Managing Burn-Out

   Every year time passes, the world turns, and we find ourselves looking at a familiar view of our life, albeit from a slightly different angle than the year before. Summer looks bright, Fall looks cozy, Winter feels relaxed; but then there’s always this time of year…

Winter has been going on for what feels like forever and spring is nowhere in sight. The monotony of our daily tasks become unbearable and we begin to experience a term commonly known as burn-out. Fortunately, there are strategies we can use to help us thrive.

What is It?

              Burn-out is best be described as a reaction to chronic stress. In the sporting world, we refer to chronic stress as a period of “over-reaching” and burn-out as a pre-cursor to “over-training”. Of course, athletes can experience the same mental symptoms of burn-out as anyone else, but from a training perspective the body puts clear limits on when we’ve asked too much of it. The brain…. Less so.

              The brain generates self-talk that convinces us to push through feelings of low physical energy, extreme emotional exhaustion, ongoing pessimism, and declining productivity. In the same way that the body will eventually force us into a state of rest via injury or illness; the brain will force us into a state of rest via burn-out.

Why Does it Happen?

              There are lots of reasons for chronic stress and burn-out and everyone experiences this differently. In our fast-paced society, it’s easy to pile too much onto your plate without realizing you’ve accepted responsibility for far more than you can handle. Once we’ve overloaded our plate at work our personal life begins to suffer. As we catch up on crossing things off the to-do list, we become further detached from the social network that keeps our sanity in place.

Family dinners move from the dining room to in front of the tv. Weekly exercise with our gym community gets pushed to the wayside. Even our support group at work can turn negative and nasty at this time of year when everyone is struggling and no one has saved enough of their sanity to offer a broader perspective. To put it back into training terms, burn-out happens when there isn’t an appropriate ratio of work to rest.


If I asked you to run ten sets of 30” sprints with as much rest in between as you needed, how hard would that be? Imagine that same workout with only 90-second of rest in between exertions. Now, same workout, but only 30-seconds of rest in between.  The amount of work didn’t change, just the amount of rest in between.

              The same concept applies to any stressor in life. We can perform optimally, even at a high intensity, when we have enough time to achieve complete recovery between “sets”; but as the rest time between stressors is reduced, so is the intensity we’re able to perform at. Exhaustion sets in, our self-talk gets negative, and before long we just want to quit.

However, did the work actually get harder? Or did the work stay the same and there was less rest in between? Once we understand the appropriate amount of rest needed between exertions, we can start to do something about our burn-out.

Problems vs Solutions

Is the problem really that it gets dark out earlier in the winter? Or is the problem that we forget to prioritize recreation time when the weather is bad? We can’t control the weather, but we can influence the way we prioritize our down-time if we bring awareness to the fact that there’s a problem.

              Start by slowing down and asking yourself if it’s the actual amount of work that is overwhelming/exhausting or if it’s the lack of recovery time in between efforts. If it’s the work then re-evaluate your plan and find solutions to manage the problem. If it’s a lack of recovery in between then take baby steps to add more rest time into your day.

1.)    Start with Sleep

It’s unrealistic to think you can catch up on all your missed sleep overnight. Instead, start by adding a few minutes at a time. According to a study by the University of California San Francisco Human Performance Center, just 36-minutes of extra sleep per night reduced day-time tension and fatigue in professional baseball players by over 30%!

2.)    Take Your Time

Projects rarely (if ever) go according to plan. As obstacles pop up deadlines are pushed back and our time for rest gets cut. Avoid this by predicting how much time you need to complete a specific task and then multiply that number by 1.3. Pre-planning 30% more time increases the quality of work that can be done without increasing stress.

3.)    Create Space

Look around you right now, what do you see? Look again, but this time notice the vast amount of empty space. In the same way that a room looks cluttered and unorganized if too many things are in it, life feels cluttered and unorganized if we fill it with too many things. View the free time you have in your schedule as an opportunity to be present instead as time that needs to be filled with something more important.

