“It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star” said Nietzsche. This is what the burn out can allow thanks to the crossing of the chaos it generates. The sudden stop of the body, the sudden stop of the world makes it possible to question our modes of functioning and to point out what we have misaligned ourselves in. Where have we turned and taken the side road that keeps us like hamsters in a cage, in the short-term logic of our next turn of the wheel?
No one had experienced a pandemic of this magnitude in memory of grandparents. Not that there have ever been, but none put the world to a standstill or such a slow down. Our interdependence is highlighted through globalization, and the coronavirus was right…
This global burn out shows our interdependence and leads us to refocus.
Beyond the health disaster, the economic disaster is significant for many sectors and businesses. We have understood, through repetition on social networks, that everyone hopes that the aftermath would not be like before. However, we can observe facts that would indicate the opposite: the car manufacturers want to revive production as quickly as possible while the stored cars pile up on their car parks, MEDEF asks to postpone the climate moratorium to give more flexibility to companies, the European Commission relies on an American multinational, the world’s leading asset manager (BlackRock), to help it review banking practices for “the aftermath”, some employers require employees to work while they are on short-time, and we could cite many others. These few examples are not to be judged because they point to the behaviours that a company or an organization will put in place to deal with fear, and in particular the fear of dying.
Abraham Maslow pointed it out with his pyramid, our fears are activated by the risk -proven in this case – that we cannot meet our vital needs: security, survival, food, among others. These fears, largely fueled by the media, bring out our deep behaviors, the “beautiful” as the “ugly”. Many have rushed into supermarkets to stockpile (the question remains on toilet paper and the link to basic needs…), nurses have received threatening letters from those who felt a danger to their lives. At the same time, many solidarity movements were born to prepare meals for the caregivers or to help the most disadvantaged.
The world before… It fully bears the characteristics of the “masculine” that we each have within us. No caricature, by evoking the values of the masculine or the feminine, I do not speak of men and women, but of what constitutes us profoundly and gives us our range of behaviour, of regard for our environment. Thus, when each of us expresses his or her male share, we rely on our ability to structure, organize, use logic, establish or enforce the rules, and in its negative aspects, we may be in dominance or omnipotence. Nor is it a question of judging, it would only block our thinking.
If we come out of denial to accept to see this omnipotence that is expressed, then we can transform it, transform ourselves. What forms does it take?
- our superiority over Nature. We believe that we are above the laws of Nature and that we draw on its resources with impunity, without taking care of the world we leave to our children,
- the dominance over employees, visible by the increase in moral harassment and the number of burn-outs,
- the takeover of power over the other, which is expressed in an extreme way by the increase in domestic violence,
- we think we are stronger than Life: we make choices and impose “what is best for the company/ team/ employee” without listening to the signs that should alert us.
There is no point in accentuating this picture. Omnipotence is to have the illusion of superiority, or the illusion of believing that we know exactly what to do for each other, for business, for society, without dealing with weak signals… less and less weak. This is what happens in a burn out, the employee surinvesti continues to give body and soul to his activity, without seeing that his environment is perhaps not ready to evolve, or that the conditions are not met. But his deep conviction that he is on the right track prevents him from taking a step back and slowing down to readjust himself. Consequence: the stop is brutal.
Indeed, many sectors are on hold. Interesting… What happens during this imposed pause? Everyone is driven to refocus on the essential. For some, it’s in the family: it highlights the quality of the ties that unite, the precious moments spent together. Or conversely, it points to the artificial link, the compromise that is no longer bearable and that leads, for example, to a resurgence of divorces in China after confinement. For those confined alone, this pushes to refocus and makes live the experience of loneliness too. The fundamental trades are highlighted, the “bullshit jobs” also… What makes no sense is obvious. The consequence is not the least: to do “as we used to do” because “that’s how we always did” no longer works. The nonsense breaks out in the open: short-term political or business decisions, wage disparities between certain professions (one cannot of course compare the salary of a nurse and that of a footballer, but it gives us pause). All this feeds the sense of loss of meaning. But this loss of meaning -characteristic of burn out- is not irreversible. To get out of it, it is a question of regaining his room for manoeuvre (which we had never lost… except from sight), and thus his responsibility.
The most comfortable, and yet the least realistic, is to believe that “it’s not my fault, I can’t help it”. No, really? When a company, whether it sells in France or abroad, sources itself in China for example, it contributes to globalization and it does not contribute to the development of local networks. It is completely affected by the nature of the choices it has made. Each of us can see how we have contributed to the current situation, through the choices we have made, however small they may be. At our level, we have participated in a more general movement of the system, we have induced something. And the coronavirus is only one element that highlights our modes of operation.
