3 Reasons you Run out of Steam - and How to Maintain Momentum.

How to Maintain Momentum

I recently had a coaching conversation with a high performance person, in which she came to the startling conclusion that she's burnt out! After a bit of exploring, we realised that she probably just feels like she's running out steam.  What is the difference, you might ask?

Well, according to wikipedia (occupational) burnout is characterized by exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy within the workplace. It goes further to say that: "The job-demands model of burnout proposes that burnout is influenced by job demands and job resources. Job demands are the physical and psychological costs of work, such as work pressure and emotional demands. Job resources are organisational aspects of the job that help employees manage job demands". 
When we probed further into where she perceived the burnout to be, it was more in relation to her personal life and household, than her professional life - although the two can be very intertwined.

Running out of steam is more characterised by a feeling of exhaustion at the completion of a goal. While burnout requires possible specialist intervention, 'running out of steam' may be fixed by recalibrating one's thinking. 

So, why do people run out of steam?

1. In mountaineering, climbers commonly focus on getting to the top.

 "Sure, isn't that why they climb it?" you may ask. Yes, mountaineers scale mountains for many reasons, but mostly it's to stand on the top and enjoy the accomplishment of getting there. However, experienced mountaineers will tell you that the top is only half way!  You still need to make your way safely down the same mountain, before you could genuinely call it an accomplishment. Herein lies the first reason. Did you know that most fatalities on the worlds highest mountains happen while climbers are descending after making the summit? This is primarily because they run out of mental and (subsequently) physical energy to continue on through the goal. My late mentor - Lou E. Tice (Founder of The Pacific Institute) used to call this 'goal setting up to and through'.  He went further to explain that when we create a target, like a goal, our brains create just the right amount of energy to assist us in getting there, but no further. Think about this. Have you noticed how - at the end of a marathon - some runners would collapse either before or just after the finish line? According to Lou Tice's theory, this happens, because the person can see either 
a) that they're almost done or 
b) have just finished and therefore their 'energy creating mechanism' shuts down.  

If that is so, it will also explain why you can't get any service out of public servants after 12:00 on a Friday (the weekends is almost here!) or once a person is married, there is a rapid expansion of girth about a year after (arrived at the goal of getting married)! 

How does this translate into your every day home and work life? 
At work, think about the last time you and your team worked really hard on a project, say getting a major deal. It required all-hands-on-deck and every resource available. After the client says "yes" you go out to celebrate and then ..... there's a major slump before you get the project kicked off. Then it starts to feel really difficult to implement what you promised. If the goal is just to get the deal, then you'll be running out  of steam when it comes to the implementation.

So, in athletics, runners like Usain Bolt and Wayde van Niekerk are taught to run at full speed right past the finish line. In fact, what you'll often see is that they can almost complete another lap! 

The mind creates energy up to the moment when the body does not need it anymore. The key here, is to always think beyond the obvious finishing point. What will happen afterwards? How much energy and time will be required from you? Who will still be with you to make it happen. How do you plan to rest and recover. These are all important questions to ask ourselves daily, if we are to prevent getting to burnout stage in the pursuit of our goals.

2. It wasn't your idea to begin with. 

So, someone comes to you with a great idea and they know exactly you will fit into their plan. They convince you and you kind of agree, but you are really not as amped as they are. After a while of working and sharing of ideas, the project hits a few snags and you pull through, but find that you're not doing your best. The truth is, this project doesn't excite you. You may not feel passionate enough about it. So you delay, create sloppy work or you come up with ideas to avoid doing things. In short, you're running out of steam. 

To rectify a situation like this requires courage and tact. You could do one of two things:
a) Come clean. Find a way to admit that you're not committed and give usable alternatives (like appointing another person) which can help the project get to the finish line. 

b) Find a way to activate you drive and energy to finish what you started. This begins with a simple statement like: This is my idea. I choose to, I want to and I like to be part of this project. By doing this, you (psycholinguistically) reprogram your brain into creating the energy required to commit to the task and see it to completion.

3. You've changed your mind about the significance of the goal.

This happens all the time. Boy likes girl. Boy pursues girl. Boy changes mind. Boy doesn't know how to tell girl. Boy slacks off and becomes deadbeat boyfriend. Now picture this scenario for pursuing a certain job, a promotion, an election and you get the picture. Maybe you changed your mind because the reality doesn't live up to the dream. Maybe the circumstances which made you want the goal have changed.  Maybe another opportunity has come along. Whatever the reason, we all lose interest in things which are no longer significant to us. 

The way to handle this kind of scenario is to be honest with yourself first. Ask a few pertinent questions to get to the bottom of your dilemma. What has changed? Why have I lost interest? What are the possible consequences of changing things? How can I minimise any damage which may be caused, etc.

In a case like any of the above, one has to be really careful that you're not just changing your mind on a whim or because things are getting tough. Be really, really clear on the advantages and disadvantages for all concerned, if you're going to pull out of a significant situation. 

People are driven by benefits.  If you have changed your mind, act swiftly. However, if you're still vacillating, have a moment of deep reflection on what the possible benefits could be of sticking things out. This could help you to save face, set yourself up for you dream job or even create more time to rediscover the beauty and value of the girl you once fell in love with.

So, in short:
1. Make sure you set your goal/s all the way through the obvious end-result.
2. Ensure that the idea belongs to you or make it become your own.
3. Create enough significance and benefit for yourself to make the goal worth pursuing.

For further info visit our website.

"One way to keep momentum is to have constantly greater goals."
Michael Korda


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