/benefit analysis as to whether or not it's safe to be who you are, accomplishing your goals, etc.

2. Support: personal relationships with friends, family, and community, as well as professional supports with colleagues, therapists, doctors, counsellors, executive coaches, healthcare professionals, social workers, etc.

3. Rest/recovery: including passive rest like sleep, as well as active rest like engaging in positive social interactions, hobbies, movement, connection to something greater than ourselves, etc.

In narrow, mainstream definitions of success, these ingredients aren't even listed. Strength means pushing past your body's cues and pushing through your limits for some promised finish line that never quite arrives. 'Having your shit together' is synonymous lone wolfing your way through from a place of hyper-independence. Depending on how gendered your experience is, you're expected to smile through anything and everything while remaining palatable and small. Depending on how racialized your experience is, you're expected to shut up, smile for the diversity photo, and not ask questions. Depending on how disabled your experience is, you're not even expected to be there. Depending on how you move through the world, society offers loud ideas about the types of success that are available to you, if any.


By getting clear about what matters to you, you can determine what you need to work on, what supports need to be set up, and the type of rest/recovery that you need to access on an ongoing basis to prevent burning out before getting to where you want to go. Part of challenging mainstream ideas of success requires challenging the ideas of what you need to succeed in the first place. Because, guess what? You're not neurobiologically wired for it to be sustainable to do it all alone.

Your nervous system's ideal state is a state of safe connection and healthy inter-dependence. Your 'flow state' is where creativity, innovation, problem-solving, healing, and playing exist. That's your ventral vagal nervous system state, which depends on safe co-regulation with other nervous systems in safe relationships. It's a fundamentally social state.

Guess what else? Rest is vital for the nervous system to feel safe enough to feel like we can connect with others. Rest goes beyond sleeping and encompasses those experiences, relationships, and places where you can drop into your parasympathetic nervous system. Those moments where your body can access rest and digest states are vital for us to navigate challenge in sustainable ways over time.

Knowing this, how might your definition of success change?

For executive coaching support to deepen this work, book a Discovery Call with me today!

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