The False Choice That Keeps Us Stuck

Nov 8, 2023

I’ve been talking about burnout a lot lately.  I’ve had the privilege to speak at conferences on the west and east coasts, and to continue to help my clients change their relationship with their work.

Despite burnout being such a topic of concern in our cultural conversation, its incidence continues to rise,  especially in health care and across other essential worker industries.  Especially among professional and leadership roles.

I believe that one of the reasons burnout is so intractable for many is because the conversations – and our thinking about it – begin with a false choice.  It’s our fault or it’s their fault.  We’re broken or the system is broken.  This binary thinking leads us to shame or blame – two places from which actionable solutions never come.

This false choice thinking doesn’t just apply to burnout; it’s often our default response to any problem in our lives.  There’s a righteous satisfaction when we place the blame on others; especially when we’re venting with someone else.  It’s often a welcome respite from shaming ourselves.  It’s a momentarily relief, like the donuts in the break room, until the inevitable crash.

Let’s be clear, though:  holding someone else, or the situation, accountable for your emotional experience gives them, or the situation, all the power.  It keeps you stuck. Their suffering doesn’t increase, yours does.  The emotional exhaustion, the cynicism, and the sense of disempowerment continue or get worse.

The place to solve any problem, burnout or otherwise, is out beyond shame and blame.  It’s a place of curiosity and openness, a place of heightened understanding. No matter how far we get in this life, there’s more to learn: about our own default thinking and emotions, our own patterns, and how we meet and interact with the world around us.

There is no solving problems without growing ourselves.  That’s the bad news and the very good news.

When we see our current negative emotions as a call to learn and evolve, we can shake off the mantle of shame and blame.  We can move ourselves to a higher place, up the mountain of our own development.  Yes, it takes work and energy, but the view from the next level is amazing.

This is why I love being a coach: helping people step out of shame and blame and connect with their own power in their lives is like being a sherpa on the most beautiful mountain in the world: the human capacity to transform.  Isn’t that what we’re here for?  To learn, grow and explore?  To know and love the world and ourselves more fully and more deeply?

Rumi put it so beautifully:

“Out beyond ideas of right and wrong, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.”

Are you ready to go “out beyond” your current chapter? To step outside your default patterns and the false choices that keep you stuck?

I’d love to meet you there.

If you’re looking for a place to start, check out this video series.


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How Burnout Hijacks Your Identity

How Burnout Hijacks Your Identity

Burnout takes its toll in so many ways, and perhaps the most insidious is the way it can hijack your identity.

So often, when my clients articulate their experience of the stressors in their work, they jump from describing what’s happening in the environment directly to a judgment of themselves.


Start Here.

It’s time. Time for you to take back your power and your energy, and find your spark again.

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Join my mailing list and get my free video series, Start here.

I’ll show you how burnout happens, how to prevent it, and how to unwind from it if you’re feeling the symptoms now.