Stop. Pause. Breathe. Momentum Compounds & Progress is a Habit. Create space between the stimulus and response. Ideal outcomes exist, perfection doesn’t. Deliberate choice is more powerful than failure. Action begets action. Everything happens one right next step after the other. Particularly when we’re experiencing bouts of burnout, making a deliberate choice can feel like the absolute last thing we’re capable of — but it is in many instances one of the only things we are capable of influencing. If the obtaining of the final product seems to be too much, just begin with the next right step. Stop looking and waiting for motivation and do something. Take action–aligned, inspired action–and the motivation will follow. And although there often aren’t perfect times, there do tend to be opportunities that unfold at more opportune times than others. It may not make “the jump” less scary, but it has the potential to soften the landing a bit.
Millions of Americans are returning back to work after being home during the pandemic. While this has been exciting for many, some are feeling burned out by their work. What do you do if you are feeling burned out by your work? How do you reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back”? What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?
In this interview series called “Beating Burnout: 5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout,” we are talking to successful business leaders, HR leaders and mental health leaders who can share insights from their experience about how we can “Beat Burnout.”.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Mishler.
Born and raised in the rural Midwest of the United States, Emily Mishler is an intrepid optimist with a keen sense of adventure, eye for design, hand in the start-up world, and heart for philanthropy. She is the driving force behind The Cultivated Group and the world of Esmè the Curious Cat — on a mission to ignite and empower individuals and organizations to: “be the change you wish to see in the world”.
Specializing in business development, creative strategic planning, and fundraising, Emily launched her first company at the age of 22 and has since raised and distributed over 20M dollars of private investment for private clients, for-profit entities and NGO’s.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Absolutely — thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here! I grew up on a farm in the middle of the rural United States; finding myself immersed in books and playing outside as much as possible. My parents divorced when I was eight years old and we began moving schools and homes fairly consistently thereafter, seeking to create stability, security and safety through the turbulence. Hard work was praised above anything else and kindness, empathy, generosity, and personal responsibility were emphasized as some of life’s most important pillars.
I had always been an incredibly independent, creative, and determined child — and those characteristics, as well as the agility that often results from a childhood of trauma and turbulence, have been carried with me to this day. This foundation and these qualities have been the cornerstone of “why” I’ve been able to imagine and create the life I’m now living.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Absolutely! Thanks so much for asking. A few years ago, I founded a group of impact-driven companies called The Cultivated Group. Proudly housing four separate companies under the “Cultivated” umbrella, we’re redefining business as usual for businesses all over the globe (and even in outer space!). Each subsidiary equips organizations and individuals with the tools, skills, resources, frameworks, and funding they need to function fully as profitable, healthy businesses. Our team connects the business brain to the servant-leaders’ heart that’s at the forefront of the business of doing good.
I consider myself an intrepid optimist with a keen sense of adventure, eye for design, hand in fundraising, and heart for philanthropy. Since I can remember, I’ve been driven and inspired by the phrase “be the change you wish to see in the world”, after finishing a MBA in 2018 and having a successful career in the non-profit sector, I realized that in order to “be the change”, I needed to better understand the world and people in it. I promptly pivoted, resigning from a successful role in the corporate nonprofit sector, bought a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, and began travelling all over the world full-time while consulting remotely for nonprofits and for-profit entities looking to make a difference in the world. The Cultivated Group and the children’s book series, Esmè the Curious Cat, emerged as a result of the continuous journey. Truly engaging in living my life and taking action in the direction(s) I’m led has inspired these leaps!
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My father was a huge inspiration and influence in my life. He was someone who taught me and in many ways showed me the profound example of living in the courage of our Truth. He was one of my most significant sources of encouragement and inspiration. I am so grateful I had the time and relationship with him that I did and so unbelievably grateful for the friends, mentors, teachers, and allies that have come into my life along the way.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Looking back, it’s fascinating to think about how “perfect” I believed I needed to be in order to move forward on things. It was a belief system that was rooted in a lot of fear and feelings of inferiority, which really caused a lot of stalling and paralysis in my personal and professional life. Sometimes when we try things that we’re not ready for, we fall down and develop a little proverbial bruising and sometimes scar tissue. When it “hurts” to get up as a result of those bruises or scar tissue, we can be afraid of moving forward and trying again. Until we’re aware of it and decide to make different decisions, the things we fear (even if it’s success!) can hold us back from really accomplishing our goals and making our dreams happen. Looking back, the lesson is that our greatest obstacle is ourselves and that we can do anything we put our minds to!
