From Burnt Out to Fired Up: A Strengths Career Story

StrengthsFinder Burnt Out Fired Up Feature

Through the living room window, Kat sees that the sun is just beginning to fade into the warm night sky. The humidity of the sticky, summer evening has managed to creep under the doors and fills the house with an extra layer of fatigue, and she has done all she can to ward off the overwhelm. After doling out a final gulp of water and a final answer to their unending bedtime questions, her two young kids are finally tucked away into bed.

Exhausted from a day filled with the demands of both her executive team and the detailed rhythms of family life, she crashes onto the the couch in surrender. Apparently, she had tacitly and inadvertently volunteered to spearhead a new initiative that had spontaneously occurred to her the preceding evening. She had shown up at work that morning with such a buzz and excitement about her new idea, that everyone around her was instantly hooked. As she pitched her new ideas and the executive team nodded in agreement, she had apparently also given the impression that it was she who would take on leadership for the project.

Now, she was stuck. The energy she had felt about the idea was slowly pressed out of her like a tire that is losing its air through a small nail hole, being compressed and pressured from the impossible weight of the car. The air and the tire do not stand a chance.

StrengthsFinder Flat Tire

By the end of the evening, she was completed deflated.

As she surrenders to the beckoning of the couch, she rubs her temples and tries to clear her mind to think. A few moments later, the sound of running water and clanking dishes interrupts her thoughts. Immediately her mind rushes with guilt. In the midst of a fledgling business venture of his own, Kat knows that her husband is just as tired and spent as she is. Yet, there he is, still on his feet, still checking off household to-dos, still standing at the sink doing the dishes that have accumulated from a rushed morning and harried dinner.

This is not the first time he has outpaced her in household acumen, and her internal bullies lay it on strongly. Shame, guilt, self-deprecation. The rote, methodical face of the daily tasks that must be done to keep a family spinning stares at her in the eyes, with an expression of disdain and a haughty arrogance that says—’you are miserable, you failed again.’

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In the past, at this point in her spiral of self-dialogue and guilt, she would have peeled her tired body and active mind from her place of solace on the couch and slouched toward the kitchen, listlessly picking up a stack of coloring books from the floor and a half eaten bowl of pasta from the table. The bullies would win, and she would join her husband in the chores of the evening until they both succumbed to the night—only to find it all started over again in the morning.

Today, however, she decides to stand up to the bullies.

Kat has had trouble working for people her whole life. Since her youth, she has possessed a rare kind of foresight, beyond her years of experience–that both baffled and threatened the leaders around her. It was as if she was continually approaching a buffet of her own big ideas and strategic vision and filling a plate of the choicest picks, only to have the plate handed back to her with an upturned nose or worse, flipped over in disgust of her offering.

StrengthsFinder Idea Notepad

So, instead of continuing to scrape it all back up and reposition it for another attempt, she began to develop ways to serve her ideas with a side dish that could not be refused. If she volunteered to take on the action of her ideas, she thought, then perhaps they would appear even the slightest bit more palatable.

And thus began her years of taking it all on.

From one professionally successful yet personally burnt-out role to the next, Kat began a cycle of working entirely from a place of weakness. She pursued passion after passion to find they squelched her. She cried at the steering wheel of her car each night. She became physically, unexplainably sick. And she was so, so tired. This life and career and young family was not at all as her bright visions had foretold.

Eighteen years into her career and 15 years into her marriage, however, she began to see, as she describes, that it was she who had been getting in her own way all along.

StrengthsFinder Sulking Woman

On a cool November morning, in an act that bordered on desperation, she finally picked up the phone to dial a mutual friend who had helped others in her same organizational and career juxtaposition. She needed help to see why, in the midst of success and praise, she was so miserable.

What she found in those proceeding months of coaching and conversations changed her life forever.

She was dumbfounded as her eyes dropped to the bottom of her list of Strengths. Among her least naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling and behavior, she found those things she operated from every day. In her attempt to add season to her ideas, she had inadvertently stepped into a pattern that compelled her to use her weaknesses to succeed.

She had taken on everything that was draining and weak, at the expense of that which was energizing and strong. When her tasks for her day were done, she had no energy left to dream, think, and strategize—which were her Strengths, her very best.

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As the sound of dishes and water continues to clink and rush, and her tired body rests in the ephemeral solace of the couch, tonight she sorts through the bullying voices to find the story of truth. The truth is that when she sits—when she stops—it is not that her productivity stops. In fact, when she really stops, it is then that her productivity can begin. Inside her mind, all that is strong and brilliant about her — Ideation, Strategic, Futuristic — must have time to think. It needs a break from doing in order to be.

The day had already been filled with doing and inadvertent volunteering to take on more. So, this humid, tired evening, instead of silencing her own needs and her own potential for greatness, she decides to take a step toward operating from Strength.

She jumps up from the couch and practically runs to the kitchen, picking up no dirty socks or strewn backpacks along the way. Then, while it comes out in the form of a slightly desperate explosion, she takes her husbands face in her hands, looks at him longingly in the eye and finally speaks her truth. She is happy to help, she implores with tear soaked eyes, but, she pauses, she first needs to stop. To stop doing.

She needs space. And that intentional, thoughtful space will provide the productivity and energy and joy that they both need. That her whole family needs. That her career needs.

StrengthsFinder Marbles Space

Today, Kathy Rippy would be the first to say that her career and family journey are yet in progress, and in process. As she has begun to allow her Strengths the space to thrive and has fed them with time to think, and surrounded herself with people to encourage her true beauty and genius—not based off of contrived grit, she has experienced a new level of clarity and energy toward her work.

She has taken the brave step to ask for and arrange for help and the bold move to say no more often—no to those things that suck the energy from her, so that she can say yes to only the most life-giving. And, as she has begun to uncover, what is most life-giving to her, allows her to be most life-giving and success-producing for those organizations and people around her as well.

Kat has chosen to journey toward Strength, to get out of her own way. She is not allowing the disparaging voices of her weaknesses to bully her. Instead, she is allowing the story of truth to remind her that in her space for Strength, she finds true success, well-being, and joy.



Links & Resources from today

Isogo TV Episode 31 | Ultra-specific Way to Experience More Flow + Less Frustration at Work (or Play!)
StrengthsFinder is Life Changing | Get Clear on your Needs {Step 7 of 9}
StrengthsFinder is Life Changing | Meet Your Own Needs {Step 8 of 9}
9 Steps to Life-change Through Your Strengths
StrengthsFinder + Strengths Startup

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My little ask?

As always, one of the best places to join the Strengths conversation is over at our Facebook Group — Energy Up Frustration Down by Strengths. Join us for weekly chatting, complaining and commending, as we all try to figure out just how to use our Strengths to impact the most important things around us—in our work and life.

In the meantime and beyond, I would love to hear from you and help you. So, if you’re thinking about the way a Strengths-perspective could impact your marriage or your family or you’re just not so sure about it all, reach out, and let’s connect about it. You can catch me at FacebookTwitter or Instagram, all at @isogostrong, or by this handy contact form.

Enjoy your day, and {be strong}!

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