Episode 295: Dealing with Burnout as a Top Performer with Stephen Hardy

GUEST: Stephen Hardy, Founder and Director at Navigate the Curve

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Feeling drained after a long day? Totally normal. 

But when that fatigue morphs into chronic exhaustion, constant overthinking, a downward spiral of negativity, and a narrow, tunnel-visioned outlook, burnout might be creeping in. 

High performers, fueled by achievement and a fear of failure, are particularly susceptible to this adversary.

What's ironic is that the very tools that empower them – their work ethic, their drive – can easily become shields against recognizing burnout

However,  intellectual control, tapping into the mind's rational problem-solving abilities, offers a way out.

To shed light on this important topic, we are joined by Stephen Hardy, Founder and Director at Navigate the Curve. Stephen is an experienced technology sales professional turned performance psychology coach & clinical hypnotherapist. After a successful career spanning over 20 years in technology sales, and gaining first-hand experience of the challenges that professionals face in demanding corporate environments, he addresses mindset issues and empowers individuals to overcome barriers that hold them back.

How Does Someone Know They’re “Burning Out” vs “Just Tired”?

Feeling tired after a long day is normal. But when that fatigue morphs into chronic exhaustion, constantly overthinking, feeling kind of down, not being hopeful, and only seeing things in a narrow way, burnout might be lurking. High performers, driven by achievement and a fear of failure, can be particularly susceptible to burnout's insidious grip.

The very tools that empower high performers – their work ethic, their drive – can easily become their shields against recognizing burnout. Channeling emotional stress into overthinking or burying anxieties under endless to-do lists becomes a dangerous coping mechanism. They can fall into a cycle of "productive procrastination," using work as an escape from facing deeper emotional needs or personal gaps.

“I’d love to feel happier, I’d love to work on myself, but I worry that I’ll lose my drive. While many people think like this, from my current position, that seems like a perverse thing to say. Why would you want to sacrifice all of this just because of money? Then I realize that some people invest in their anxiety because of the advantages they get from it: motivation, attention, or support.”

Stephen Hardy, Founder and Director at Navigate the Curve

There Is Always More Choice than What Is Apparent

The sales battlefield can feel like a constant fight-or-flight situation. The pressure to close deals, hit targets, and maintain momentum can trigger the primitive part of your brain, sending you into a state of anxiety and overwhelm. This primal instinct doesn't know how to create new solutions when stuck in a rut, so it resorts to habitual behaviors – the same old sales techniques that might have once brought success.

But relying on these autopilot tactics is a recipe for burnout. The constant stress, the feeling of being trapped in a repetitive loop, wears down the mental and emotional resources. Then, people start to cope, not thrive.

However, there's good news. People have the intellectual capacity that allows for rational thought and problem-solving. It's the ability to tap into this intellectual control that offers a way out of the burnout trap.

"Though the primitive mindset can sometimes act as a motivator, it's far from an ideal or sustainable state. It hinders creative thinking, rationality, and gaining a proper perspective. Prioritizing mental health and working with the intellectual part of the brain can significantly enhance efficiency and productivity. The challenge lies in the fact that many people remain trapped in this state because the primitive part of the brain resists change, perceiving it as a threat to its stability."

Stephen Hardy, Founder and Director at Navigate the Curve

Gain Intellectual Control Over Your Mind - The Concept of the Second Curve

The reality is that everyone holds the power to master their mind intellectually. Initiating positive actions and modifying behaviors serve as the simplest pathway forward. When people begin altering their behavior, this change can reverberate through other facets, which supercharges their intellectual development. 

One key insight we gain from Stephen is the concept of the second curve, introduced by Charles Handy, a renowned philosopher and management expert. He explains that when you're at the top of your game, that's the exact point when you need to change and do something different to avoid becoming complacent. The second curve is about finding meaning and purpose beyond conventional measures of success and avoiding burnout by adapting to the ever-evolving demands of life.

A sustainable approach involves activating the subconscious by setting precise objectives using the conscious mind. This triggers the subconscious to generate creative ideas that can liberate people from stagnation and amplify their capabilities across the board.

How to Deal with Fear of Failure and Imposter Syndrome

The fear of failure can be a hurdle, especially for high performers contemplating career changes. Transitioning from a familiar path to something new can trigger this fear, often from the primitive mind's negative forecasting. Stephen recommends that recognizing your skills, especially those developed in a successful career like sales, is beneficial to navigating change.

Stephen also points out that, regardless of background or success, everyone experiences similar feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome. It's a reminder of our shared humanity. Identifying imposter syndrome and reframing it as a sign of growth can be empowering. People can challenge negative self-talk by focusing on strengths to boost confidence.

Additionally, aligning with your sense of purpose and being authentic and comfortable with yourself, even in professional settings, is valuable in fostering acceptance and connection with others.

"The primitive mind is always negatively forecasting, while the intellectual mind finds solutions to problems and tends to be positive. Recognizing your skills, like those from a successful sales career, reveals transferable abilities. So, realizing that you have these amazing skills and resilience, aligning with your sense of purpose, and being authentic to your true self can pave the way to success."

Stephen Hardy, Founder and Director at Navigate the Curve

Now that you’ve learned the symptoms of burnout and how to navigate the defeating mindset of the primitive brain, check out the full list of episodes at The B2B Revenue Executive Experience. If you enjoy the show, instructions to rate and review it are found here.

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