Bernie Borges [00:00:00]:
Doctor Richard Mitchell, thank you so much for joining me for a BF to AF episode on the Midlife Fulfill podcast.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:00:07]:
It’s great to be here. Thank you very much, Bernie.
Bernie Borges [00:00:10]:
Fantastic. Well, I’m gonna go with Rich, from here forward with your permission.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:00:15]:
Bernie Borges [00:00:15]:
And I’m just gonna give, the listener a little bit of a bio on you. You’ve got a really fascinating, career history. You’ve been in your career for, let’s call it, 30 years. You’ve done a variety of things. You were an officer in the US army. Thank you for your service. You were a bicycle tour director with Cycle America. You were a teacher and a school administrator.
Bernie Borges [00:00:37]:
I mean, that’s a lot of variety. And more recently in your career, you’ve become a professional life coach serving high achieving professionals who Found themselves burned out and unfulfilled. Mhmm. Imagine that. You’re also a fellow with the National Writing Project, And you have 2 advanced degrees, including a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. So, Rich, What I wanna discuss today with you is how burnout has impacted your life and and how you’re kinda dealing with it on your own path to fulfillment. So where would you like to start?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:01:15]:
Absolutely. So, I mean, I think when when we When we’re talking about my burnout, one of the things that I I really am working toward is that new sense of fulfill fulfillment. And, the the burnout comes from a place of lack of fulfillment. And when I when I reflected on things and especially in preparation to you know, for talking to you. I realized that I’m I’m really good at finding fulfillment in my life. I’ve done, very well with that through throughout my life, And that’s why I have several different careers because when you when you’re good at finding fulfillment, you’re also good at changing careers in order to do so. So, you know, when when when I look at my, you know, my past, especially from the army to the bicycle tours, for instance, I went from being, you know, being an officer in the army to then wanting to travel and wanting to do the things that I could do as a, you know, as a 26 year old guy with really no responsibilities, and so I went and found my fulfillment, as a bicycle tour director. So my point is is that when you look at The the level of fulfillment that I have been able to find throughout my life, I really am trying to help other people find that.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:02:27]:
And and a lot of times, the people that I work with are in a position where they find themselves burned out, and a Huge cause of burnout is that lack of purpose, that lack of identity, the lack of fulfillment in in professional life, and that’s what I help people with.
Bernie Borges [00:02:43]:
And and where did you actually experience burnout yourself?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:02:47]:
Well, this I I I experienced it in my latest in my last, position as a school administrator in education in a public school.
Bernie Borges [00:02:55]:
Can you elaborate on that? I mean, what what what was it about that? I mean, I can only imagine. It’s gotta be a very demanding job. Maybe you can elaborate a little bit on, like, what what were you experiencing that when you realized that you were actually experiencing burnout?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:03:09]:
Sure. So I one of the things with burnout is that it’s very difficult to realize it when it’s happening. I’ve only figured this out as a result of reflecting On on what happened. So in my like, as I went through, you know, from directly before COVID until, you know, until May or June, I went from, you know, having a having a good a good profession. It was a career, something I dedicated my life to, something I, you know, I definitely didn’t see Changing at all, at that point. And when I when it kind of as things started to turn with COVID, I, you know, I end up got I got divorced. There were a lot of other things that were going on in my life, and I was really having a difficult time concentrating on those things. I concentrated on work with everything else that was happening in my life.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:03:57]:
To to that point I mean, eventually, the work Became I I I started resenting the work because work was preventing me from being with my kids. So not only like, I I also figured out that, like, that work really my career really impacted my marriage to the point that we got divorced. But then I was also realizing that my career was keeping me from being with my kids because I had to be at school early, and, And so so that was a big part of, like, the the family side outside of work, but then in work, I really I was disengaged. The the big a big turning point that I’ve figured out is that I was told my my supervisor asked me to add something into my goals sheet About becoming a a principal, becoming a school leader, becoming a, you know, a superintendent, something to advance myself. And I said I I’m not interested in that. And that was a really it was a profound moment when I look back on it to say to my boss that I wasn’t interested in a promotion when my entire career had been one Where that was what I, you know, what I was working toward was more promotions and and, you know, higher being being a a high achieving professional That wanted to achieve more. And so once I figured out that I wasn’t interested in that anymore, then I started realizing how engaged I was. I wasn’t learning about my profession anymore.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:05:30]:
I was avoiding people. I was distracted. There’s all kinds of different things that were going on. And when it it it landed on being like, not not being fulfilled anymore.
