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Discovering Your Core Self and Overcoming Burnout

August 11, 202310 min read

Burnout is at epidemic levels and hindering our efforts to grow our businesses and live the life we want. I suffered burnout in January of 2022. After 17 years of marriage, I was divorcing, living alone, struggling in my business, and dealing with post-Covid life. I woke up one morning with no energy and couldn't get out of bed. Fortunately, I recovered within a few months, more clear about who I am, energized, and focused. I want to share my journey and how you can use it to recover personally from burnout and create an environment at your place of work that improves well-being and increases productivity.

My Recovery

I recovered from burnout by asking myself, "Who am I at my core, and how can I be more of that today?" I figured out that at my core, I am love, and what love means to me is courage, connection, and curiosity. After hitting that wall and having no energy left, I asked myself, "How can I bring courage, connection, and curiosity to my day?"

That question led to baby steps, eventually leading to something bigger, and I recovered within a few months. At no point in that journey was I trying to recover from burnout. I didn't have that energy or focus. I was asking, "Who am I, and how can I be more of that" and doing what I saw to do that day. That repetitive process built my energy and confidence, and within a few months, I was back to being myself.

(Rather than trying to explain all the steps I used to create my core statement, I built a form that helps you create your own in a few minutes.) 

Embracing Clarity, Action, and Growth

Later, I realized there is a difference between who we are and how we make things happen. I thought about how I make things happen and came up with Clarity, Action, and Growth. I help people get clear, take action, and grow. When I am at my best and facing a challenge, I create clarity, take action, and help myself and others grow.

Clarity, Action, and Growth majorly affected my burnout recovery. I didn't do this intentionally, but I clarified who I was at my core, took actions aligned with that core, and grew through evaluating, celebrating, and revising my efforts.

I share this to give options for people looking to address well-being and burnout in their personal lives or at their company.

If you are burnt out or slipping in that direction, you can create your core statement and ask, "How can I bring more of my core self to my life today?" That question will reveal possible actions that you can do today. Take that step, no matter the size. Repeat the process the next day and continue until you are energized and being your full self. This is not to say that there aren't issues in your home, business, and community contributing to your burnout. Yes, those will have to be addressed. But you'll find the actions you can do in those areas by asking, "Who am I at my core, and how can I bring more of that to my life today?"

Personal and Corporate Well-Being

I propose a similar process to address well-being and burnout in businesses and corporations. The company asks, "What are our core values, and how can we make them true for the staff and clients?" Those questions will provide actionable baby steps that people can do today. Ideally, leaders and executives initiate the process, but the process can start elsewhere. Anyone with a bit of courage and willingness to ask questions that probably sound a little funny can ask, "What are our core values, and how can we make them more true today for the staff and clients?"

Three caveats on this.

First, yes - anyone can initiate this process, but at some point, leadership must join. Founders and executives play too significant a role in a company to think that the core values will be valid if the leaders don't participate in the efforts to make the core values more true. If you are a leader and reading this, save your people some stress and anxiety and ask, "What are our core values, and how can we make them more true?"

Second, making your core values more true will require revising or letting go of things that don't align with your core values. Depending on how long your company has been in its current state, people will have systems, habits, and routines based on things other than your core values. Change is rarely easy, so you'll have to ask, "What are our core values, and how can we make them more true today?"

Thirdly, simplifying the "how do we make things happen" process will help. For this, you can create Core Drivers - three steps explaining how to make things happen (aka your version of Clarity, Action, and Growth). These steps give everyone in the company a framework to bridge the ideals of the core values with the reality of day-to-day life. For the Core Drivers to be effective, the founders or executives of the company must be involved. Again, those leaders play an oversized role in how things get done at a company, so the Core Drivers reflect how they operate. Fortunately, creating the core drivers isn't complicated.

Addressing Core Value Skepticism

You may be skeptical of this approach. The majority of people don't believe in core values. They see core values discussed in marketing meetings, hung on the break room wall, and mostly ignored. And that is a valid assessment. Researchers from Sloan Business School at MIT looked at the core values of 500 companies. They concluded, "There is no correlation between the cultural values a company emphasizes in its published statements and how well the company lives up to those values in the eyes of employees."

So, I understand if you are skeptical.

The problem is that we need to have a good tool for connecting the ideals of core values with daily life's ups and downs.

That's where the Core Drivers come in. They are repeatable, actionable and help people see how to make the core values more true in work and life's daily ups and downs. Core Drivers allow for simple, everyday conversations to address ongoing challenges, celebrate efforts, and make revisions. 