The issue exists! It asks us to review what matters to us and how we operate. So, “stop or not?” What are we prepared to let go of our modes of functioning, of our mental models?
We need to reconnect to ourselves, to what we carry deeply.
Should we only rely on this world before to make the world after? There are at least two options for acting in a transformation situation:
- either we rely on what has been done to make it evolve, depending on what has worked or not,
- or we capture what needs to emerge, in the form of weak signals, to develop it.
The two are not incompatible, but the most common is the first option, because it is based on the known, which we already know how to do. Einstein said “you can’t solve a problem with the same way of thinking as the one who created it”. I will therefore tend to propose experimenting with the second option: relying on emergence.
It is interesting to keep in mind the work of Philippe Guillemant, quantum physicist, who, like other physicists before him, pointed out the impact we have on our future. According to him, the future already exists, in the present, in the state of probability. The probability of going to a future or another depends heavily on our thoughts and intentions. It’s a bit like there are superimposed futures and we can influence the likelihood of one or the other being achieved based on our choices and our actions. Beyond the theoretical aspect, there is therefore a very concrete aspect, that of our own action. For this future to take shape, it is essential that each one of us connect to what he carries deeply, to what makes sense to him.
This is an essential point in the refocusing that this pandemic is calling for: if we continue to deal with what is happening outside of ourselves (family, business, social networks) without paying attentionwithin us, then we pass by this opportunity for individual and therefore collective transformation.
As you read this article, take the time -if you haven’t already- to ask yourself what really matters to you, what feeds you, what gives you energy, what your natural talents are. What, deep down, do you want to contribute to? No matter how big the answers come to you, do not censor anything, because you are connected to you. If you now put this into perspective of the reality of your daily, professional, family, inner life, then you will be able to detect shifts, and choose whether or not to adjust to be more consistent with what you really care about.
The same question applies to the collective level. What do we see about what is emerging? Restaurateurs bring meals to caregivers by joining forces with local producers, companies reorganize their production to produce masks or hydroalcoholic gel, individuals organize to help our elders, professional coaches volunteer their support. In different forms, they are spontaneous, collaborative, help, connecting, support reactions. They carry the characteristics of the feminine share that we have in us.
As you will have understood, it is not a question of choosing our male share OR our female share, but of rebalancing the two. Let us rebalance within ourselves our shares of masculine and feminine, because the interior is seen in external behaviours and events. That is what empowers us to act. One example among many is the company FEMSO, an SME in the Toulouse region, which was in great difficulty because it was very dependent on its main customers in the aeronautics sector, themselves in a delicate situation. It now produces protective visors, allowing it to be useful and not to fail. Here is the feminine at work: creativity (to imagine a change of production and to design the visors), relationship and care to others (the visors protect from contamination while allowing action and communication), meaning, contribution to broader action (do good, protect). The masculine is also at work, in its organizational and structural aspects (to reorganize production, to manage working conditions safely), rules (so that the visors are approved).
The more these shares of ourselves co-exist individually and collectively, the more we direct our future towards what we desire. No one said it was easy, but as La Française des Jeux would say, “100% of the winners tried their luck”.
It is therefore a matter of moving ourselves, to our measure.
Events show that there is no point in planning because we are unpredictable. Our challenge is to accept uncertainty. Stop the all-out forecasts that keep us in a theoretical future instead of living the present, which is very concrete. Let us live in the present time and be attentive to what emerges within and around us.
To direct our future towards what we want, it is like a pendulum: what we send comes back to us. If today we brutally cut contracts and the quality of the relationship with our suppliers, then what could come back to us is the lack of assistance when it is needed. This is a systemic principle: what happens at the individual level also happens at the collective level, and vice versa. What we generate from our suppliers will probably appear to us in one way or another.
We are all interdependent because the world is a system. As a company or as an individual, believing that we can continue to act for our exclusive benefit is an illusion. You do not have to foresee the future, but to allow it,” said Saint-Exupéry. The future to which we want to go is being created now. Let us act to our measure, in consciousness and in coherence. Let us transform ourselves and our companies to transform the world!
Bénédicte Costedoat-Lamarque, Executive Coach of Organizations, Speaker and Author, Founder of BE CHANGE LIVE