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Absolutely! Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” is one that’s provided a lot of inspiration and a discerning lens as the journey of my life has unfolded. In fact, through our companies at The Cultivated Group, we’re redefining the phrase “business as usual”. We believe doing the right thing is always the right move to make and through our clients and our work, we’re activating and empowering the change they wish to see in the world. Our companies and team are on a mission to bridge the gap between the great ideas, access to opportunity, and taking action to change and preserve this beautiful world in which we live — one challenge at a time. Our focus isn’t overnight success: our focus is the consistency of thought and expansion of dreams and resources. This, when applied over time through massive action, creates sustainable systems that influence positive and inclusive change: we empower and equip our clients to become forces for good in this world. We use a combined approach of both services and products to equip our clients with the tools and skills they need and an extra set of hands (in some cases) to be able to make thoughtful choices when building, stewarding, enhancing, and scaling their businesses.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
We’re thrilled to be working on projects in a few different industries and sectors that are all impact-based. One project specifically is with a non-profit organization whose mission is to democratize access to outer space through building the infrastructure necessary to support our world’s future and beyond!
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Thank you very much! This is a great question. From my experience: cultivating the ability to listen to ourselves and others; exercising courage; and leading with curiosity (rather than judgement or projection) have been instrumental.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of burnout?
I don’t know if I’d claim the title of “authority”. Burnout is something I absolutely have experience in and have learned a significant amount about through different cultures and experiences. Our companies’ journeys have involved extensive research regarding team building, wellness, culture, and understanding burnout.
Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about beating burnout. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Burnout”? Can you explain?
For all intensive purposes, let’s go with Herbert Freudenberger’s definition from the 1970s. Burnout describes a severe stress condition that leads to severe physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Much worse than ordinary fatigue, burnout makes it challenging for people to cope with stress and handle day-to-day responsibilities.
How would you define or describe the opposite of burnout?
On our team, the opposite of burnout is wellness and fulfillment physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Some sceptics may argue that burnout is a minor annoyance and we should just “soldier on’’ and “grin and bear it.” Can you please share a few reasons why burnout can have long-term impacts on our individual health, as well as the health and productivity of our society?
As humans, rest is a part of our equation. We see it all the time in the cycles of nature — sunrise to sunset, day to night, spring to fall. It’s the periods of rest or perceived “dormancy” that make it possible for the beautiful blooms of spring to arrive. We wouldn’t understand the beautiful elements of summer without experiencing the beauty of winter. Each season has a purpose and a function — as does each cycle or “season” of growth: one of which is rest. We learn through contrast and our bodies, minds, and spirits need the variety of both movement and rest to live a fully engaged, integrated life.
Not being nourished physically, mentally, or spiritually and our “scales’ balance” is not a sustainable way of living. In fact, some would say it isn’t living at all — particularly when it reaches a point of complete and utter burnout. Each person’s experience will be different so I’m unable to conclusively say what individual symptoms will manifest in or as, but the long-term effects of burnout and this production-based lifestyle is lethal.
From your experience, perspective, or research, what are the main causes of burnout?
As silly as this sounds, one of the main causes of burnout we’ve found is forgetting that we’re human. Sometimes, we get so into the flow of the everyday, the pressure to perform, caught up in our goals and the forward moments of life that we forget to take breaks, nourish our bodies and minds, and breathe life into ourselves. The demands of the everyday compound and when that momentum is the habit of our natural state; taking a pause to rejuvenate, reorient, and smell the roses does not always feel like an option.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. What can an individual do if they are feeling burned out by work? How does one reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back?” Can you please share your “5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout?”. (Please share a story or an example for each.)
- Allow yourself to feel & process emotions, then take the emotion out of it.
Feeling overwhelmed? Pause, breathe, and use a healthy out let to get it out of your body. Take a walk, listen to a podcast, pause your work and stretch, take a few deep breathe, grab a huge glass of water. Allow yourself to feel the feelings that are coming up and acknowledge them! Then, begin to make a plan to move forward.
Make a list employing radical self-honesty: Feeling a little better after step 1? Now let’s keep moving forward. Make a list of everything you have to do. List out each thing occupying space in your mind
- Prioritize: Rank in priority each item on your list — what needs to be done immediately?
- Review: Go over your list again. Edit, prune, and add as-needed
- Sort: Break down and sort into sections including: Personal, Home, Business/Work, Fitness/Health Etc.
Then sort into immediate needs, near-term needs, and farther-term needs.
- Delegate: Questions to consider:
- Does this task need to be completed by me?
- If not, who else is able to complete this task?
- What deadline(s) need to be put in place for this to feel good?
- What kind of accountability can we build in that would be helpful?