Bernie Borges [00:05:41]:
There’s something you achieved, Rich, doctor Mitchell, you can see where I’m going with this
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:05:47]:
Bernie Borges [00:05:47]:
That I wanna I wanna actually discuss with you. Because, you know, when I was in my twenties, I got this momentary inspiration to pursue the path of getting a doctorate degree. Well, long story short, I didn’t. I got on the hamster wheel of of life and work and everything, and and I didn’t. And I looked back, and it was just a lot of excuses. So what was your motivation to get a doctorate, and how did you do it in the midst of everything? Right? I mean, everything in your life. What was your motivation, and how did you do it?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:06:21]:
Sure. So my I I I wanted to get my doctorate because A cup it was kind of the the next thing that you do. What was interesting to me was that when I first went back to to school In 2002 to become a teacher. I I hadn’t studied education at all and, you know, so I had to go back and basically get a 2nd bachelor’s degree In in in education. And my mentor, who I I’m I’m gonna meet with her in a couple weeks, she in one of my first classes with her, she said, you should go get your doctorate. And I was kinda like, okay. And and she I knew that she had gotten her doctorate from Penn, and she alluded to you know, she said you should go to Penn and get your doctorate. And I just kinda laughed it off.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:07:03]:
Like, that’s insane. I there’s no way. I can barely, you know, keep up with this, you know, 2nd bachelor’s degree. And then, you know, it but it always stuck in my mind because if someone like that who you admire and trust tells you to do that, You do it. Right? Mhmm. And then throughout my career, I I had other people say that, you know, I should go get my doctorate, and it always kinda stuck with me. So, eventually, I started back in, I think, in 2 yeah. In 2012.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:07:28]:
I applied or no. I I I took a class at Penn As a nondegree student. So I I kinda had to weasel my way in because I wanted I had to be a part time student at that point. I was married. I had a I had a young, young girl who was my daughter was 2 at the time, and so that was sort of the capstone element of me going into, the doctoral program. And I knew it was gonna be a long haul, and I had we had you know, my ex wife and I had a particular reason why we were doing it in the way that we were, which was Because I was teaching, because she was no longer working out of the house, you know, and earning money, she was she was working in the house with with our our Our daughter, the idea was to use that. Instead of saving for college because we really couldn’t, I was gonna get a professorship somewhere And sort of gently guide my daughter toward that that school. So and as we went through, like, that was the driving force.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:08:25]:
So There was never a moment where I I certainly was burnout. Certainly, you know, when when I in hindsight, it probably I wouldn’t say I shouldn’t have done it, but it definitely was it pushed me to my limits, Especially
Bernie Borges [00:08:35]:
And how long did it take you?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:08:37]:
Bernie Borges [00:08:38]:
6 years. Okay. That that’s a long time. So I have to ask you then, when you completed I mean, that was a big milestone. When you completed it after a lot of Any other emotions besides, you know, the f word of fulfillment?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:08:56]:
There there are a lot of f words, to be honest. It was it was so difficult, and the It’s unfortunate because no. It’s not unfortunate. It was a very, very difficult finish. The dissertation process, the writing, and the and the The going back and forth was was just brutal, and, and I still, to this day, like, I really don’t like It’s a I I I have a hard time getting myself to sit down and write, and I don’t let I don’t necessarily like to read. Like, I was a voracious reader, and I just don’t I’m not. It’s really hard to get myself to sit down and read as well, but so my point is is that the the effort that it took when when when I finished, It was such an effort that there really wasn’t that fulfillment. It was it was like, nice job, you know, pat on the back, but it was such a long end.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:09:43]:
It was that That I really I didn’t get to and really enjoy it, which is unfortunate. You know?
