“Imagine if you could be as good at your personal life as you are at your job” - Olivia, Tenured Professor

Oct 3rd, 2022

Olivia gave me her feedback on The Balanced High Performer based on her own personal experience in the program.

What has your experience been with the program?

When I came to the course, I had already reached a breaking point at work and in some ways I wish I had known about this course earlier – but it was still a wonderful opportunity because I knew I was at a vulnerable moment and had finally reached a place from which to rebuild and recharge.

I was coming into the program with a much bigger question about longevity and what healthy habits look and feel like. I had chosen and built a career that I truly love; but when in the name of loving your job, you end up really hurting yourself or end up in a destructive situation, how can you nurture that love back or protect it? How can you make sure you can keep doing what you had originally wanted to do?

“When in the name of loving your job, you end up really hurting yourself or end up in a destructive situation, how can you nurture that love back or protect it?”

When you hear “burnout program,” one imagines it’s going to be full of people trapped working in nine-to-fives that they hate – but in fact, the opposite was true. The people in the program were passionate individuals with drive and purpose who love their jobs so much, too much, even, that it takes over – and the challenge then is separating our home life from our work life.

What stood out to me about the program is that it is helpful for people who are very other-oriented and who have service-driven jobs, those for whom the focus is not on themselves, but on helping other people. It's incredibly difficult to create space for this personality type, or to find someone who understands how much harder it is to give back to self. I’ve found that generic exercises, the same ones that even we ourselves teach or preach, don't always work. It takes a little something or someone special to really train you to completely divert that energy back on yourself. It's a complete 180 and it's not easy to do.

What concerns did you have coming into the program?

I think my main concern was privacy, and in particular, opening myself up too much to other people or looking bad to strangers. I felt like I was in my weakest, most vulnerable state in terms of putting on a professional face. So it was really heartening to see and meet other people who are supremely professional also opening up.

I think I was also a little bit worried about comparative misery, as in, “I have nothing to complain about.” Minimizing my own problems has been why I never broached this earlier. I’m someone who was constantly thinking, “My problems are nothing compared to those of my students or my clients, so I'll just sweep them under the rug.” But I think everyone here understands that it's not measurable in that way and that everyone is always primed to listen to what you're going through.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

I think my favorite part is how amazingly the exercises combine the creative, intellectual, conceptual, and practical, all in one. Whenever I try to solve these problems on my own, I can only be a “theory-head,” reading books and entertaining rationales. When I did exercises before, they just felt like theory but in question form. I couldn't actively or effectively apply them. And other people would also give me random advice and tools.

But when this program talks about a“toolkit,” it's a really interesting combination at every level. There’s the conceptual but there's also the fun, imaginative, creative part, and then there's application and exactly how to practice it. Others are there to sit through the difficulty with you or witness the process if you need. Sometimes it's very physical; sometimes it's very visual. I feel like you're operating on all these different levels - spatial levels, even - which is so engaging in new ways. It's the kind of thing that I couldn't do myself or experience just by reading texts and examples

Put another way, perhaps, is that there are multiple intelligences, and this program engages several of them. I know that when people look at a course, they often think, “I could just download those PDFs and do the worksheets,” but I think, “No, you really cannot!” Even if I sold all the materials to someone, they wouldn't get it. The exercises are really curated in a thoughtful way. And the guidance is irreplaceable.

What has been the biggest transformation you feel you’ve gotten?

I think it's my re-imagining of the word and concept of “goal.” Goals were always something external, and now for me it's something deeply internal, and it also shape-shifts and moves. The goal as a target that you want to hit has just been completely rewritten in a new way, which has helped redefine my relationship to purpose and self while honoring all my past achievements and work ethic.

Also, simply the emphasis on self: it’s something that I previously regarded conceptually but had never felt – truly bodily felt – what it is to prioritize yourself, to carve out time for yourself, to actually spend time with and for yourself in physical space and time. I think for busy people, we talk about it a lot but it's a very foreign feeling, and it can also be a scary place, so it's nice to have someone navigate you through it.

“ I feel like there’s a secret trove you’re drawing on that makes you a specialist for exactly this. What surprised me is just how rich your skills and perceptions are and how generously and patiently you offer them to others.”

What surprised you about working with me?

I still don't even fathom the full extent of it, but you have access to a whole other body of knowledge than what is available to me, as a hypervigilant and hypercritical academic. It surprises me what exists out there. Whatever has helped you shape and formulate this course, it draws on forms of knowledge and knowing much deeper and beyond what one could just study or read.

I don't really know exactly the extent of your background but what surprised me are the depths of that experience, I don't think it's just a social work degree, per se, or the study of people. I don't think it’s just your theatre background, either. I feel like there’s a secret trove you’re drawing on that makes you a specialist for exactly this. What surprised me is just how rich your skills and perceptions are and how generously and patiently you offer them to others.

Who would you recommend this program to?

I recommend this program to people who deeply love their jobs and are very highly competent - who are kind of prodigies, actually - but are trying to find a way to keep that spark alive with their careers. People who have already achieved a lot but want to make sure it stays meaningful, and to also make sure that they don't give too much to other people or institutions that aren't necessarily enriching to them in return.

I think taking this course would open up a lot of the unknowns, for people who are high-achieving in one track or discipline but have not been improving in other areas of their life, because they don't have access to those others yet.

What might you say to someone who is on the fence about joining the program?

So many of us have put so much work, energy, and care into our area of expertise, but we haven't put nearly that much energy into ourselves. Now, why would we do that? To even learn to put in a modicum, even a tenth of that energy and expertise and care back into ourselves… imagine what kind of benefits that would reap! It's just unthinkable to be outsourcing our own care to some ‘thing’ as opposed to focusing it back internally.

We're good at our jobs but we're not good at being ourselves, or being good to ourselves, which is totally bogus. We should demand excellence in that all-important area. Imagine if you could be as good as you are at your job at your personal life. That would be life-changing for so many people, and I feel like this course can get you started on that.

It’s as if on LinkedIn, someone were to rank as “Operations Research Engineer” - 5 stars, but “Self-Loving Person” - 0 stars. They can fix problems and make things run smoothly, but not in their own mind or body. Doesn't that defy logic? We have this huge CV. Why don’t you use some of those skills towards yourself?

“We're good at our jobs but we're not good at being ourselves, or being good to ourselves, which is totally bogus.”

The other message I have, which I felt towards myself at this point, is: you've worked so hard for so many years non-stop, that now you really deserve a break. You’ve worked long enough and really deserve to give back to yourself now. It's just that point in your career where no one can argue otherwise. It’s a treat, but it’s also something you should and must do.

Anything else you’d like to share?

One thing I went to get across is that this program is very rigorous. I suspect a lot of people assume this kind of work is very touchy-feely, kumbaya. But it is very intellectually rigorous for me. It's not dry but it’s also not loosey-goosey, and it's not pseudoscience. I just really have to get that across to people who might be skeptical, perhaps scientists and medical folks. There are PhDs in this course! As well as researchers who want critical evidence and results. It’s for high-achievers, so it’s set to meet us at that level of discourse. I think that’s important to say.

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