Every day, we work with executives who get up early, come home late, run from meeting to meeting, work on weekends, and even pay exorbitant amounts of money to travel to great places under the guise of “vacation” only to do remote work. When we ask them why they do this, their answers are always some version of - I am committed to getting results. When we ask them how they are doing, they often say they are brain fogged, tired, and emotionally drained, making it nearly impossible to actually get the results they want.
Even though they feel the effects, these behaviors continue into their personal lives and read like a book full of chapters of intensity.
Chapter one: I wake up at 5 am and go to CrossFit, Orange Theory, Sgt. Bone Crusher’s Bootcamp, etc.
Chapter two: I race out the door at 100 mph with my chemically-enhanced coffee, an energy bar, and my green smoothie.
Chapter three: I am immediately overwhelmed at work with fires to put out and a team that needs me to help them make sense out of their job.
Chapter four: I run (no one even walks anymore) from meeting to meeting leaving myself with no opportunity to take a quick pitstop break, all while magically tapping into the wisdom of the universe and expecting myself to impart my brilliance on the other meeting attendees.
Chapter five: I eat lunch at my desk while reading emails and firing off instant messages to my team for progress reports. It's a shorter chapter since I jump right back into my work.
Chapter six: I race to my kid’s soccer game/award ceremony/baseball practice/play/chess match where I continue to send off work emails on my phone.
Chapter seven: I retreat (code for disengage in shame) to my home office to delete my unnecessary emails and fire off last-minute delegation orders.
Chapter eight: I slide into bed next to my sleeping partner where I toss and turn and think about tomorrow.
Epilogue: Wash, rinse, repeat - is there any change in sight?
Clearly, I’m exaggerating to make a point, but don’t lose the message in the sarcasm. The truth is that we have become addicted to intensity, and I don’t use the word addicted lightly. An addiction is something that you need regularly or you will suffer withdrawal symptoms. If you want to know if you may be addicted to intensity, just go back through each chapter and try doing the opposite. What do you feel? If just thinking about it for a minute or two gives you tremors, you'll have your answer.
In Brian Wade’s TIGNUM blog, Recovery is Not a Guilty Pleasure, he talked about one cause of this addiction - our own guilt. Another cause is the biochemical release of endorphins and adrenaline when we are jamming on the gas pedal all day. The problem is that these substances are not only addictive, they can also make us stupid if we aren’t careful. Research has shown that chronically high levels of cortisol (our stress hormone) make us more reactive, lessen our creativity, and diminish our memory. Chronic sleep deprivation (even just one hour less sleep a night for 7 days) makes us significantly less effective as leaders. Adrenal fatigue (a result of trying to squeeze every last drop of adrenaline from our system to get us up for today’s fires) leads to depression, sexual dysfunction, and apathy.
In other words, the thing that we implemented to get results (doing everything with intensity) has completely made getting the results we want impossible. So, what is the answer? At TIGNUM, we first and foremost want you to become hyperaware of when you are falling into this intensity addiction trap. Second, we want you to go back through the chapters and ask yourself a simple question, “What results do I actually want to get from this activity?” If you want to get fit, CrossFit, Orange Theory, and Sgt. Bone Crusher’s Bootcamp are all great solutions as long as you manage them based on your overall workload, travel load, recovery status, etc. Green smoothies are great, but when you are on overdrive, even kale can’t live up to its superfood potential because your gut microbiome is in disarray. Meetings are a great place to get stuff done but only if you are purposeful on the desired outcome and disciplined enough to prepare yourself to show up at your best. You get the idea... your approach to everything in your life is supposed to align with why you are actually doing it and who you really want to be.
With the holidays approaching, we are in prime intensity season as we cram to get it all in before we are cursed with time off. We are also fortunate to have the opportunity to stop our speed train, reflect on the results we really want to create (both at work and away from work), and recalibrate who we want to be. As you detox and read the book on yourself that you wrote in this last year, we look forward to helping you create the Sustainable High Impact you really want in the future. Isn't it time to shift from addicted to intensity to committed to results?
As always, I would love to hear your story and thoughts.