Bernie Borges [00:09:50]:
You know, I’ll I’ll tell you a quick story. I finished my bachelor’s degree at night. Mhmm. And I did it going 5 years all year long, So there were no breaks. There was just a break between the end of the summer summer session and the fall. There was a weekend break, and that’s it. And I have to tell you, the sense of fulfillment when I it was just the bastards. Just the bastards.
Bernie Borges [00:10:16]:
But the sense of fulfillment for me was great because I had so many doubters, including my own parents. Oh, you’re gonna get discouraged. My friends who were would tease me and say, come on. Let’s go out drinking after work. You know? Sorry. I’ve gotta go to class. We’re sorry. I’ve gotta go home and do homework.
Bernie Borges [00:10:32]:
So that was a sense of fulfillment for for me, and I’ve gotta believe that, you know, you had some similar sense of fulfillment. Talk to me a little bit about, you know, after you completed that, what what were you experiencing in your career? Because you’ve had So many different roles and responsibilities. After you completed your doctorate, Rich, what what was next in your career?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:10:54]:
Sure. And and I I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or or like it wasn’t fulfilled. I just what I’m saying is that there was a sense of It was such a such a long process process that it felt more draining, than than than anything.
Bernie Borges [00:11:10]:
I I it was draining for me too. I I but I also felt this sense of fulfillment and also relief as well. Like, thank goodness that’s over. Yes.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:11:18]:
The the relief was huge. The relief was huge. So when at that point in my life, I was also in a very, very difficult job as an assistant principal in a different School district. And that that job required me to be at work 14 to 16 hours a day plus 10 about, you know, On on weekends, sometimes 10 hours per day on the weekends. So it was a lot, and and a lot of that had to do with me Working on my dissertation while I was at work, and I had a you know, I’d have an hour here and an hour there, whereas it wasn’t worth going home. But, yeah, there was there was that. I mean, in in the doctoral process, I my my daughter was 2 when we started. The goal was to finish by the time she was 8, which I did, because I didn’t wanna miss, like, her, you know, her events and school stuff.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:12:06]:
But in in that in the meantime, I we also had 2 other Children, you know, during my doctoral pros or during that whole process. So there and just like being just life. You know? I I was in, like, my early forties, and Life is, you know, in your early forties when you’re getting a degree that you that’s it’s not peripheral, but it’s not completely necessary. You know, it was it was just a lot. So, yes, there was a lot going on both personally and professionally at that time in my life.
Bernie Borges [00:12:33]:
You said something earlier in the conversation I wanna come back because I I wanna pick it up here at this point in the conversation. You said that something to the effect of I’m gonna paraphrase here, Rich. Mhmm. Something to the effect of when you’re going through burnout, you either don’t know it or you may not know it. Mhmm. So Elaborate on that because at what point did you know you were experiencing burnout, and and what did you wanna do about it?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:13:00]:
So the the point where I knew I was experience experiencing burnout was about a month after I was asked to leave my profession. It really is. It’s something that I didn’t really understand, until it was too late. And it’s unfortunate Because it it was an it’s an unfortunate way that it ended in terms of my, you know, my educational career, but the when I look back on it, That’s where I started realizing the the disengagement, the the distraction, the the lack of Wanting to do really anything that that had to do with learning about my profession. You know, as you can see, like, through my my education And my you know, the degrees I got, like, my whole career, I was learning more about my career, and I I just stopped doing that. So When I knew that there was other things that were gonna fulfill me, and the life coaching was 1. I had started my coaching business, about 2 years prior. I just wasn’t doing it full time.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:13:57]:
So I had that in play. That was the goal was to to get to that this time next Sure. I would be I would be doing it full time as opposed to this year. So it wasn’t like I just leaped out and and went into something completely new. I had guided myself toward it, and I knew that that was gonna be fulfilling, and I and it is fulfilling. I’m I’m able to talk to people, help them into Help them see that they’re being help them see that they’re in burnout. Help them see that they’re not fulfilled, but most importantly, that they can find that fulfillment that they once had In their jobs or in their professional careers or in their personal lives that they they might not be experiencing now.
