Understanding Vital exhaustion, a key to good leadership

Today’s podcast again features Kimberly Davis author of the book of Brave Leadership and well-known leadership development Blog writer Janice Kobelsky.

Kimberly can be found at  https://onstageleadership.com/blog/

Janice can be found at https://janicekobelsky.mykajabi.com/blog


Self-care starts with setting good boundaries for oneself in order to refuel and regenerate.

Personality types do play a role here in how you take care of your energy. Introverts usually can and do regenerate by themselves easily. Yet when in a group it often takes a toll.

One must watch what one puts on the calendar in terms of having the necessary energy to see it through. If you are depleted and tired, it’s impossible to show up as one’s best self and give the best.

Individually its next to impossible to be all things to all people. Businesses, too, are aware of this. Thus they focus on specific types of clients they want. Yet somehow, this hasn’t quite fully translated into use in our personal lives.

We haven’t quite gotten the necessity of re-energising. Neither have we gotten to understand what it actually takes to re-energise and accept the fact that you cannot be on 24X7. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that’s exactly what we have to do. Be continuously on as our best self.

This is a result of our psychological need of being wanted. It’s wonderful when opportunities show up. What we don’t realise is that it’s not just that you are not going to be able to bring your best self for that next engagement it’s when you don’t bring your best self to an engagement you hold on to that , you remember that, that muscle memory of ‘I wasn’t at my best’ is something you carry with you.

Confidence is knowing that we can count on ourselves and when we let ourselves down, it erodes our confidence. We carry that with us into our future. It just doesn’t affect that one next engagement it affects us for the long term! If we are really looking at building our confidence and being our best, most authentic, and powerful self or “BRAVE”, you really can’t afford to erode your own confidence.

This perspective has a direct impact on leadership.

In the workplace, there are situations where many an activity is possible not completed in a given timeframe for a variety of reasons. This creates stress. What helps is looking at what bits have been completed. What small wins or improvements have happened. This perspective of looking at the positive, helps reduce stress and creates an energy re-boost.

It’s important to understand that there is a difference between being busy and being on purpose. Having this idea of a ‘super objective’ helps us understand and see what we are doing, why we are doing it and what it is tracking towards. That helps us take stock of those wins and really own them. You’re working hard and burning a lot of energy on something and the result of that could be in many months or even upwards of a year.

So, what’s the win? Who defines there is a win and how do you take in that win in a way that actually sinks in? As that is another thing one finds, is that people say it will help to take stock of the wins, and yet they dismiss those wins. They don’t really own it as it hasn’t sunk in.

This is an outcome of our ‘it’s never enough’ feeling. Some of this might be societal. Yet this is something, as people, we really should look into as we are paying a very heavy price more than we realise.

The price of Burnout.

The word burnout has this connotation of the inner flame or passion, having gone out, that the work is not on purpose, that we have lost our way, in some way we have failed.

If one were to look at it as “Vital Exhaustion” then the perspective changes. It makes one look at it like looking at a health issue where the body vitals, physical or mental are exhausted. When one views it in this perspective then what you are saying to yourself is that you’re vitality, or your key vitals, are exhausted. Then the next step is to know what to do to refuel that.

Using vital exhaustion is so much more powerful and empowering to oneself and to others in comparison to using burnout.

Viewing it as vital exhaustion one can be working so hard, so passionately towards making an impact and really making a difference in work and creating an impact that it can result in exhaustion. Where you run out of vitality or energy. Seeing it from this perspective then makes it much easier for one to say no to certain engagements and demands on one’s time.

Now we all find it hard to say no. That’s because we are always on and we feel we are not doing enough, and we are not being enough. A part of that comes from the fact that there’s always more to do and there are demands on you.

In such an environment how do you say NO without saying no?

It’s about clear boundaries.

It’s about understanding what the boundaries are that you can put in place and holding yourself accountable to maintain those boundaries. It’s about getting clear on your values, what is important to you, what you need physically. To the extent that creating rituals out of your boundaries help in getting a habit going.

Now the thing with boundaries is that it often conjures up an image of a wall!

Yet it’s not a wall but a limit.

So, when viewed from the perspective of vital exhaustion the mental picture that comes is that of a dashboard where you can view your vitals.

Like seeing a gauge where you can see if you’re running on empty or over-running and are about to pop. You can then either fill it up or pare it back. That helps in reframing what and how boundaries are. Thus, saying no is saying yes to yourself, to rejuvenate and re-charge.

Having boundaries and honouring them is beneficial to others.

Energy is one of the reasons people work with people.

Putting in that energy is honouring the commitment one has to the people one works with or are with. By protecting and nurturing the energy one is able to fulfill the commitments one has.

About the author, Ross

Behavioural leadership coach committed to bringing more soul into business and reducing a leader's stress in managing their people

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