- Execute the plan: Hop to it! 🙂
2. Stop. Pause. Breathe. Momentum Compounds & Progress is a Habit.
Create space between the stimulus and response. Ideal outcomes exist, perfection doesn’t. Deliberate choice is more powerful than failure. Action begets action. Everything happens one right next step after the other. Particularly when we’re experiencing bouts of burnout, making a deliberate choice can feel like the absolute last thing we’re capable of — but it is in many instances one of the only things we are capable of influencing. If the obtaining of the final product seems to be too much, just begin with the next right step. Stop looking and waiting for motivation and do something. Take action–aligned, inspired action–and the motivation will follow. And although there often aren’t perfect times, there do tend to be opportunities that unfold at more opportune times than others. It may not make “the jump” less scary, but it has the potential to soften the landing a bit.
3. Everything is a lesson.
Feeling burnt out after a marathon-of-a-sprint of work? Lesson. Feeling energized after a full days’ rest? Lesson. Didn’t get the job? Lesson. Got the second date? Lesson. Procrastinated on the report and were so stressed you didn’t produce your best work? Lesson. The quality of the life we choose, the places and environments in which we work, and what we tolerate as acceptable in our lives dictate the perspectives we obtain and the life experience we have. Once you begin to see everything as a lesson that leads you to a “more right” direction down the path that you are on, failure becomes obsolete. Failure instantly becomes a non-option. There is always a silver lining, it just may require a bit of creativity to identify and gather tidbits from. When failure becomes obsolete, it unlocks an entirely new dimension of living–what’s the worst that could happen?
4. Rejuvenate and refresh (so this doesn’t become a cycle)
Rest is a natural part of our needs as humans living lives of fullness and fulfillment. We aren’t designed to perform all the time, and it’s important that we account for “downtime” and time to rest, relax, rejuvenate, and reset. Schedule time with yourself, your loved ones, and your team(s) to fill your cup — it’s amazing to see the increased joy, results, productivity, and fulfillment we’re able to experience when we’re truly nourished.
5. Make a plan & reinforce with accountability
The most important relationship and accountability you can have is with yourself. Surround yourself with reminders of why your deliberate decision to rewire your habits, patterns, and life is important. Create a plan for how you’ll get from where you currently are to where you want to be. Feeling distracted by shiny objects and short-cuts? Re-route to self-integrity, self-accountability, radical honesty, and step 1!.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to help someone they care about reverse burnout?
Especially at a company’s inception and through its infancy, you (the founder) are it’s most important asset. From emotional, physical, and spiritual perspectives — if you aren’t healthy, the company isn’t healthy. Oftentimes it’s easy to get caught up in stories of the “shoulds”, the projections of others, the accumulation of wealth, and our own ideas of success.
The fact of the matter is, if we don’t look after ourselves and our health, we won’t be around to enjoy the success, benefits, or dreams we’re so desperately and actively creating! Friends, colleagues and life partners surround us through turbulent times and provide a source of accountability and support. If you’re concerned about someone, have the courage to have the tough, radically honest conversations. Coming from a place of love, these conversations and support can be absolutely transformational not only for the giver and receiver of the feedback, but also for the relationship itself.
What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?
You know, I don’t know that it’s about reversing burnout but rather about healing the habits, patterns, and culture(s) that have gotten us there. Company policies can only go so far when true priorities are enforced or demonstrated through action. From our perspective, it’s important for leadership and employers to have a pulse on the behaviors and expectations they’re modeling. Priorities are expressed through action. What are you communicating as a priority for your company?
These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?
At this moment, I believe continuing to have and facilitate these types of conversations and leading by example are the most important things we can do.
What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to reverse burnout in themselves or others? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?
An interesting observation I’ve seen in others (and experienced myself) is that I believed, for a long while, that burnout was only a symptom of physical exhaustion. What I now know is that feeling burnt out can be a deeper symptom of emotional, spiritual, mental, and/or physical exhaustion. We can be so quick to diagnose a remedy for a symptom without truly healing the “root” of issues. In not healing in our entirety, we perpetuate habits and patterns that only reinforce the experiences we have rather than creating pathways for the new.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Thank you! That’s very kind — and a really tough question, especially considering the state of the world at the moment. If I could inspire a movement, as simple as it sounds, it would be one of leading with kindness, consideration, and thoughtfulness. Each of us has different experiences, all of which have inherent value, and if we’re open to it there is much we can learn from one another! That is how we begin to change the world: first through extending that kindness, thoughtfulness, and consideration inward; and then outward.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Absolutely! I enjoy learning from others’ stories and experiences: particularly Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert. Both being intelligent and brilliant women of influence and integrity, their ability to engage fully in life (and vulnerability) has inspired the way I “show up” in life tremendously. Given the opportunity, I’d love to sit down with them for a coffee or meal and believe we could learn much from each other!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The Cultivated Group
Esmè the Curious Cat:
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!