Jon Zieve on Burnout, Stress, Energy and Resilience Coaching
After 34 years working in leadership positions for the same software company, Jon burned out. Here’s his story of reconnecting to his vision, energy and passion.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with me, Jon! You’ve had some incredible life experiences that I want to learn more about. So, let’s get started!
First off, what was childhood like for you, what did you want to become when you “grew up,” and what did your parents do for a living?
I was aware what I didn’t want to become when I grew up, not what I wanted. My father worked for the same company for over 25 years as an executive. My Mom was an artist turned full-time mother to 3 boys.
I trusted and followed my father’s advice to get a business degree. After achieving a goal of a 4.0 semester after my sophomore year, I lost motivation. Without another goal in sight, I dreaded putting in the work it took to maintain my standard of perfection.
I felt burned out, knowing there was a better use of my energy but unsure what. So I dropped out. I didn’t want to disappoint my father but I felt bad about wasting his money if I wasn’t motivated.
I see clearly now how lack of support (not investing in relationships), not having more fun and being inflexible (revising my goals) caused my burn-out.
Being shy, it was easier for me to seek approval and achieve recognition from grades than investing in relationships.
Confused about how I felt, I moved in with my oldest brother thinking time off would give me time to “find” myself. I found inspiration all right, but not how I expected.
The only jobs I found were through a temp employment agency as a dishwasher in a hospital and as a cashier in a cafeteria. Working these jobs inspired me to return to school the next semester with a resolve to settle for burnout if necessary, to get a decent job.
I loved my psychology and philosophy classes more than business, but I didn’t allow myself to consider a change in majors. I see now how my curiosity in philosophy and psychology was to try and understand my fear of becoming like my father.
The sparkle in my father’s eyes left after he took an early retirement rather than relocate for his company. His body took a toll from the stress he internalized. I assumed his stress came with the territory of a corporate job. I knew I didn’t want this, but I didn’t know what to do about it, so I settled for the quickest route to a decent job.
Was there any Entrepreneurship in the family, and how did you get to be in leadership positions in sales, marketing, and customer service?
My father was a role model for hard work. He brought his work home with him and every night he worked a few hours while smoking a cigar in his recliner with the TV on in the background. Working hard is what I knew and just as it helped me get good grades in college, my work ethic led to several promotions.
What were some of the highlights of your career and any downside that led you to a more heart-based paradigm?
My highlights were overcoming self-doubt. With each promotion, I struggled to see and feel myself successful at the next level. I knew I needed to grow and expand but I didn’t see a clear path. Each time I found myself on the brink of failure before I got angry enough to believe in myself. It worked up until I disconnected from my heart.
The downside was hitting a physical, mental and emotional wall when my fear of becoming my father became a reality. With my identity and source of acceptance being my work, I didn’t invest in my relationships like I should have.
After I achieved my career goals (reaching VP level), I lost motivation just like in college. But this time, I didn’t act on it. I didn’t trust my energy by asking why I felt disconnected.
Fearing the consequences of leaving a good paying, secure job without knowing what else I wanted; I stayed in place, using my energy to hide my real feelings of discontent.
Numb to my real feelings; all I felt was anxiety and depression. I wasn’t aware that anxiety and depression comes from a disconnected heart.
The promotions stopped and not surprisingly, I was demoted several years later. Because I didn’t understand why at the time, I developed a victim attitude; angry, resentful and arrogant. Arrogant because I felt forced to be confident or I couldn’t do my job. Without listening to my feelings, I lost the guidance of my intuition and trust in myself.
My goal became to please others. Eventually, the spark in my eyes left and I followed in my father’s footsteps by taking an early retirement. I was back to asking myself the same question as in college, “What do I want?”
What was the ultimate shift, breakthrough, or trauma that led you to self-discovery, and who did you want to ultimately help besides yourself?
I set an intention to find my health and sought help from alternative therapies including life coaching. I read the book, “The Power of Intention” by Wayne Dyer and set an intention to live from and follow my heart. Not knowing at the time that by not living from my heart, my health was lost.
Walk us through, if you will, what types of spiritual practices or fields of interest did you start to explore, such as Energy Healing and Shamanism, and what did you eventually want to focus on?
I went to a holistic chiropractor who listened to my body in a way that I felt heard like never before. I learned my body doesn’t lie and can be trusted more than my mind. She told me about energy work and I was fascinated.
That started my study of energy medicine. I met with a down to earth intuitive who told me things about myself she had no way of knowing, validating my belief that intuition is our greatest gift. My fascination expanded to studying intuition and later, Shamanism.
By mid-2013 I knew I had to change. With help from a life coach, I saw myself coaching individuals and organizations about how to manage energy and listen to intuition to improve energy, health, performance and leadership.
The problem was timing. I knew what I wanted but I hadn’t learned what I needed to find my own energy, health and performance. I was aware of the HeartMath® system, but I didn’t study their research, tools or technology. I concluded I needed to invest in myself before I could serve others.
In October 2014 I left the corporate world to study life coaching and eventually I found HeartMath again, becoming a HeartMath® * Certified Coach.
Can you tell us a little bit about Heartmath, what is it, and who is it for?
HeartMath is a non-profit research and education organization that was founded in 1991. Their mission is to help people (individuals, organizations and the global community) bring their physical, mental and emotional systems into balanced alignment using tools for self-regulation.
They have researched and developed reliable, scientifically based tools that bridge the connection between the heart and the mind. This empowers people to greatly reduce stress, increase resilience and unlock their natural intuitive guidance for making better choices.
When did you discover resiliency, what is it?, and who is it for?