Core Drivers are not an immediate fix, but they can be developed and implemented in days and put to use quickly. They reflect how the company already operates at its core, so you spend less time or energy creating new policies and procedures.

Comparing This Approach to Other Approaches to Address Burnout

I want to discuss how this approach compares to other methods to address burnout.

The standard approach to combating personal burnout involves:

  • Setting boundaries and managing workloads.

  • Taking regular breaks for self-care.

  • Seeking support from friends and family.

  • Focusing on personal growth and development.

  • Evaluating and adjusting personal goals and expectations. 

Similarly, In the workplace, preventing burnout involves:

  • Fostering a supportive environment.

  • Providing clear communication.

  • Recognizing and rewarding hard work.

  • Ensuring employees have the resources to manage their responsibilities effectively.

These all make sense and sound great, but there are three problems.

First, they are hard to start and maintain because when you are burnt, you are burnt. When you hit a wall or are slipping in that direction, you don't want to do anything more than you already do, even if those things are simple and good for you.

Second, they are hard to implement at a company because, most likely, anyone leading such an effort is either burnt or slipping in that direction. Founders, executives, managers, and employees are all experiencing various levels of burnout. Harvard Business Review reports 50% of managers are burnt. Deloitte reported that 70% of C-level executives are considering leaving their jobs for a position with better well-being. So it's not surprising that Deloitte just put out another report that says the numbers are still headed in the wrong direction despite massive efforts to improve well-being in the workplace. "Most employees say their well-being either worsened or stayed the same last year, and only around one-third say their health improved." 

I can tell you that addressing burnout is very difficult when burnt. The process must be simple and repeatable because anything else is too difficult.

And third, these personal or corporate activities are tough to do in an environment where there is a misalignment between the employee experience and the company's core values, and no one is talking about it. I don't mean to be overly dramatic, but rolling out more wellness programs without addressing the underlying misalignment is a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Even if people do improve their health, if the environment isn't improved, all they are going to do is develop the energy to find another job or start their own business.

The standard ways of addressing burnout, personally or professionally, aren't proving effective despite the efforts of some very well-intended and hard-working people. But no matter what is going on, people and companies can ask themselves, "Who are we at our core, and what is something we can do to bring more of that to our lives/business today?" The answers and actions will start small, but over time, they will build, and you'll find solutions that work.

How This Approach Reduces Burnout and Improves Productivity

Lastly, I want to discuss post-burnout recovery productivity because this is important. The system you use to address burnout must also apply to increasing productivity; otherwise, your high performers will not continue using it. And if they don't continue with their efforts to address burnout, they will slip back into old habits and undermine your efforts to help them and others avoid burnout.

How does taking this approach to core values improve productivity? A few ways:

First, the Core Drivers simplify decision-making and keep you at your best. The story and the three steps give direction and a way to recover if things don't go as planned.

Second, the repetitive nature of the Core Drivers deepens your understanding of what works for you and how to implement it. With so much information available, it's easy always to think there is a better way. The Core drivers keep you focused and moving forward in ways that work for you and your team.

Third, referencing your core self and corporate core values helps you tap into your natural creativity, confidence, and problem-solving skills. Every leadership training includes some aspect of "getting to know yourself." Knowing your core self and acting in alignment with your core values is nothing if not an exercise in getting to know yourself. As you do that, your natural skills and abilities surface.

Lastly, the more you discuss your core self, your core values, and your core drivers, the more you learn. There are things you will learn about your core self only through discussing it with others, and there are things you will learn about others only by looking at yourself. Ultimately, the more you discuss and use the various aspects of your core self, values, and drivers, the more you can help others do the same, which increases alignment and makes productivity sustainable.


I started this as a way to help you recover from burnout, and that still holds. Create your core statement and ask yourself over and over, "Who am I at my core, and how can I be more of that today?" After taking enough of the actions you see, your natural courage, confidence, and energy will surface, and you'll return to being yourself.

But given how many people are experiencing extended levels of exhaustion, overwhelm, and frustration in our businesses and careers, I hope you start to look at ways to make your corporate core values more true. The fact is, anywhere where you or your fellow team members are experiencing or slipping toward burnout, some aspects of your core values are either missing or could be elevated.

Your corporate core values mean something. The more the experience in the company aligns with those values, the more your effectiveness and well-being will increase.

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Joey Chandler

I love talking about who we are and how we can bring more of the to our lives and the world.

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