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Don't buy into the myth that you have to burn out in order to succeed

Updated: Aug 7, 2022


You burn bright is leadership coaching by Zoe fenn for future leaders in the creative industries

These words were spoken by Arianna Huffington on Twitter in 2018, but still ring true today, especially for first-time leaders.


When I became a leader for the first time I realised an age old habit was repeating itself. Overworking. I believed in the equation ‘intellect + effort = reward.’


Now as I reflect back on that time and coach others through it, I see many of us unintentionally fall into a pattern of overwork, feeling like…


…If we don’t overwork, we won’t be valued

…This is what I’ve always done. If I stop I’ll be seen as underperforming

…Work is where I feel most valued. If I stop I’m afraid of what’s on the other side


There are a few things to pick apart here


1. The more we doubt ourselves, the harder we work: It’s not unique to first-time. leaders, but for me, becoming a leader for the first time made me question my ability, was I up to this? was I doing it right? Overwork was most prevalent when I felt I had something to prove, and lots to lose. But rarely proved the most effective method of showing what I was capable of.


2. When we overwork, we model this as a successful way to work to others.


3. Don’t get caught up in either / or thinking: We can choose to modify, reduce and set limits around how we work. It doesn’t have be overwork or underperform. Thought patterns like this keep us stuck.


As a coach I am now hard wired to ask questions, rather than prescribe. Because what has worked for me, won’t be right for you. It takes courage to change the way you work, so here’s a few questions to get you started.


  • If you knew you were worthy / valuable / good enough just as you are, how would this change how you work?

  • Who benefits if you reduce your workload?

  • What kind of working style will your team and your kids thank you for?

  • If you had an extra hour a day, what would you fill it with?

  • If you could do just one thing to better manage your workload, what would it be?


As always, thank you for reading. Please share with your network and post anything or thank anyone who has helped you re-calibrate your urges to overwork.



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