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3 Hard Lessons I've Learned as a Workaholic

Hi, my name is CJ and I am a workaholic.

I want to have the BEST homelife. I want to have the BEST business. I want to have the BEST friendships. I want everyone to believe I am the BEST.

The only downside? It’s not ALL possible.

As veterinarians, you give everything you have to everything you do. You give your all to help a patient, sooth pet owners through difficult experiences with their pets, pick up shifts others can’t make, go home to a family that needs to have meals prepared and a home that needs cleaning. Everything around you seems to demand so much of you. And you give it! 

But if you try to do this for too long, eventually...you burn out.

The term “burnout” has become so commonly used in the veterinary field that you would’ve thought they’d be teaching a course on it in vet schools by now. Perhaps some of them are by the time you read this article.

I am not a veterinarian. However, I do understand burnout and have suffered this self-induced illness.

I call it self-induced only because it seems to START with the way I view myself - I am someone who loves to serve and was created to help others. 

On the surface this sounds good, and it is good to believe that about ourselves…

However, balance is needed. If we take this giving and selflessness to an extreme, which I see a lot of veterinarians do, it hurts us, our family, our friends, and our own self esteem (the ego part of us that it started with, since it started with how we view ourselves).

This way of viewing myself leads to a yearning to say “yes” to everyone that asks for my help. And when someone requests my help it almost feels wrong to say, “no.” The unhealthy extreme I take it to is this: I do it so I won’t be viewed as someone who doesn’t care about others in “need” when I am able to help. I say “yes” to everything because, after all, that’s who I am, right!? A superhuman who can help people when they need it. All the time, every time.

So, I say “yes.” And “yes.” And “yes.” 

When I am in the moment, I don’t see the big picture and it isn’t until later that I realize I goofed up. A “no” would’ve given me more time with my family, time to rest and recover. 

But it feels so good to be needed doesn’t it?! And therein lies the trap we find ourselves in.

Eventually it becomes a to-do list that won’t ever get done and I’ve placed all the pressure on my effort to accomplish what only a superhuman could.

Spoiler alert: I don’t have superpowers. Unless it’s eating chocolate. For whatever reason I grow another stomach if there’s chocolate around...

But I so desperately want to believe I do.

And there is a fear that if I say “no” to someone who asks me to do something, then they will think that I am being selfish. An absolute nightmare for so many reasons.

It’s a lie. A lie I fight DAILY. Some days I have found myself fighting the urge to say “yes” to requests for my help on an hourly basis.

What’s my solution? What have I found to be helpful above all else?

Three things…

First, I had to REFRAME how I viewed myself. 

The bad news? This was the hardest lesson. 

The good news? This was the hardest lesson! (so, it gets easier...)

The only way to fight a lie is to meditate and revisit the truth…the truths that I rely on are from the Bible. Now if you don’t believe in the Bible, THAT’S OKAY! But here are some scriptures I go to and pray over in order to mentally digest healthy mind food that energizes and resurrects my spirit…it may help you in some way even if you don’t identify as a Christian.

Philippians 4:6-7: “(6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (7) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Joshua 1:9: “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"

What these truths say is that I am not a superhero and I wasn’t created to be one. That if I rely on myself, chances are I won’t be able to do what I feel is necessary of me. But it doesn’t matter! Because I wasn’t made to! Instead I can rely on the truth that God is where my identity is. God is who I can rely on. Who better to rely on than God?! I definitely trust him over myself...

God didn’t give me superhuman abilities like an X-Man. So, I had to START COMMUNICATING that truth to people...saying it out loud even if I didn’t believe it and I committed to selling others on believing it. Saying things like…

“I can’t right now, I am working on…”

“I won’t be able to get to that today…”

“Can I get to that next week?”

“By what time do you need that done? Let me check my list of commitments that I’ve already made, and I will get back to you by ___.”

I am sure there are other things I say, but those are just a few.

This leads to the second thing I had to do...COMMUNICATE my hard-to-accept limitations that came with my reframed identity. 

Amy Cuddy would be proud. She has done studies that pose the idea that even though our body language will reflect how we feel, we can sometimes manipulate our body language to INFLUENCE how we feel. So, if we adopt certain postures, that posture we take on can start to make us feel that way - confident, powerful, in control, etc. Watch her TED Talk to get the details of the study.

DOING THIS WAS INSANE AND SCARY. At least at first.

Because after I had to admit that I was limited, I had to start telling other people I was limited.

Over time it became a habit and something I revisit daily to make sure I keep my priorities where they need to be. 

Third, I learned that my financial decisions and how I handled MONEY solved a lot of problems. Money is not the key to happiness, but it is a tool to help lessen some of life’s stresses and accomplish big goals. After all, we have enough to worry about...I don’t want to also have to worry about my finances!

Let me explain…

A large bank account can take the edge off stress in life. Because when your bank account is high you have the ability to control your decisions day to day.

Don’t like your job? QUIT!

Don’t like where you live? MOVE!

Don’t want to be an employee anymore and want to own a practice? BUY ONE!

All those actions require the same thing: monetary resources (moula, greens, good ol cashola!). 

Change is insanely scary BUT it becomes a whole lot less scary when you’ve got the cash to do what you want and need.

Thus, if you can create great savings habits to build up monetary resources that you have access to, the more control you’re going to have when you want to make changes and find yourself in danger of being burned out.

As a business owner this is most true when it comes to how we manage our businesses. You won’t hire the staff that you need if your bank account is low and you’ve got a scarcity mindset. Thus, how you approach your financial decisions can have the largest impact on the strategic growth position your business is in!

A few years ago, I realized that if I had limitations in my time I just needed to create more time.

And if I could pay people for their time and get really good at delegating, then, in theory, I’d have more time available than what was needed to get everything done.

Also, I could build them up, inspire them, and then release them out into the world to make a difference for others! Making a difference not just in their lives, but also the lives of the people they impact inside and outside of the business.

So, let’s recap…

  • Burnout is inevitable if we believe we are superhuman.  There are three things I’ve done to combat it in my life and I revisit them daily.
  • First, admit that the problem lies within what you believe about yourself. You can’t be everything to everyone because when you do, you limit your impact since burnout is inevitable. You have to refuse to put yourself last. 
  • Second, express clearly to others the reason(s) why you may not be available to help them.
  • Third, become proactive with financial decisions to build accessible cash/assets and increase our ability to take control when burnout happens. When the bank account is up your blood pressure is down! Change is a whole lot easier when it becomes critical for our mental health.

Tom Seeko and CJ Burnett are Registered Representatives and Financial Advisors of Park Avenue Securities LLC (PAS). 4200 West Cypress Street #700, Tampa, FL 33607. Security products and advisory services offered through PAS, a registered broker-dealer and investment advisor. Tom Seeko and CJ Burnett are a Financial Representatives of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, NY. PAS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. Florida Veterinary Advisors is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS or Guardian. PAS is a member FINRA, SIPC. The individuals associated with Florida Veterinary Advisors do not maintain specialized licenses or qualifications for the financial services provided to veterinary professionals. Florida Veterinary Advisors is not registered in any state or with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as a Registered Investment Advisor. Christopher Burnett CA License #0K79676. Tom Seeko CA License #0K8014. 2021-124110 Exp 07/2023