Red Wings, Whitethroats and purpose

When the male Red-Winged Blackbirds first arrive in spring they are relatively relaxed, and even gregarious at times.  But when the females arrive a couple weeks later suddenly the males are aggressive and their KonKaRee call becomes raucous.  You can tell when the ladies are back in town just by observing the change in behavior of the guys.

When the White Throated Sparrows come through in the spring they sing “Old Sam Peabody” with pure tone and precise pitch.  In the fall when they come back through they sing the same song, but the pitch is all over the place, and they put no effort into it.  The song that’s so beautiful in the spring is hilarious in the fall.

What makes the difference?  Purpose.  The analogy may be obvious but I will state it anyway, birds and people are alike in this regard.  A clear task spells out exactly what to do.  A clear goal gives direction.  A clear purpose bolsters tasks and goals to the Why power.  Purpose shows why to do that task and why to take that direction.  When people have a clear task with a clear purpose towards a clear goal they sing a different tune.

“Purpose is what gives life a meaning.” Charles H. Perkhurst

Image: Vail Daily, Preston Utley / AP Photo

Burnt out? Check your pilot light.

Exhausted? Unable to concentrate? Struggling to get motivated? These are classic signs of burnout. The vision is that of an engine that has been running too fast too long and finally goes up in smoke, leaving the car to sputter to the side of the road. But a better image may be of a pilot light that has flickered out. If you’re feeling burnt out the problem may not be that you’re having to put too much into what you do, but rather that you’re not getting enough out of it.

For several years I was on a committee at work that was very active and productive. It was not part of my regular job, so it had a volunteer nature to it. It required extra time and energy on my part. After the committee ended I noticed something unexpected. I felt burnt out. Why, I wondered, would I feel burnt out now when I have more time available and not back when I was in the thick of it with that committee?

It was because I was getting more out of being on that committee than I was putting into it. It allowed me to act upon values that are important to me. It challenged my ways of thinking. I learned about myself, and about how people relate in a corporate environment. It was hard work but I grew from it.

If you’re feeling burnt out, take a break, at least for a moment. Don’t just take a break to rest and let the ashes cool. But take a break to check your pilot light. Take time to simply be and to think. Who am I? What am I doing and why am I doing it? How does what I’m doing fit with who I am? Is it in alignment with who I am, does it express who I am? In doing what I am doing am I enriched by it? Am I growing?

Is there something I am doing that I should stop doing, because it demands much of me but doesn’t really fit with who I am? Is there something I am doing, perhaps something I have to do, that I just need to better understand why I am doing it? And here is a really odd question to be asking yourself in a time of burnout, is there something I am not doing that I should be doing, something rewarding and enriching that would keep my pilot light going?

Keep a light on!

“Stress is not the enemy. A lack of refueling and renewing and recovery against the stress you face every day at work is really what depletes your resources & causes you to lose your productivity, to lose your momentum, to lose your motivation, to lose your energy.” Robin Sharma

Image: Suvro Datta /