Burnout is a choice Craig Johns

Burnout Is A Choice

BURNOUT IS A CHOICE – Whose Responsibility Is IT?

Burnout is a choice. It is often misdiagnosed, usually by self. It’s become somewhat of a trend word that captures any feeling of tiredness, exhaustion or fatigue. In some cases it’s even used as a label to help people feel like they have a sense of belonging or take a day off work.

Evidence from the World Health organisation, Gallup, American Medical Association and many more reputable organisations have completed research that is showing there is a real issue with Burnout in our society. The numbers vary across research, however they are compelling enough that we do need to place a large microscope and our full attention on Burnout.

People need to realise that Burnout is totally avoidable if we take a proactive approach to life. It’s now time for employers to stop placing the responsibility on the employee and employees need to stop blaming the employer. Burnout is a choice and is totally preventable.

What is burnout? Photo Credit - Devin Avery (Unsplash)
Photo Credit – Devin Avery (Unsplash)

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It’s both an individual and a company issue, not one or the other.

“Have you ever over done it, in your life … for all the right reasons?”

Burnout is a choice. We decide whether to work longer hours, at a faster pace, not take a break, remain in a toxic environment or with a manager who micromanages us. People choose whether to stay in relationships, start a family, take on too many activities, train too hard when tired, watch too much Netflix or scroll on social media. It’s our choice to decide what we eat, how often we exercise, and whether to let our brain relax and allow our body to rest and recover. 

“If you haven’t come to the realisation yet, no human can do it all.”

Workplace burnout is often misdiagnosed when people might just be exhausted, tired or stressed. According to the World Health Organisation’s definition of Workplace Burnout, there are 3 dimensions required to for diagnosis:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  3. Reduced professional efficacy

There are many possible reasons why people can find themselves diagnosed with Workplace Burnout or a company creates an environment which leads to a higher percentage of people achieving Burnout. In every situation it comes down to choices.

Craig Johns Burnout Is A Choice - New Parent Working From Home

New Parent Working From Home

Two weeks ago I found myself living on 10% of what I am capable of.

Ten months of being a first time parent, disrupted sleep patterns and co-owning and leading a global start-up that has seen accelerated growth. Take into consideration working from home and working away from home, owning a home with the pressures of inflation on finances and more.

Struggling to focus and find the energy to do anything I had noticed myself becoming cynical, having negative thoughts, being highly critical and focusing on the obstacle rather than the opportunities. Now, I am not the only one in this type of situation.

I had been observing these changes happen throughout the year. Hoping that I would get through the tiredness, the brain fog and negativity. Sometimes even though we are aware of something, it doesn’t mean we always take action.

It took two of my closest friends and colleagues to ask the question, “how are you doing?”. The conversation that took place with both of them and recommendations they shared, gave me the realisation that I needed to take control and make a decision. Why, because Burnout is a choice.

Craig Johns Burnout Is A Choice Keynote Speaker

Making A Different Choice

This week I have made a choice. A choice to spend 5 days at a friend’s house in Melbourne to have long and uninterrupted sleep, relax, live a lot healthier, read a book and free my mind. It is definitely not enough to bring me back to 100%. What it will do is bring me back to operating at 60% or more which will get me through till Christmas where I will have extended time off to get back to 100% for 2024.

Having a high achievement mindset, very large drive and the determination to take something to the next level, you sometimes push the boundaries too far. The problem with fatigue is that it’s really very hard to detect over a period of time.

As an athlete you have a strong trigger to let you know when you have got rest and recovery wrong. You aren’t as fast, strength reduces, you react slower and make mistakes. It’s mainly physical and you notice it.

In the corporate world, unless you have a physical job or you face a catastrophic event, it’s a mental fatigue. Your mental fatigue reduces so slowly that your body daps to it and you don’t know what’s happening until too late. Your body thrives on small doses of stress and until you remove it, your body thinks everything is ok. Have you ever fallen sick when you go on holiday?

“I have learnt the hard way … energy is like money … if you keep spending it rather than investing … you will end up with an out of control debt! … How are you investing your energy!”