4.)    Be Patient

It’s impossible to undue a state of burn-out overnight. It took you several months to get to this state it will take at least of couple of weeks to get yourself out. Your automatic thoughts will say, “I don’t have time for this!” But as the 10x NCAA Championship basketball coach, John Wooden, says “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

5.)    Ask for Help

If you’re really, truly stuck in a bad place the best thing to do is ask for help. In the same way that a box can be too heavy for one person to carry, intense emotions can also be too heavy to carry alone. Connect and communicate with the people around you to get back in control of your time. After all, the difference we make for others isn’t by how busy we can be. It’s by how important we’re made to feel.

Using Mindset to Improve Relationships

              Did you know that the most successful teams, businesses, and relationships show a positivity ratio of 5:1? That means that for every 5 positive interactions there is one negative. The closer that ratio gets to 1:1 the more likely a team, business, or marriage is to fail.

Performance Mindset doesn’t just mean chasing your goals at work or in your sport. Performance Mindset also means actively engaging in the mastery process. Engaging in the mastery process means building and creating an environment that you can be happy in.

True happiness doesn’t come from the tangible things we hope to accomplish. It comes from having a process that allows us to learn, grow, and evolve into the best version of ourselves at work, life, and home.

Circles of Identity

              We all have roles in life that we personally identify with. These roles are separate from each other, but do overlap in the way that we tend to carry habits from one role into another. Remember the last time you were feeling overwhelmed at home and took that stress with you to work? How about vice versa?

              Overlapping circles isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s totally normal. It only becomes a bad thing when a negative thinking pattern becomes so overwhelming that it’s no longer productive. A good example is that never-ending to-do list.

              To-do lists allow us to track our productivity and stay on top of tasks we’ve identified as important. This can be helpful, but it can also be overdone when we start to feel as though our self-worth and happiness is somehow related to the number of items we check off the list. When you carry this way of thinking home with you it can feel like the only way to earn love and acceptance from your family is to be constantly productive and continually checking things off of your list.

Fortunately, I’m here to tell you that nobody at home cares about your to-do list! What makes your family feel happy and successful comes from you spending time with them.

              Letting go of the to-do list in order to be present and happy is not a mainstream way of thinking. But if the mainstream way of thinking worked, wouldn’t we all be a lot happier by now? Instead of expecting new results with the same old patterns of thinking, try developing your Performance Mindset Skills to use a new, positive thinking pattern that you can carry with you everywhere you go.         

Self-Love and Self-Compassion

              The most effective way to practice a new, positive thinking pattern is to practice self-love and self-compassion. I know I just took a sharp left towards the soft, mushy side of performance mindset, but hear me out.

When you make a mistake what is the first thing you’re most likely to think to yourself? If you’re like me it’s something along the lines of, “How could I let this happen?! Why didn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t I know better? I suck!”

              Hopefully you’re laughing because it’s easy to see that that way of thinking isn’t true or helpful. It’s me taking failure personally, instead of taking it as an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s frustrating to learn lessons the hard way, but being aware of past mistakes is the only way to avoid making them again in the future. This is self-love and self-compassion.

Learning from Mistakes

              When is the last time you made a mistake and found that you just couldn’t get over it? Did ruminating on the past cause you to feel depressed? Did projecting the fear of making that same mistake into the future cause you to feel anxiety?

Imagine that same mistake as if someone else had made it. What would your reaction be? Would you immediately start thinking bad things about that person? No. You would encourage them, help them identify the root of the problem, and then help them find a solution. Why is it so easy to do this for others and yet so difficult to do for ourselves?

              Allowing ourselves the grace and space to make mistakes feels soft. It feels weak. It feels like we can’t forgive ourselves for our short-comings. Otherwise, how would we motivate ourselves?

Consider this… what if the motivation to be better came from an internal drive to embrace the mastery process? To accept that failure is not final, nor is it fatal. In fact, it is inevitable. Thinking of failure in this way releases the grip of fear that we commonly attach to it. To move forward from your mistakes and get back to the mastery process

Follow these steps

1.)    Give Yourself the Benefit of Doubt

Imagine the obstacle you’re facing (no matter what circle it’s in) as if it was an obstacle for someone else. Use this broadened perspective to give yourself advice as if you were giving it to a friend.

