In December of 2006, I unhooked from a relatively conventional life in the “Burbs,” put my business on the phone, hopped in my convertible with my girlfriend and Labradoodle, headed south to Pensacola and then West to Santa Fe. The most challenging part of my journey was at the beginning when I was flooded with the anxiety that is often associated with massive change. The second hardest part was when Tuck (my Labor-doodle) and I headed on to Santa Fe alone. Again, I was faced with substantial change, accompanied by doubt and sadness. We lived and traveled out west for nearly two years. I can boast that I have a dog that has swam in the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, as well as rivers and lakes in Colorado and New Mexico! I can also say that his master has faced significant change many times in his life.
I am not for a moment suggesting that you “unhook” from your life though there are some pretty amazing benefits to leaving a traditional structure, venturing into the unknown, and letting go of conditioning associated with the old structure. I am suggesting that each of us find a way to face our fear of change because unless we learn to do so, we will suffer. Much of our suffering as humans comes from our resistance to change and our inability to let go.
A client of mine asked me to work with her thirteen year-old daughter who is a competitive ballerina in south Florida. I said sure, relishing the challenge of helping an adolescent in a sport that I have never experienced first hand. The cool part about working with athletes as a Sports Psychologist is that no matter what the sport, the underlying issues are similar. And so are the techniques that we can apply to address them!
This young girl was experiencing significant anxiety before big competitions as well as having normal adolescent challenges with her family and friends. We chatted for a bit about her life, her friendships, and her passion of dance. Attending a performing arts school, she was consistently dancing five to six hours a day during and after school. This left her with very little down time and much less social time than most of her peers, two significant challenges for anyone let alone an adolescent.
Anxiety is the feeling of fear, dread, worry and concern that is often associated with physiological uneasiness. There are many reasons people experience anxiety. Some of us are prone to it through our genetic makeup. Others have been so strongly conditioned in childhood through abuse, neglect or trauma, that the experience of anxiety is inevitable. In my experience of working with thousands of people over the past twenty years, the vast majority of us experience anxiety as a result of the habit of avoidance.
Avoidance, as we all know, has negative consequences. There are times in life when it is important to consciously take a break from someone or something. Sometimes, we need to make those breaks permanent. It is fundamental, however, that we do so intentionally. In other words, that we do not avoid. Instead of avoiding, we can learn over time to consciously choose what we want to experience in life and business. Choosing our experiences consciously is a powerful approach to success in life and business.
An investment banker came to see me because he was tired and feeling depleted. For many years, he had been working long hours, traveling well over a hundred days a year, and rarely ever felt appreciated. In fact, the only thing he looked forward to at work was his bonus, which gratified him only briefly now. You may not be an investment banker but this story may still sound familiar. Many of us are working long hours and feel under-appreciated. Some of us don’t feel appreciated at all. I am also coaching an elementary school teacher who feels this way. He doesn’t have the hours a banker does, and yet he still works pretty hard. He too is often tired, frustrated and fatigued without the compensation to look forward too.
The essence of what we are discussing is Burnout and if we don’t do something about Burnout, it will eventually do something to us. Anxiety and depression are common side affects of Burnout. Both these guys have experienced significant anxiety and depression over the past several years. As I have said before, many people turn to medication in situations like this.