Energy Management Craig Johns Burnout Is A Choice

Proactive Energy Management Prevents Burnout

We must proactively plan and manage our energy and stress over time, to enhance the performance and productivity of ourselves, our company, and our relationships. It starts with learning how to schedule, focus and invest in your energy.

  1. Schedule Your Energy – Schedule your recovery and energy before meetings to ensure you have sustainable energy and performance. Plan your day, week, month, year and career with a 3:1 work to recovery ratio. Schedule only 20% of your work time in meetings. 
  2. Focus Your Energy – Determine what are your priorities every day, ensure you are grounded and present, and decide where you focus your and other people’s attention
  3. Invest In Your Energy – Create boundaries, remove contamination, develop routines and remove 3 things every time you add something new into your day or life. 

It’s Everyone’s Responsibility

Burnout is a choice. Both for the individual but also the company. It is the responsibility of both to be proactive in preventing burnout from occurring. As a company how can you schedule, focus and invest in the energy of your employees? As an individual what choices will you make to avoid burnout in your life? Burnout is a choice. Schedule, focus and invest in your energy.

Craig Johns High Performance Leadership Expert

Craig is a 10x National Champion, International coach and CEO turned high performance leadership expert, international speaker and and Inspiring Great Leaders Podcast host.

He is the CEO & Managing Partner of Speakers Institute Corporate, a high performance leadership expert, and a leadership, high performance and workplace culture keynote speaker.

Learn more about how Craig is working with a diverse team of exceptional human beings to inspire great leaders at www.speakersinstitutecorporate.com.

Book Craig as a Keynote Speaker and learn how to become a high performing leader by going to www.craigjohns.com.au for more on the Gravity of Leadership, LIONSHEART Mindset, Break The CEO Code and Atomic Pressure.

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How Heavy is the Weight of the World on Your Shoulders? Gravity of leadership Craig Johns

How Heavy is the Weight of the World on Your Shoulders?

How Heavy is the Weight of the World on Your Shoulders?

How Heavy is the Weight of the World on Your Shoulders?

By Craig Johns

Have you ever felt the weight of the world on your shoulders so heavy it has flattened you? You feel paralysed by the burden, exhausted by the piling up of tasks and overwhelmed by the excess pressure of responsibility. 

It is as though the energy is being sucked out of you and your feet are being swept out from underneath you. 

Why is it that leaders feel they need to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders? 

Is it the overwhelming pressure to perform because one has great responsibilities? Maybe it’s a fixation on problems because of actions that have occurred in the past or worry about what might happen in the future? Could it be that the leaders own internal expectations or the external expectations of stakeholders are unrealistic and combined are too much to handle? Or is it because of a fear of failing, fear of being found out, fear of letting the team/company down or even the fear of disappointing someone?


One of the three aspects of understanding your Gravity of Leadership is the heaviness of the weight of responsibility you carry. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of “carry the weight of the world on one’s shoulders” is to feel much pressure because one has great responsibilities. Therefore the weight of the world on your shoulders could be any one of a number of the possibilities noted above. 

Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, can overwhelm even the most experienced leaders. As Uncle Ben famously articulated in the 2002 movie, Amazing Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility”. 

The phrase “having the weight of the world on your shoulders” has its origin from Greek Mythology in which Zeus, the king of all gods in the Olympus, made Atlas carry the heavens to separate it from earth where a group of people called the Titans were fighting the Olympians in order to put a stop the clashes.

Taking on a leadership role is like a parent watching a baby. You can’t take your eye off them, you are sensitive to every sound they make, you are consumed by everything in that baby’s life and it’s like nothing else in the world matters. In many ways you have no choice as the baby can die if you’re not attending to it. It is the same as leading a company, coaching a team or guiding a community, if you take your finger off the pulse it might stop. The question is how much pressure does your finger need to apply to the pulse?

After observing both parents and leaders during my lifetime, there are three commonalities which result in the weight of the world on your shoulders, becoming ineffective and at times quite detrimental to your performance. 



When you see a parent with their first born child they tend to focus their entire attention on the child, protect them from hurting themselves, try and do everything perfectly, be there every step of the way, caught up in what they or you have just done, am I doing the right thing, fast-track their growth and how it will affect them in the future, and worry about protecting them from every small possibility that could happen in the future. 