2.)    Offer Yourself Love and Compassion

Now, think of someone you love. If that person were to make a mistake, how would you want them to be treated? With harsh criticism or with compassion and respect? You are someone’s loved one. Treat yourself with compassion and respect.

3.)    Take Action Moving Forward

The worst part of making a mistake is not actually the mistake. It’s the constant replay of the mistake over and over again in your mind. Look at your mistake as an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know before. Decide what you can do better next time and keep moving forward.

Taking it Home with You

              As with all things that are worthwhile, embracing the mastery process will be tough and it will take practice. Somedays you will succeed and somedays you will fail, but you will always have the opportunity to keep learning and to keep moving forward.

Pick something easy to start with. Something simple like, “I won’t be mean and judgmental (to myself or others) the next time I miss trash day.”

Then try something harder like, “I will learn the lesson and get back to the mastery process next time I make a mistake.”

Finally, apply this way of thinking to others. When someone you love makes a mistake, offer them the same love and compassion that you hope they would show to you when you make a mistake.  

If all else fails follow this simple instruction,

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

-          The Dalai Lama

Bringing Purpose to Your New Year's Resolution

Every new year we start strong with the resolve to build and create a better version of ourselves. We start with good intentions, but struggle to maintain motivation towards long lasting change. This year Fix Your Mindset by bringing purpose to your News Year’s Resolution. Start by identifying your performance goal ie.) New Year’s Resolution. Find a deeper meaning by practicing ‘the 5 whys’. Then create a strategy to support your why by asking, “How?”. Lastly decide exactly what it is you’re willing to do by committing to the process.

Start with Why

Once you know what your Performance Goal is this year, bring meaning and purpose by practicing the 5 whys. 1.) Why is your resolution important to you? 2.) Why is the answer to that question important to you? 3.) Why is the answer to that question important to you? 4.) Keep asking why. 5.) Keep asking why. By the end your performance goal will have a deeper meaning that provides long lasting motivation for change.

For example, my new year’s resolution is to use less plastic. That’s important to me because… Excessive plastic consumption hurts the environment. An unhealthy environment leads to global warming. Global warming makes our planet an unsafe place to live. An unsafe planet will cause millions of species (including humans) to suffer. This suffering could impact future generations of my family. (The Effects of Global Warming by National Geographic)

Create a Strategy for How

Bringing purpose to your resolution is a powerful motivator for lasting change, but can feel overwhelming if you try to change too much at once. Avoid getting overwhelmed and the temptation to quit by creating three challenging, but achievable strategies for how. For example, it’s possible to reduce excessive consumption of plastic by ordering drinks without a straw, carrying a refillable water bottle, and using cloth bags when shopping.

Decide What You’re Willing to Do

Meaningful, long-lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s important to recognize what you’re willing/able to do and what you’re not. There is no way that I could commit to reducing all plastic consumption by tomorrow. Instead I can reference back to my strategies for how and decide what I’m willing to do.

What if I’m on the road and my drink requires a lid? I’ll have to use a straw, but I’m willing to order drinks in a glass with no straw as often as possible. Sometimes I’ll be at a venue that doesn’t allow outside drinks to be brought in. I’ll have to buy a plastic water-bottle, but I can commit to keeping a re-usable water bottle in my car, at work, and in my gym bag. Finally, sometimes I’ll forget my cloth bags at home or in the car. At least I can request paper bags or carry my items out of the store.

Create the Best Version of You

New Year’s Resolutions (or any performance goal for that matter) aren’t meant to stress you out or cause you to beat yourself up when you’re not perfect. They’re meant to a be a motivator to keep you on task with your process. Bring purpose to your process daily by asking yourself why, creating a strategy for how, and deciding what you’re willing to do. Keep the big picture in mind as you passionately pursue the best version of you.

Fix Your Mindset in Time for the Holidays

A big part of Performance Mindset Training is applying mental toughness skills to tangible obstacles like productivity at work or staying focused in school, but true mental toughness goes deeper than that. It requires a sense of gratitude and awareness in order to live the best life possible. This is most critical during the holidays… a time for love, compassion, and joy.