Bernie Borges [00:14:36]:
So Rich, I’m gonna ask you to respond to something and I’m I’m inviting you to disagree with me. If you disagree with me or, You know, refute my claim because full disclosure, it isn’t based on any kind of scientific research. It’s based on my my own instincts, life experiences, and that is, and maybe you’ve heard me say this on other episodes, that I believe that there’s 5 pillars to our midlife seasons, and I call them seasons. Right? And those 5 pillars are health, fitness, career, relationships, and legacy.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:15:10]:
Bernie Borges [00:15:10]:
And because simple math, 4 out of 5 is 80%. If if you’re fortunate To be fulfilled in 4 out of those 5 pillars, then you’re 80% fulfilled. And what I say at the end of every episode is If you’re 80% fulfilled, you’re doing great because Mhmm. It’s pretty hard to be fulfilled, totally fulfilled in all of those areas. So how do you respond to that?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:15:35]:
I I I agree with you, and I I I love what you talk about and and having those having those pillars and those things to look at as guidelines. I I absolutely agree with you. What I would say is that there’s also a a the fact of 1 not not the fact, but the The idea that one thing is going to it can draw you down. You know? So if your if your health and wellness are really are really good, But your, your personal your career isn’t isn’t doing very well. The career can drag down the health and and and fitness aspect, if that makes sense. The other part, you know, I think I think legacy as I as I hear you, legacy kind of impacts All of those things. And when I when I think about my legacy, one of the things I I like to talk about in terms of of why in in terms of helping people See that they can pivot, that they can find fulfillment at this point in their lives, whether they’re you know, I’m 50 years old, whether they’re 50 or 60 or wherever, Is that the the legacy is really important. And when I when I think about what I’ve accomplished and gone into as a as a as a as a life coach, I wanna make sure that my kids see that it’s okay for me to pivot and to to leave behind something that I worked really hard for if it’s no longer working for me.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:16:58]:
So my legacy is really hopefully teaching them that they can pivot as well, and then they’re never handcuffed. They’re they don’t have the golden handcuffs, if you will, of of a job that that pays really well and has benefits, but you’re just miserable, but you gotta stay in it because, you know, you’ve done that this whole you know, the whole time. So, Yes. I I absolutely I I love the I love those 5 pillars, and I think they work really well and and hand in hand with each other. I think there’s also that feeling of, You know, if you’re if you don’t put numbers on it and you just realize, like, you’re so low in one of those that you need to make a change to find fulfillment in everything, then Then that’s what you do.
Bernie Borges [00:17:37]:
Yeah. Well, thank you for that. Thank you for your, your input, your honest feedback on that. I love what you said about it’s okay to pivot. I think that’s a powerful thing that a lot of people struggle with. A lot of people Have either guilt or just some kind of, emotional restraint that they’ve either put on themselves or it’s been put put on them by others where they resist that that either that urge to pivot or the action to pivot. So elaborate on that. I mean, you’ve done it.
Bernie Borges [00:18:11]:
You you say that part of your legacy, a big part of your legacy is to show your kids and others that it’s okay to pivot. How do you discuss that with people?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:18:21]:
I I think the the first thing that comes up is that there it’s possible. There are so many cases in in the world where it’s you people it’s like they don’t even realize that it’s that is something that they could think about. I even even teachers that are leaving education, they they don’t think that there’s anything else that they can do. It’s like I, you know, I don’t know anything else, so, therefore, I can’t do anything else. And, you know, you hear people talk about, well, I only have 5 or 6 years left, and that that that’s a life sentence to me. That that just sounds So overbearing to, you know, to me, and and it does to the people that are saying it, but they don’t really realize that there is there are ways to do it. So number 1 is that you they someone has to be aware or be made aware that these are these are things that are possible. Right? This isn’t just, like, You know, novels that that have are, you know, fictional novels that that people go out and find the thing that they love and everything’s, you know, great.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:19:18]:
It’s it takes a lot of work, but that first thing is awareness that it’s even possible. Then the next thing is really looking at, okay. Well, What is it that’s possible? What is it that I can that I can really do? It might be that, you know, you you ride things out for another 2 years if you’re that close So that you can then move into something that you know, more gradually to to ensure that you find something that’s that’s that’s right for you.
