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Chloe, head of engineering for a small software startup, knocked on Jacob’s door. Jacob, her chief technology officer, looked up and motioned her in.

“What can I do you for?” Jacob asked as he locked his computer and gave Chloe his full attention.

Chloe dropped into a chair despondently. “I’m close to feeling burned,” she replied. “I don’t understand why. I love everything I do. Yet….” Chloe trailed off and sat there, huddled in on herself.

“And yet you can’t bear to do any of it another minute?”

“Just about.”

“Tell me more,” Jacob suggested.

Check in with your inner guidance

“From the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed, I focus on things I love,” Chloe replied. “My kids, my pets, my partner, my larger family; friends; exercise; here at work. I’m always doing something amazing and meaningful. Having the most fulfilling conversations. Creating value. I feel so energized.”

“And yet, also drained?”


“How’s your health?”

“Everything’s hunky dory. That’s the first thing I thought of. Doc says I’m perfectly healthy, though. No concerns there.”

“So, your body seems okay. And your mind and heart seem fine, from what you’ve said. What about your spirit?”

“My what? You know I’m not religious.”

“You don’t have to believe in a higher power to be in touch with your spirit. Your connection to your dreams for your life. It’s one of the five centers of inner guidance we each have.”

“I’ve never had dreams like that. Goals have never worked for me. I’ve always just followed my intuition. Everything has worked out great.”

“I believe we’re each here for specific reasons. To have specific impacts on the world. You may not be consciously aware of what they are. But, I’m sure they’re there.”

Chloe shook her head disbelievingly. “I don’t feel I’m missing anything.”

“You’re following your dreams well, since you say everything has worked out great. Yet, you also say you’re close to burning out. Something seems to be out of alignment.”

Map out your day

“Why don’t you take me through your day in more detail,” Jacob suggested.

“How much detail do you want?”

“You don’t need to give me a minute-by-minute account. Give me the details for each context you switch to. How much time you spend there, what you do, and with whom. How you feel at the beginning and end of each block.”

Chloe proceeded to take Jacob through her day. She really did spend every minute of it with at least one other person. More than one, most of the time.

When Chloe finished, Jacob pursed his lips in thought for a moment. “I’m having a hard time keeping track of everything you just told me,” he said. “Will you please diagram it out on my whiteboard? Maybe use different colors for when you’re with immediate family versus extended family versus close friends, etcetera.”

Chloe went over to Jacob’s whiteboard and proceeded to draw a line of boxes across its width.

“And is every day like this?” Jacob asked.

“Pretty much. Want me to draw out a typical week?”


Chloe did. When she finished, Jacob’s whiteboard was a solid mass of colored rectangles.

Ensure you have space for listening

“Thanks, Chloe. Move back a bit and tell me what you see.”

Chloe moved away from the whiteboard and stared at what she’d drawn. “If I was in a helicopter looking down at a highway, I’d say I was looking at a traffic jam.”

“It does resemble that, doesn’t it?”

Chloe considered her diagram a bit longer, then turned back to Jacob. “Are you saying my life is a traffic jam? But I’m creating so much value! Fun and companionship, too.”

“So, maybe what you’ve drawn isn’t a traffic jam. Maybe it’s people speeding down the highway tailgating each other.”

“I guess we all have great reflexes, then. Because I’ve never experienced a pileup.”

“How much energy are you expending to keep things that way?”

“Not much. It’s so fun!”

“Mm-hmm,” Jacob replied noncommittally.

Chloe knew that “Mm-hmm.” She reconsidered her answer.

“Well, maybe you are right. Maybe it is taking more effort than I have realized,” she said. “If I really were driving in that situation, I would be super anxious. Even if my favorite songs were coming on the radio right after each other and my best friends were in the car singing along.”

“What would you do, in that situation, once you realized how stressed you felt?”

“Back off. Start leaving space between me and the car in front of me. Go back to the four car lengths of space my driver’s ed teacher harped on about. Oh.”

“So, maybe I’m feeling close to burnt out because I’m not leaving space between activities,” Chloe said.

“Maybe,” Jacob agreed. “Giving yourself space in between wrapping up one activity and starting the next one will almost certainly help, in my experience. If you also take time to reflect and retrospect, that’s likely to help even more.”

“We started down this road by you asking me how my spirit, my connection to my dreams for my life, feels. What does that have to do with taking time to reflect?”

“Taking time to reflect means taking time to listen. When we take time to listen, we give our spirit—and the rest of our inner guidance—time to make itself known. In a time when we’re already listening. That enables us to recognize anything that might need adjusting.”

“But my life feels so great. I can’t imagine it getting any better.”

“You may not have anything to adjust. How would you feel knowing that for certain?”

“Well, I’m pretty confident my intuition will tell me when something needs to change.”

“Are you positive you’re listening to everything it has to say?”

“Well—…,” Chloe started, then trailed off. “No.”

A few minutes between tasks is all you need

“How much time do you suggest I add?” Chloe asked. “In between activities.”

“Start with five minutes. Less than that, you don’t have time to really settle in and listen, I find. Once you’re listening regularly, you’ll start to know when more time might be helpful. And, as you build experience with this, you’ll likely notice patterns about which activities tend to require more time. Then, you can build that into your schedule.”

“Okay, I’ll give it a try,” Chloe said. “I’m still not convinced. But it’ll be worth it if giving myself space between activities to listen and reflect can head off this looming burnout.”

“Let’s talk about this again in a few weeks. I’m eager to hear what you find.”

“Sure thing. Thanks, Jacob.”

“You are welcome, Chloe.”

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