It wasn’t until I had come out the other side of that burnout episode that I realised it was burnout that had happened. That realisation brought with it the reality check that I had experienced a number of burnouts already in my career and I committed to myself that this would be the last one. But it took me several months to work out how I would keep that commitment to myself, so powerful was my ingrained ‘others first – me last’ practice.

Women are at greater risk

As wāhine, we are at a particular risk for burnout due to the nature of our socialisation and its dominant focus on the role of nurturer. The fullest expression of that role is the maternal, one of the most powerful forms of love we know. Whether human babies are part of our personal journey or not, the nurturer is in the driving seat. How we express that will vary for each of us. For me personally, children haven’t been a part of my journey but from my childhood I have been a strong nurturer and my English Bull Terrier, Bodhi, felt the full force of this for the 13 years he was gifted to us.

The maternal role is the most authentic expression of ‘others first, me last’ and such is our socialisation that for women, our brains literally reward us when we are in this mode – regardless of the object of our expression – children, pets, team, colleagues, strangers. When we’re doing anything in the domain of helping or supporting our brains reward us through the release of a range of chemicals. We literally feel good by doing good.

As women leaders we have at our disposal a powerful driving force that comes from this socialisation, because leadership is about people. But for us to become great leaders we need to have a me first commitment...

Me first?

Even typing the words ‘me first’ feels like an act of paramount selfishness because they sound like the opposite of what I’m deeply driven to do – consider others first, always. However, in order for me to profoundly serve you (and that is my commitment to you as part of our epic mission), you need me to be able for that role. I am only able for that if I’m committed to ensuring that my energy – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual – is fit for purpose at all times.

This is what energy management is and this was the powerful understanding I came to several months after working my way out of that last burnout.

Being a hero

It was about this time that I also discovered the essence of the meaning of the word ‘hero’ – something which as been lost in modern uses. Core to the original meaning of the word ‘hero’ is strength for two. This meaning powerfully connects our drive for the good of others to my requirement to do what I takes, in order that I am powerful in that role.

The practice I started to do all those years ago that has been the most profound change for me and for my role, is to prioritise my energy. Speficially, I have built new habits relating to sleep, movement, hydration, nourishment and breathing because they are the fuel for my optimal energised mode.

5 Energy drivers for the win

My focus on the specifics of each of these five energy elements has had a huge impact that my previous habits in each of those areas had not prepared me for. The sublime unintented consequence of ensuring my energy is buoyant is that they also have a direct impact on my clarity of thinking, ability to focus, my confidence and my resilience.

The discipline I maintain daily in each area creates such a powerful positive feedback loop that it’s impossible to stop. This, coupled with observing how much better I am in almost every relationship – professional or personal – means it’s an absolute no-brainer to continue because when I get what I need, I win and we win. Being better to me, is better for you.

A powerful energy mantra

One of my energy mantras is ‘go as hard on your downtime as you do on your uptime’. I didn’t create this awesome saying and aroha mai that I can’t accurately attribute the quote at this point. My huge mihi goes to that person on an almost daily basis. As each day ends I recommit to the principal that my job is to refuel myself for what tomorrow needs – for what you need of me.

Your new start

So let the start of the new financial year FY24 forever be the time you adopted the practice of energy management. The year you set about building the daily and weekly practice of renewing your energy in service to the unique journey you are on. You can do this with the confidence that in doing so your whanau, communities and those you lead will have the optimal version of you alongside them making them direct beneficiaries, because when I rise, we all rise.

Now go be the absolute queen you are and go hard on some epic downtime however you like to do that. And as you do, know that our team are keeping that same commitment in service to you, so we can keep the promise we made to you ‘we’ve got your back’.

Here’s to an outstanding FY24 by committing to building the habits that ensure we can be our most buoyant selves.

Books I highly recommend for a deeper dive:

The Gendered Brain – Gina Rippon

Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker

Move your DNA – Katy Bowman

Atomic Habits – James Clear