This is the time of year that’s meant to bring out the best in ourselves to serve others in our community. It’s also the time of year that triggers us most into feeling stressed, anxious, annoyed, and overwhelmed. This is the definition of the Default Mindset.

In the same way that physical success takes physical preparation, living in a state of Growth Mindset requires mental and emotional preparation. Mental skills, like any other skill, need to be developed and cultivated over time.  Practice these strategies to Fix Your Mindset daily:

1.)    Be Here Now – how often is what’s happening right now, in this very moment, the cause of your stress? How much more often is it that our anxious mindset creates future problems to worry about or past experiences to ruminate on? Notice 3 tangible things in your sightline, say what they are in your head while taking 3 deep breaths. Now that you’ve arrived where you are in this moment you can…

2.)    Gift Yourself Some Time

In the present moment you can start to realize how rushed we are when giving other people our time. In this way is it really what we have to do or the way we’re thinking about doing it that causes us stress? Give yourself some of your time so that you can think clearly and rationally in order to best…

3.)    Serve Others

As you’ve tuned into this moment and this present version of you, where can you make the greatest impact? How can you shift away from wanting and receiving to shift towards giving and creating? Take the answer to this question and use it to…

4.) Be the Best Version of You During the Holidays

Notice any mental resistance you have towards slowing down. Our thoughts often tell us that we need to be doing more in order to be good enough, but that’s not true. It’s just a bad habit that we’ve learned over time and the only way to break an old habit is to build a new one.

So give yourself a break when you’re stressed this holiday season. Start back at step 1 to build and create the best version of you and to Fix Your Mindset.

The Secret to Success

People ask me all the time, “What’s the secret?! How did you achieve success at such a high level?!” The answer….? There is no secret!

              The secret isn’t what to do. Most people watching a sporting event can see what the athlete needs to do. For example, in skating if you want to win races you have to know how to pass, lead, and defend. That’s obvious.

              Think of the last time you watched your favorite football team. Maybe your team was having a bad day and you screamed angrily at the tv, “You have to catch the ball!!!” Then the person you’re watching with chimes in and says, “the quarterback needs to learn how to throw!” These things are painfully obvious which is why they’re not the secret. 

              The secret isn’t how to do it. Coaches dedicate their lives to helping people understand the skills and develop the strength necessary to carry-out a specific task. The world’s best coaches can even modify their coaching language to teach based on each individual athlete’s learning style.

              Think of the unbelievable amount of information available to us at school, online, and from others. Think of the words of wisdom spoken to you by the greater influencers in your life. If the secret was knowledge we’d be knee deep in success by now.

              The secret is simple, but not easy… it’s actually DOING IT. It’s developing the mental skills to bring focus, resilience, confidence, and purpose to your work. It’s remembering what changes to make, how to make them, and taking action even when you’re overwhelmed, stressed, or tired. All of these skills can be developed through Mindset Training.

Of course, there’s a genetic factor that can hurt or help an individual in their quest. Luck, preparation, and resources also make a heavy impact. But think of the last time you saw an athlete, teammate, or friend put their heart on their sleeve and give their absolute, all out effort in an attempt to DO something. At that point you don’t have to come in first in order to win the race. You’ve won simply by having the courage to do what most people don’t.

              I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes… The Man in the Arena by Theodore Roosevelt.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”                         

                                                                                                     -Theodore Roosevelt

Obnoxious Positivity

If you have a goal and you’re willing to work for it then you know what it feels like when nothing goes right, no matter how hard you try. This is the point where Default Mindset comes in and tries to convince you to quit. Instead, use a mindset strategy called Obnoxious Positivity.

This is not to be confused with positive psychology or positive self-talk and should not be used interchangeably with these strategies. Obnoxious Positivity works best when saved for extreme moments like when:

-          Coach (or teacher/boss/parent) gives you a task that feels impossible to achieve

-          You’re at your wit’s end and you legitimately feel like quitting

-          No matter how hard you try you’re stuck taking one step forward, two steps back

If you’ve worked with me in person before you know that I tend to say one of two things… One, that the distinction between good and great is not what to do, but how to do it. And two, getting better happens on purpose, not by accident.

If you’re in a place where you need some Obnoxious Positivity then chances are that you already know what you need to do. It’s a matter of how are you going to do it?!

