Saturday, October 25, 2008

The three basic rules for starting an exercise program and avoiding getting burned out.

By Mike Wien, Partner, Creative Growth Group
As part of our executive coaching at Creative Growth Group, we are often asked to help clients who are feeling burned out. The volume of opportunities to “seize the moment” and the ability to be connected 24/7/365 has helped create pressure cookers for many of our high performing clients.
One of the metaphors I like to use in addressing executive burnout is lessons learned as a competitive Ironman triathlete. A critical factor in successfully training for this type of event is having the ability to take on an increased amount of activity without burning out in the process. So as a sampler of the many lessons learned, here are the three most basic ideas for starting an effective fitness program, or for maintaining peak performance in a job – keeping the flame lit for life.
1. Set a pace that is comfortable, sustainable and avoids pain. The most common mistake is that most new runners start out too fast. This results in a high level of discomfort and a challenge to the sanity of this commitment. It is better to start out at a pace and distance that will keep you motivated to continue the program, than to start out too fast and force early burnout. The best way to determine the right pace for you is to start running or working at the fastest speed you can maintain while still being able to hold a conversation with someone running with you. It is that simple.
2. Find an environment that is enjoyable. If you are going make the commitment to put in the time on a regular basis, pick a venue that will encourage you to continue. For me, it is running on a route that has beautiful views or interesting things to look at and explore. It might be running on a path along a river, through a nature preserve, or through a well landscaped neighborhood. Some might even find a treadmill with a television set enjoyable. Remember, you want the environment to support and encourage positive behavior.
3. Include others in your journey. Running can be a solitary activity. It is a wonderful opportunity for many to find some time to relax and have time to think random thoughts. However, especially for a new runner or someone who has a big dream of running in a marathon or competing in an Ironman triathlon, the solo approach is not such a good idea. Big journeys are better traveled with at least one companion. Take someone along to share both the joy and pain. Someone who can encourage and help celebrate the little victories.
Now, how does this apply to executive burn-out other than maybe encouraging some of you to make a commitment to a healthier lifestyle? Well, these three principles can also be applied to the business environment.
Set a pace that keeps you moving toward your ultimate goal and still allows you to maintain balance in your life. Make sure the pace avoids pain and lets you keep a balance in life beyond just your work.
Make sure the work environment is enjoyable. Work with people and clients you like. Avoid working with people who do not share your same values. Be attracted to or create a work setting that feels
comfortable and is fun.
Finally, don’t go solo. Be a part of a team. Share your ideas with others. Ask for advice and suggestions for improvement. Celebrate the successes with others. Be generous in sharing credit.
Keeping the Flame Lit for Life - 10 Steps to avoid burnout
by Mike Wien, Partner Creative Growth Group

The following 10 steps to avoid burnout were developed based on a retrospective view of how I kept my flame lit for three years while training for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. What many audiences have discovered is that these ten suggestions can be applied to careers, family, relationships and life.

1. Dream up something really big that you can be passionate about. It must pass the tear test. Set a definable goal.
2. Make a commitment by sharing the dream with others. This will bring in all kinds of advice, support, encouragement, contacts, programs and peer pressure. It will also give you someone to share your setbacks and celebrate your successes.
3. Start eating the elephant – one small bit at a time. Develop a plan that includes a lot of small steps.
4. Set a sustainable pace. A fast start is the surest way to extinguish the flame. You want it to be fun (not painful), repeatable, enjoyable.
5. Keep everything in balance – Life is multidimensional. While focusing on your goal, stay in peak health in all areas – physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual. Keep health, career, family and community in balance.
6. Track progress and celebrate successes. Set intermediate milestones so you will know how you are doing. Keep track of improvements. Recognize the milestones you make.
7. Convert Setbacks into learning experiences. Be optimistic and embrace challenges. Stay focused on the solution, not just the problem. Failure provides a valuable learning experience.

8. Enjoy the journey. In the end, the most memorable part will be the journey to get there, not crossing the finish line. Take the time to smell the roses. Appreciate the present. Be optimistic about the future. It will become your energy source for staying resilient and protect you from getting derailed by minor setbacks.
9. Stay on a steep learning curve. Be open to and seek out advice from others. Ask, listen, observe. Hang around with people who have accomplished what you are trying to do. Associate with people who are better / faster than you.
10. Become a mentor. Know when to stop raising the bar and redirect your energy to helping others live their dream. Take time to pick-up the turtles in the road.