01/29/2014 11:37 am ET Updated Mar 31, 2014

Can We Change Our Culture of Burnout?

Cavan Images via Getty Images

Sometimes when I sit down to write about getting more energy and avoiding burnout I am discouraged. It feels like an uphill battle. Our culture seems destined to work itself to the bone, or at least into a state of chronic illness.

I'm empathic to those caught in the burnout vortex. I've been in it, and still struggle to not get sucked backed in. I come from good German stock with a work ethic of steel. Even my non-German mother's warning was not enough to sway me 20 years ago.

I was walking with my mom through the hotel lobby to the dining room to get breakfast. We spotted a woman at the hotel bar with her laptop. She was typing away and drinking her coffee.

My mom said, "Don't become like her."

I never asked my mom what she meant by that. All I remember is something shrank inside me. I WAS that person. I was that person who couldn't turn it off. I was that person eating breakfast alone.

I've changed a lot in the 20 years since that conversation, yet I still struggle with the behaviors that lead to burnout. Overworking. Disconnecting. Isolation. Unconsciousness. Anxiety. The need to be doing, constantly.

It's hard not to fall into the burnout vortex when we live in a culture of non-stop information, demands and fear of losing a job, a house, a spouse. Then there is the fear of ridicule, illness, or abandonment; or a multitude of other fears that run through our head thousands of times a day and drive our frenetic, disconnected behavior.

Enough is enough.

If more than a handful of us are to overcome burnout and ignite our lives with more energy, passion and purpose (e.g., productivity), we need a cultural shift. I'm inviting you, dear reader, to join me as we create a cultural shift that embraces the fact that fueling our body, mind and purpose with high-quality ingredients boosts the economic drivers of creativity, innovation and productivity.

Let's create a burnout resilient culture!

It's Not Enough To Change

I know changing our culture is a tall order. And I'm not suggesting we jeopardize our productivity. Indeed the behaviors, habits and thought patterns I teach boost productivity, not decrease it.

• Eating more vegetables will give you greater sustainable energy than an energy drink, and with clearer, more focused thinking.

Taking a break is like a reboot to your brain that makes way for the creative juices to flow freely.

• Moving your body during those breaks will add years to your life.

These are great behavior changes that I highly recommend. Yet, changing your behavior is not enough to change a culture. Change is temporary. Change is subject to peer pressure. Change requires effort and will power. Bleck!

To create a culture that embraces sustainable productivity, self-care and thriving, we each need to transform. Transformation is distinct from change because it is changing your entire DNA, way of being and yourself. Transformation is actually the revealing of your true self.

Yes -- your true self is a thriving, high-energy, purpose-driven person.

Think of the caterpillar that transforms into the butterfly. The caterpillar is always a butterfly, but doesn't exhibit that form until it undergoes the transformation. Transformation reveals the caterpillar's true self. A caterpillar cannot fly no matter how much it wants to change its behavior. Only when it transforms can it fly.

How do you transform a culture? Since a culture is made up of its people, you create this new burnout resilient culture by starting with your own transformation. You transform into a thriving, high-energy, purpose-driven, burnout resilient person. How do you do this?

BE The Change You Want To See

You've probably heard the Gandhi quote: "Be the change you want to see in the world." For years I read this quote to mean I needed to do the things I wanted to see in the world. If I wanted to see more health in the world, I needed to do everything I could to make myself healthy.

Eat right. Breath right. Exercise. Meditate. And so on.

I recently had the opportunity to rethink this approach. While participating in a 5-month leadership training program I got to experiment with being versus doing. What I discovered is being is much more powerful than doing.

Yes, this is a hard pill to swallow for a Type-A doer. I wouldn't have believed in the power of being if I'd read about it 100 times. (Come to think of it, I probably have read about it that many times). It took experiencing the power of being to create seeming miracles before I got what Ghandi was talking about: "Be the change you want to see in the world" not "do the change."

How You Be?

What is being? Being is a state of consciousness along with relaxed focus. Align your being with your desired result and you've got a powerful combination. Imagine you want your employee to improve their sales results. You have a choice of ways of being that will shape the result no matter what words you say to them. You can be skeptical, angry or trusting. Which way of being do you think will get you the results you want?

If you answered trusting, you would be correct. Trust, inspiration, power, love, openness, authenticity, and honesty are just a sample of the ways of being that will inspire your employee to perform better. The same principle can be applied to getting your spouse to take out the garbage, your kids to pick up their room or a friend to help you move.

Being is not just about getting others to do things. Changing your way of being while sitting in traffic will transform your mood. You can be angry and hate your commute. Alternatively, you can be happy and love your commute because it is an opportunity to create an oasis in your day to be alone with your thoughts, good music or an audiobook.

Change your way of being and you transform your life.

Your way of being is the most powerful tool you have to transform your life and the lives of those around you. It is from your own transformation that you change the culture. It starts with the culture of your family. Then you have a ripple effect on your team at work. As they transform, you collectively change the culture of your workplace. Then comes your friends and community.

Transformation -- starting with yourself -- is how you, me and we create a burnout resistance culture.

How will you be today to create the culture you want to see?