Bernie Borges [00:19:42]:
Do you find that people who are thinking about a legacy and and I’ve I’ve I’ve kinda come up with the word impact to be synonymous with Legacy. Right? What what’s the impact you wanna have on, and then fill in the blank, your family, your community, the world. Right? Whatever whatever you wanna impact, and it’s unique to each of us. Do you do you find that that’s the motivator that can really, inspire someone, motivate someone, You know, be the the the the reason that they actually go forward with a pivot? Mhmm.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:20:15]:
I I I I certainly think that’s that’s one of the questions. I mean, it’s it’s certainly one of the questions I ask, when I think a lot of times, people don’t really realize the logistics. They’re so worried about the the logistics of it that they’re not necessarily concerned about, like, what what the impact’s gonna be. And so because The especially in midlife. Like, the the the the the the logistics of making a pivot are vast, because you might have kid you know, I have I have 3 young kids, 13, 8, and 6, so this is not that you know, I I didn’t do this willy nilly. Like, this is something that was calculated. Wasn’t calculated as best as, like you know, as as it as it turns out, but I at least had something like a pretty good solid foundation in play. So just that logistics piece, you getting through that, and then you realize, okay.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:21:05]:
What is it that I want? You know? What is it that I want to Do with my time now that I’m no longer interested in this other thing. And for me, you know, a lot of times people would ask me, like, do you feel do you miss the classroom? As a teacher, do you miss the classroom? I never and it never once since I left the classroom missed the classroom. I I did that, and I was done with it. I loved it. Well, I left, you know, I I left in a good position where, you know, I was really still in still enjoying it, but I loved my new job so much that it it paled in comparison. And I was able to have impact on the the student the new students that I was meeting and and working with, and that was my impact. Then it was like, okay. This is my impact now, and this is what I love.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:21:50]:
Right. And once I figured out that I wasn’t having that impact anymore, then I start thinking about, okay. Well, how am I impacting now? And the way I see myself impacting now is helping a high achieving professional that has that’s losing their relationship with their their kids, their families, You know? And they’re they’re, you know, real like, what I’m able to do is help them live their lives you know, live the best life, But also help them with their kids. You know? That’s how I’m impacting kids still is that I’m I’m impacting them on a deeper level through their
Bernie Borges [00:22:20]:
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:22:20]:
Bernie Borges [00:22:22]:
I like your point about how you loved your teaching job when you were in it, and now you love what you’re doing so much that it pales in comparison.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:22:31]:
Bernie Borges [00:22:31]:
So to be kinda trite using old cliche, you just turn the page. Right? Mhmm. And you close that chapter, That chapter’s in the past, and you’re on to the present, and you’re focused on the present. I wanna ask you in your present Career helping other people who are going through burnout. Are there any common themes, any common sort of circumstances that you see? I I know everybody is unique, but are there some commonalities that you deal with?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:23:01]:
Sure. I I think 2 of them are Self confidence and imposter syndrome. And in my coaching, I’ve figured out that whatever the problems are that someone’s having, 99 time times out of a100, it it comes down to their their self confidence or lack lack of self confidence. So and it it it Shines a light on on a career pivot or or pivot or burnout because if you don’t have the self confidence to to, number 1, say that you’re burnout Number 1, say that you wanna look into something different, but you’re looking into something different. You need a heck of a lot of self confidence in order to then actually move forward with that. And there’s a lot of imposter syndrome that comes with that because, you know, as a if I was to if I was just to leave education Altogether and go into, like, medical device sales. I wouldn’t that that imposter syndrome wouldn’t even be a problem because it’s so Like, I would be completely an imposter. But as a life coach, there there are elements there are times when I suffer from imposter syndrome Because it’s like, well, I I’ve only done this for 2 years, and how is how can I really help someone? And I have to remember that I’ve done this for 2 years, but I have 30 years of coaching experience to my credit.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:24:14]:
So I, you know, I’ve turned the page on those things, but I’ve written those chapters, And that’s where I draw from in order to, you know, be the life coach that I am. So I got my certification. That was a big part of it. I I went to I went and got my certification, And I studied for that and did all the work for that, but I also have 30 years of experience that I’ve written myself that I bring in to bring to the table. It’s just a matter of remembering that. So self confidence, for sure, is is the number one thing that I coach people on. It just doesn’t it doesn’t always sound like it, but when it all boils down to it, if you’re procrastinating against something, it’s because self confidence. You don’t wanna, you know, you don’t wanna try the thing that you’re You’re what you’re procrastinating against.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:24:55]:
If you feel stuck in your life, it’s because of self confidence that you’re, you know, you’re not gonna do well at whatever it is that you’re trying to do.