Write down 3 action items to get you started. It’s not important that you know where to start. It’s only important that you start somewhere and learn as you go.

Now, add some intention! Don’t go through the motions thinking you’ll get better. Work with the intention of getting better every rep, of every set, in order to achieve your goals someday. One of my favorite quotes is from an old teammate and 2014 Olympian, Kyle Carr. When watching a group of his teammates go through the motions on a workout he yelled, “Don’t just jump. Jump like you mean it!”

And add Obnoxious Positivity on the days you feel like you just want to quit. It won’t make your situation any easier, but it will give you the extra boost you need to do what it takes.

Examples include:

-          Personal mantras - When the voice in your head keeps saying that you can’t, fight back by saying (and feeling), ‘I can do anything. I will overcome this. I trust my ability to work hard and I will do whatever it takes’.

-          Visualization – Imagine what success looks, feels, and sounds like. During my hardest workouts I would motivate myself by visualizing what it would feel like to stand on top of the podium, to see my flag raised up, and to hear my national anthem.

-          Keep it Fun – Pushing through fatigue, doubt, and frustration isn’t fun. Make it fun by finding ways to laugh! Listen to your favorite comedian, watch a funny video, or think of an inside joke with a friend. This feels goofy, but doing what it takes means you have to finish doing the work no matter how hard it is. Feeling goofy is a fair trade when the other option is letting your Default Mindset convince you to give up early.  

Life After Speedskating (And Other Hard Transitions)

Summer is over and fall is here. Our sleeves get longer as the days get shorter, but what about the transitions we’re not ready for like a new job, a new team, or a new school? How can we make a positive impact despite our fear of failure?

About 9 months ago I retired from the only sport/lifestyle I’ve ever known, Short Track Speedskating. For decades I planned my days around workouts, personal bests, and the never-ending pursuit of perfection. This passion and persistence pushed me towards great things, but what now? Enter, a really tough transition!

This week I’m taking a look back at some of the strategies that helped me succeed through my toughest transitions as an athlete. I’ll be taking my own advice to heart and hoping that these examples will resonate with and help you too!

The 85% Rule

Just like a changing pace or strategy in the middle of a race, change in life tends to speed up our thoughts. Sometimes operating at 100% is necessary, but if we stay there too long we start making mistakes. Mistakes lead to annoyance, stress, frustration, and eventually, burn-out.

Instead, try operating at 85% of your top speed. 85% is enough to be effective while also maintaining awareness of how to avoid mistakes and/or respond to them properly. At 85% you can easily speed up when it’s time to work and slow down when it’s time to relax. Who doesn’t need more of that?!

Control the Controllable

A natural reaction to change is to get back in control by planning for every variable. However, it’s not possible to control every variable very often. The stress and anxiety become even worse when the wheels fall off of our well calculated plan.

Instead, ask yourself, ‘what are the things I can control today?’ ‘What are the things I can influence?’ ‘What are the things that I cannot control?” Prioritize your time, energy, and resources on what you can control or influence. Let the rest go.

Impacting Others

A tough transition can feel like you’re in over your head. In this state of sink or swim our judgement is clouded. Our response to emotional triggers often leaves us responding in ways that don’t align with our core values.

Instead, start your day by journaling the answer to this question: ‘How can I build and create the best environment possible while also serving others?’ Whether you’re in over your head or not, the response to this question will leave you feeling better.


As the care-free days of summer come to an end our to-do lists get longer and our schedules become more rigid. This leads to a common symptom of the default mindset, procrastination.

In Mindset Coaching the words used to describe procrastination are “mental resistance”. That’s because there’s no tangible reason for procrastination. It happens in our minds as we resist doing something that needs to be done.

It may be a project, a tough conversation, or starting a new habit. Whatever it is, we mentally resist it until the consequences of not doing the task become greater than the annoyance of doing it.

When we look at procrastination in this way it’s easy to see why the tasks we procrastinate feel boring, annoying, and pointless. We put them off because we expect them to feel boring, annoying, and pointless! But there’s a different way to look at it….

