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  Management Feature

Don't You Quit!

Posted 1/17/2006
Richard Flint

Before burnout happens, flameout occurs. "Flameout" is when the fire/desire for what you are doing is not burning as brightly as it once did. The good news is that you can avoid "flaming out" by taking a few simple steps.

Steve came up to me at the conclusion of my program, and I could tell by the look in his eyes that something was wrong. He stood there pondering how he was going to say what his emotions were struggling to understand. Finally, he took a deep breath and said, "I'm tired! Oh, I don't mean I'm physically tired. I'm the person you were describing. I'm mentally and emotionally worn out. Richard, I've been doing this job for 16 years. I'm not having fun anymore. Each day I get up, head to work and feel the anger creeping in before I even get there. I want out, but this work is all I know. What am I supposed to do?"

A week later, I finished another program, and Paula approached me. "You nailed me!" were her opening words. "I sat there today and felt as if you were taking my life apart right in front of my eyes. Richard, I'm so tired! I go to work each day, go home to my family, take care of them and the house and collapse each night knowing I have to get up and do it all over again. My life seems like one giant rat race. I don't know how much longer I can continue this. I really just want to stay home and take care of my family, but the financial strain makes that impossible. I don't know who I am, and if I did, I probably wouldn't like the person I met. There has got to be more to life than this rat race. Please tell me there is!"

Can you identify with either of these two people? Have you ever felt trapped in your own life? Have you ever had the urge to just chuck it all and run away? Have you ever looked at your life and felt it was going nowhere? Have you ever just sat and wondered where is all of this leading me? If you have, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Millions of people move through life with physical presence, yet have mentally and emotionally quit. They are present without a presence.

I believe this feeling of "lostness" has reached epidemic proportions in our country. Millions face it each day, but don't understand what, how, or why.

Truth: You don't just show up one day tired and worn out. Tiredness is the result of all of the yesterdays that were filled with mental and emotional drain you chose not to face.

What is happening is the process I call "flameout." Everywhere I turn I see the term "burnout." Reality is you can't burn out until you have flamed out.

Burnout is when the fire/desire for what you are doing is out. Nothing I can do - and nothing you can do can rebuild the passion necessary for rekindling the inner drive. You cannot experience growth; all you can do is show up each day and exist. You're mentally and emotionally gone. You are present without a presence!

Flameout is when the fire/desire for what you are doing is not gone; it is just not burning as brightly as it once did. The exciting part is that with the right understanding, you can rekindle the passion. In flameout, you are present, but your presence has been diminished.

Why do people quit? That question has been posed to me hundreds of times. In my research with those who were willing to face what was happening, here are the common reasons I heard.

Quietly, they just gave up: This doesn't just happen overnight. Quitting is a process that works its way through your mind and your emotions. There are three steps to quitting:

  • You stop mentally searching for a way.
  • You stop caring emotionally.
  • You pack your things and leave.

Most of the time, you don't talk to people about what is happening to you. They notice the change, but when you are asked you just shrug it off. Yet, inside, you are quietly giving up.

Underappreciated: I don't know how many times I have made the statement "The No. 1 thing humans want to know is that they matter." Most people go to work each day and exchange their talents for money. Very seldom does anyone approach their life and thank them for their effort. Forget me long enough, and I will soon believe my presence doesn't matter. Over a period of time, this will cause me to mentally and emotionally withdraw.

It's just not fun anymore! Where there isn't any fun, there is mental and emotional drain. When I stop having fun, my mind only sees the pain. Over a period of time, I will mentally and emotionally withdraw.

The emotional drain is overwhelming: When you can't see things changing, you go through emotional blindness. Your emotions can't find any hope to feed your mind. The result is the feeling of depression and being overwhelmed. It doesn't take long before you will mentally and emotionally withdraw.

What can you do to handle flameout? How do you get yourself back on track? You can turn this whole thing around if you understand the process.

First, Talk honestly with yourself. You can't solve anything by denying it is happening. Getting better, getting back on track begins with you facing your life honestly. Only then can your mind start the process.

Second, Refuse to accept or make excuses. Excuses give you permission to stay where you are. They become the justification you use for not being honest. When you deny yourself the excuse, you focus on what needs to be done to turn this around.

Third, Adjust your mental diet. The only definition to truth that your mind has is what you feed it. When your mental diet is all negative, your mind feeds your emotions negative information, which brings out your negative feelings. You must change your mental diet!

Fourth, Clarify your emotions. This is critical. You are more emotional than you are logical. Your emotions control so much of your sight. Don't deny the feelings you are having. Admit and face them. Only through doing this will your mind feel you are serious about getting through this.

Lastly, Keep responding with a controlled pace. The faster you move, the bigger the problem becomes. Slow down! Only then can you deal with flameout.

Editor's note: This article is one of several management articles that will be contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit

Since 1980, Richard Flint has been inspiring, motivating and challenging audiences with his research and insights into human behavior. A popular speaker at Automotive Service Association (ASA) events, Flint is more than a motivational speaker. His unique background in counseling, research and teaching allows him to get inside the emotions of people and travel to their imagination with insights and information that create a lasting library of personal development information. To learn more, visit

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