I didn’t discover resiliency until my HeartMath training. According to the HeartMath Institute, “Resilience is the capacity to prepare for, recover from and adapt to stress, challenge or adversity.
Resilience improves health and overall sense of wellbeing, enhances relationships by reducing the stress that results in miscommunication, and identify what blocks you from the effectiveness you want – mentally, emotionally and physically.”
HeartMath technology monitors coherence by measuring HRV (heart rate variability). Coherence is an optimal state in which the heart, mind and emotions are in sync and balanced.
Using HeartMath technology I learned how incoherent (stressed) I was.
Practicing HeartMath techniques taught me how to move from an incoherent state to a coherent state. I learned my nervous system was so used to stress that stress became my normal state.
The most important thing I learned from HeartMath: “is for people to learn to manage and be responsible for their own energies, in order to unfold the intuitive connection between their minds and hearts.
There is a natural bridge between mind and heart, yet a genuine commitment to manage and balance the emotional nature is required to manifest that connection.
Most of the density between the mind and heart connection is made of old, ingrained emotionally patterned responses, such as anger, anxiety, blame, jealousy, comparisons, selfish ambition, depression and more. “
People are forever trying to “tame” or balance their restrictive, energy-draining attitudes, but often it’s slow-going. That’s because they are trying to do it from the mind when it’s a job for the heart. When the mind realigns with the heart, then progress can be made quickly.” ~Doc Childre, founder of HeartMath, from Heart Based Living.
I believe everyone can benefit from being more resilient and living a heart centered life.
On your blog, you state: “We unconsciously give our energy away to others and take others’ energy, creating unhealthy energetic boundaries.” (I know I do this and it causes a lot of anxiety.) How can we retain our energy when we are in the presence of others without seeming aloof?
By identifying activities and attitudes that both deplete and renew our energy, we can change our unconscious patterns. By practicing with HeartMath tools and techniques, you can learn how to connect with others in a way that is both energy renewing and allows both parties to feel understood and accepted. It’s called the Coherent Communication™ Technique.
How do we move from resistance to stress resilience?
Practicing HeartMath techniques builds a reservoir of resilience which over time changes your baseline state at the physiological level. With practice we have the ability to reduce the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in our system and increase the amount of DHEA (vitality hormone).
Do you practice resilience coaching only in Austin, or can we work with you online and globally?
I work with most of my clients on the phone so there is no limitation to where they live.
What types of ailments would resilience help, and who is this practice ideally for?
Anyone who is disconnected from their heart. Symptoms include; fatigue, inflexibility, burnout, lack of motivation and clarity, anxiety, panic, anger, frustration, miscommunication, impatience, defensiveness, resentment, muscle tension, jaw clenching, worry, difficulty sleeping, immune system disorders.
On a personal level, how has coaching in a more heart-based method, improved your own life and relationships?
I’ve improved my self-awareness, resilience, intuition, relationships, self-compassion and trust in myself. It’s a process that continually evolves.
I know the feeling I felt in college to not internalize stress like my father, has always been my vision. My body tried to get my attention with anxiety, depression and tension. It finally made sense when I saw how incoherent my heart rate variability was using my Inner Balance™ Trainer, iOS device.
My aha moment was understanding you can’t discern your heart’s intelligence when you’re in an incoherent state. I had let my nervous system become unbalanced for too long and it became my normal state.
Before HeartMath, I didn’t know I had a resilience problem. I’ve noticed how dramatic the techniques can be on resilience and relationships. I see a difference with myself and my clients. I believe it’s improved my coaching effectiveness and opened more opportunities for my coaching practice.
What is your favorite book right now and why?
“Pain Free – A revolutionary method for stopping chronic pain” by Pete Egoscue. He explains how lack of movement in parts of the body causes imbalance and dysfunction to compensate.
It includes instruction on how to regain movement that we’ve lost with specific exercises. For me it’s the perfect complement for using HeartMath techniques and technology to improve physical strength and flexibility.
What are your goals for 2017?
Continue to improve and build up my resilience by practicing HeartMath techniques, investing in my relationships while balancing work and play.
My goals for my coaching practice are to expand to corporate environments (speaking and one-on-one coaching) to fulfill my vision in college.
I now know what I want; to be responsible for my energy and emotions, live a heart-centered life and help others find acceptance, peace of mind, empowerment, energy and passion by re-connecting to their heart.
What are some of your favorite quotes and why?
“The universe is always coherent if we take a great enough view. The reason things appear to be fragmented is that we are looking too low; we fail to raise our sights to the level at which the fragmentation is only a part of a greater whole.
As a result, we mistakenly see things as separate, as fragmented. Were he to speak to us today, he might say, “Raise your sights. Look at a higher level for the greater whole.” Dr. Beth Mach quoting David Bohm from her post Wholeness and Fragmentation.
I like this quote because it speaks to why goal setting works from a quantum physics perspective. I believe the bigger our goals, the less we let the road bumps we encounter along the way get in our way.
“By using your heart as your compass, you can see more clearly which direction to go to stop self-defeating behavior. If you take just one mental or emotional habit that really bothers or drains you and apply heart intelligence to it, you’ll see a noticeable difference in your life.” – Doc Childre, founder of HeartMath. This quote supports what I have found to be true.
“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford Commencement Address https://www.ted.com/talks/steve_jobs_how_to_live_before_you_die
I like this quote because it speaks to the importance of listening to our heart and not settling. If we aren’t following our heart, whose are we listening too? Without heart alignment, we don’t trust ourselves and others can’t trust us.
Thank you so much for this interview, Jon!
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