When training with the US Speedskating National Team in Salt Lake City there were several workouts that I dreaded every week. I would spend extra time stretching or chatting with support staff to avoid the on-start of these brutal workouts only to find that once I got started the workout wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was the build-up in my mind that had caused my dread.

What tasks are you dreading, and therefore procrastinating, the most? Are the tasks really that bad? Or is it the reaction in your brain that makes them feel that way? Fight this feeling by bringing purpose to your work.

For example, skating sets of 20, 30, and 50 laps all summer long is boring, monotonous, and seemingly pointless; but training endurance in order to prepare for maximal performance in the 1500m was full of purpose. Challenging myself to skate more efficiently as fatigue set in kept the work engaging. And pushing myself to race my teammates on the last few laps of every set kept the work exciting.  

How can you bring purpose to your work today in order to avoid mental resistance and keep your work purposeful, engaging, and exciting?

Responding to Pressure and Frustration

We all feel pressure to perform at work/school, accomplish our goals, and to exceed the expectations of others. Pressure is uncomfortable and as human beings we tend to avoid feelings of discomfort at all costs. This leaves us feeling comfortable, but not always prepared to perform in stressful situations.

Then when it’s time to perform the pressure feels 10x greater because we never stressed our preparation. We feel worse because in an effort to be comfortable and confident we forgot to practice managing pressure and frustration.

A simple strategy to avoid this issue is to turn your preparation into a competition or a game. Do this by creating a fun challenge and keeping score each week as a way of tracking improvement.

As an athlete I would make challenges daily like, ‘I’m going to practice sitting lower by increasing the number of reps I can do with a full range of motion every week’. Now I’m not doing reps mindlessly because coach said so. I’m doing reps with the added challenge of increasing quality and quantity each week.

If there was a week when I failed to improve (which was inevitable) I was met with the opportunity to practice performing under pressure as well as bouncing back from the frustration that often comes with falling short of a goal.

Sometimes you’re physically incapable of achieving a goal on a certain day. Sometimes an external stimulus that’s outside of our control gets in the way and derails our plan for the day. Even though this isn’t our fault, it’s still our responsibility to manage ourselves effectively.

During my comeback I had countless days when my body couldn’t achieve my physical goals due to back pain. This wasn’t fun or challenging. It was incredibly frustrating! So, I would change the rules of my game. Instead of trying to improve quality/quantity of reps I would challenge myself to be a positive influence for my teammates. I would make a game out of encouraging others.

The challenge was to keep frustration from getting the better of me. The game was increasing the amount of positive impact I could have on others. Using this strategy, I’m an athlete that lifts up my teammates even when I’m having a bad day. Instead of an athlete that cracks under pressure/frustration and brings negativity to the team around me.

What kind of teammate would you prefer having? What kind of athlete do you want to be? How can you turn your preparation into a competition or a game in order to perform under pressure?


Every day I watch athletes’ minds wander while I’m giving instruction. Hard working, motivated athletes who just can’t stay focused. My knee jerk reaction is to get angry, to take their mind wandering personally.

Then I remember the amount of distraction that these athletes have in their daily lives… social media, advertising, tv, and internet. Of course, they can’t focus! At what point in their lives have they been taught how?!

Next, I remember that everyone struggles to focus (at least sometimes) and that these athletes have just presented me with the perfect opportunity to teach a mental skill in the middle of a hard workout.

How to STAY focused. How to keep the mind concentrated on one thing. This is simple, but not easy.

Learning to concentrate on one thing for an extended period of time is a mental skill that must be developed like any physical skill. Try listening to your favorite song while keeping your mind focused on just one piece of the music. It could be the beat, the melody, or the words. Count how many times you lose focus of this one thing in a period of just a few minutes.

Now, imagine trying to do that as a 16-year-old learning something new. The reason why an athletes’ mind would wander is starting to make sense…

So instead of getting mad at your athletes (or yourself) for not being able to stay focused, use this as a teaching moment to define what focus is. The ability to concentrate on one thing for an extended period of time. Challenge them to stay focused on just one thing at a time throughout the training session.

Using this Mindset strategy, you’ve prepared the athlete to learn the physical skill and taught them how to develop a mental skill at the same time.