Does this sound familiar to you? It’s called Control. You are likely to have seen this with first time leaders and even leaders when they start out in a new role or with a new team. This level of control will eventually restrict you, inhibit growth and become overbearing for the team members.  

Ben Horowitz, author of what you do is who you are and the hard things about the hard things, once said, “As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby… I woke up every two hours and cried.” Have you been in a leadership role when every aspect of the company or team you are leading consumes your mind 24/7 and begins to weigh you down or hold you back from being at your best?

As people mature into a leadership role or have experienced a few different leadership roles, we tend to see a shift in how they lead and what consumes their mind. They start to relinquish control and they notice their company or team starts to perform better. The high performing leaders understand what is important, where to focus their attention and what they can let go of. 

As a leader you must treat your company or team like it’s your third baby, not your first. Have you noticed by the time a parent has their third baby they are less controlling, are more relaxed, allow the baby to explore and learn at their own pace, spend less time worrying, focus only on what is really important and are better able to spread their time across more aspects of their life. 

Great leaders empower rather than control, manage their own and teams energy wisely, remove unnecessary expectations and focus their attention in areas that make a difference. 

RESPONSIBILITY - LEAD LIKE A MONK Gravity of Leadership Craig Johns


When you see or hear of a monk, what is the picture that forms in your mind? For me it is a calm, caring, unhurried, centered and under control person who works with others for the collective good of people. They use their energy, expectations and emotions wisely through shared responsibility and collaboration. 

Compare this to a poor leader who seems hurried, stressed, self-centered, over-controlling who is only focused on numbers, output and how they look. It is as if they intentionally try to make their life, and those they lead, harder. Any mistake or question becomes a burden and adds weight to their responsibility. 

Effective leadership is not just about taking responsibility, it’s more about how we carry and distribute it. 

Monks have a very clever way of sharing the responsibility load so that not one person carries all the weight of expectations, duties and requirements. They view responsibility as an act of service. Service to the community. They view their responsibilities as serious, rather than burdensome. 

As a leader, view responsibility in a servant leadership lens. Remove the burden of unnecessary responsibilities, requirements and expectations. Allow each person to assume a level of responsibility that serves them, serves the team and if working in a company serves the client. Shift your attention to how can we together carry the weight of responsibility of the entire team, company or community? 

FAILURE - ITS NOT ABOUT ADDING MORE WEIGHT Gravity of Leadership Craig Johns


If you have ever been to a gym or you have watched weightlifting on TV you will know what happens when you add too much weight to a squat bar, dumbbell or exercise machine. At some point you fail to lift the weight, something breaks or it comes crashing down on you. 

Adding more tasks, expectations or level of responsibilities at some point will lead to Failure as a leader. Maybe you get sick, you react negatively or spread yourself too thin. 

When it comes to carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, you have control over how heavy the weight is. There is never a time where there is no weight and like going to the gym you always need some weight to grow and perform better. You have full control over the expectations you set on yourself, how many tasks you take on, how you manage your energy and where you focus your attention. 

Yes, the external expectations of stakeholders can weigh you down, however you can still control how to manage that expectation internally. How can you reframe the expectation to ensure it doesn’t become burdensome?

Its your responsibility Gravity of Leadership Craig Johns


Controlling the controllables is important, but it is even more important to know how much control and where to relinquish control so the team or company can thrive. Focus on what aspects are important to have your finger on the pulse and where to let go, just like a parent does each time they have another baby.

It’s your responsibility to share the responsibility among the team as you will not be able to hold the weight of the world on your shoulder if you allow it to get too heavy. How can you lead like a monk and focus on collective responsibility without burden?

Be present and attentive to how much weight you have applied and when it’s a good idea to remove the weight or move it to someone else’s shoulders in your team or company. 

Jim Maxwell famously said, “everything rises and falls on leadership”. As a leader it is important that you manage the energy, expectations and emotions to ensure the whole team rises rather than falls with the weight of responsibility.

I will leave you with the challenge to lighten the weight of the world on your shoulders. What will be the first thing you take off?

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