Bernie Borges [00:25:01]:
Yeah. That makes sense. That makes sense. So, Rich, we’ve covered a lot of ground in just under 30 minutes, so I’m gonna ask you for kind of a closing thought as you just, You know, reflect on the conversation, reflect on think about how you’ve covered decades of your own life and and now the impact that you’re having through your life coaching business, which as you point out, you spent decades preparing for. Mhmm. So what would you what would you say is a closing thought on this conversation?
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:25:29]:
I think for for me, the most important thing is that someone listen to what their mind and body is telling them. Burnout happens in so many different ways and so many different there’s so many different stories of burnout. People have People land themselves in the hospital, including me. I I ended up going to the ER, thinking I might be having a heart attack, you know, at one point. So there there’s so many different ways that burnout kinda comes to fruition. So number 1, like, listening to those signs, But also listening to the the little voice in your head that’s saying, like, this isn’t working for me anymore, and I wanna do this And allowing that voice to to talk a little bit and to to engage with it, whether it’s through writing or whether it’s through discussions with your spouse or your, you know, your Your significant other to to really let that let those conversations happen naturally so you’re realizing, You know, maybe this is something I can do. Maybe as you’re building into that, maybe this is something that I wanna pursue. Maybe this is something that makes a lot of sense to me.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:26:33]:
Maybe this is a really good idea for me instead of pushing it pushing it away. People, you know Yeah. Hear start hearing and you you push it away, And there’s no reason to do that. So listening because if you wanna be fulfilled, especially, you know, your theme of taking life where you are And and going from, you know, 50 to to a100. Like, I see myself as just barely making the you know, getting to the halfway point of my life. And in order for me to really be fulfilled through the the next 50 years, I have to make strategic steps now, Which I’ve done, and and I want people to know that it’s okay to make those strategic steps and that they should enjoy it.
Bernie Borges [00:27:11]:
Fantastic. Well, thanks for being a great example. Thanks for sharing your experience, your expertise, your wisdom with us. Doctor Richard Mitchell, I will invite you to tell our listener where can they find you and connect with You online.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:27:25]:
Sure. So my program I have a program called burnout to fulfillment, and you can go to richardmitchellcoaching.com, And I have a I have a 5 strategies that will help you figure out if you’re burnout and also to figure out what you can do about it. So go to richardmitchellcoaching.com. I’m also on LinkedIn as doctor Richard Mitchell, and, those are the 2 areas those are the 2 main Platforms that I that I use for my for my clients.
Bernie Borges [00:27:53]:
Well, my listener knows that those will be linked up in the show notes. So, Rich, I just wanna thank you for joining me for this episode of the Midlife Fulfill podcast, a very, inspiring conversation. To you sharing again your wisdom, your expertise, and, and all of your guidance with us. Thank you so much.
Dr. Richard Mitchell [00:28:11]:
You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.