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The Big Four Skills and Dealing with Burnout

By October 1, 2021 October 29th, 2021 No Comments

In this solo episode, Mark talks about how to use the Big Four skills to manage the burnout that many of us are experiencing in our current VUCA environment.

Hear how to use:

  • Box Breathing – use breathing to manage anxiety and anger
  • Positive internal dialogue – our brains are predisposed toward negativity, so we need to find ways to recognize and concentrate on positivity
  • Contextualize – is this perceived problem going to be important in 5 years, 5 months or even 5 minutes?
  • Know that what you do next is the most important thing to think about

Listen to this episode to hear how you can use mental toughness to manage the VUCA environment that we’re in.

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Hey folks. Welcome back to the Unbeatable Mind podcast. This is your host Mark Divine. Super-stoked to have you here today.

I’m really busy just focusing on what I do, which is training people to be mentally tough and resilient and awesome leaders. Writing, working on my doctorate is a new thing – and running my business and podcasting…

And never really take the time to look at like, “how are things doing? Like how’s it working?” I was actually on a podcast with someone else today and they said, “yeah, I wanted to talk to you. I was impressed that you have the number one health show on apple.”

I was like, “really?” I had no idea. How cool is that? And we’re one of the top 30. So, thank you.

I bring that up to say, “thank you.” A) I was kind of surprised, it’s pretty cool. And B) I couldn’t do it without you.

So thank you, thank you, thank you… please continue to share this podcast, if you find it valuable. And to rate it. Because it helps.

Obviously helps with those stats, and we’re going to do a major kind of revamp of the podcast show and up level everything in the first quarter of ’22, so we’re working on that right now. And so you can expect to hear a little bit more, when that gets closer. So I’m pretty excited about that.

So yeah, we’re gonna keep doing this.

And also, I was surprised to learn this is my eighth season of doing this. Holy Schmoly. Had no idea. Time flies, doesn’t it?

Well, today it’s going to be a little shorter, and I’m doing a solo cast. I’ve gotten really good feedback on the solocasts, so hopefully you’ll find them valuable.

It’s great to interview people, but sometimes great to just talk to you directly. And so this will probably be a little shorter also.

I want to address this issue of burnout. I’ve been seeing a lot of information – a lot of news, studies – a lot of people just feeling like completely burned out, and that’s understandable. They’re burned out from all the negative fighting in in politics, burned out from all this covid, and burned out from all this vaccine bullshit. And we don’t know what to believe anymore.

So we’re burned out from fake news, and people pointing fingers about fake news. We’re burned out from working at home on zoom all the time.

Gosh, I just did a four day immersion weekend at Pepperdine – where I’m getting my doctorate in global leadership and change… really excited. We’re going to learn more about that as I learn more.

And about a third of the students were attending through zoom. And we’re sitting in a classroom, and they’re on zoom and I’m like holy cow… 13 hours a day sitting on my butt… I can’t imagine doing that on zoom. That would lead to burnout.

Someone forwarded me two different articles – two different takes on burnout; it was really interesting. That’s why this topic kind of came up to me today.

In the first article, they were saying that passion is really not enough – you could be passionate about your job or the reason you wanted to do a job, or go into an industry, or work for a certain company.

But guess what? That work is still going to be grinding. You’re still going to be ground down by the endless zoom calls, endless meetings… you’re going to deal with negative people. You might be one of those negative people – let’s hope not – but you’re going to deal with negative people.

And so you’ve got to manage your expectations properly. Don’t think that just having the perfect job or leaving for the next perceived perfect job is going to cause you to stop experiencing burnout.

So maybe the idea here is stop blaming others and take control of the situation. And do something about it for yourself. And we’re going to talk about some strategies for that in a bit.

The other article was really interesting – it was basically putting burnout on to the boss or the leader -saying that one of the reasons you might be experiencing burnout is because the leader is not making or helping with the situation with the way that they are.

So maybe they’re too demanding, or they’re projecting their own stress onto you and the team. Or they’re creating an environment which you perceive to be toxic or bullying, because of their demands that you continue to deliver.

Which they need to do, right? That’s their job, get you to deliver…

But you perceive that as bullying. And there’s a lot of millennials and gen z who are approaching work differently. And really aren’t accepting autocratic leadership at all – not even as a style of leading…

And they’ll leave, right? They’re much more mobile.

And so then this is put a challenge on leaders… to be more self-aware and to develop the skills of emotional intelligence… so that the leader – whether that’s you or somebody else that you’re working for – is not the limiting factor in your team’s mental and emotional health.

So whether you’re a leader, or a teammate – or a follower – we all have the potential to feel burned out.

And I’ve certainly felt that in my past – I don’t feel it now. I’m very energized… I have enough skills and tools to maintain a positive attitude and mindset… and to do this day over day, it becomes a habit. And we’re going to talk about that.

So, first thing we’ll look at is the groundbreaking work that Goleman did on emotional intelligence. So emotional intelligence he said had four distinct components – one was awareness of your emotional states and how you show up to others.

And then the second is control over that. So like, if you’re experiencing sadness, you don’t dump your sadness on everyone else. If you’re experiencing anxiety, you don’t dump your anxiety and make the whole team anxious, right?

So that’s the emotional control. Taking control of your own emotions.

And then also being able to deal with them, as well as to improve your contextual relationship with your emotions. And we usually do that through a therapist or a coach.

The third was social awareness. So emotional awareness – emotional control really is basically dealing with you and you alone. But then, of course, there’s how you show up and impact other people. So that’s social awareness – having awareness of the emotional interaction amongst individuals and how you show up…

And so what I love to say about this is you have to be first aware – and then you become able to manage the social situations. One of the best metaphors, or ways to do that is to take responsibility for what you say and the energy you bring to your team, or to a relationship.

As well as how it lands. Which requires you to put yourself into the perspective of the follower, or who you’re interacting with, or the entire team. And to think, “well, how is my behavior, how are my words, how is my energy state gonna land with this group of people?”

And it might be different for each individual as well, so this takes quite a bit of emotional intelligence, I guess, to do well. And that’s why it’s called work, when we do it. Work on our emotional lives.

So, I want to shift focus. So, how do we develop emotional control in social management? Well, there’s four core skills that I talk about in Unbeatable Mind as being the four key skills of emotional resiliency. We’re going to talk about that.

First one is you got to develop a positive mindset. A positive mental attitude. Most people don’t recognize how negative they are, because it’s insidious. Negativity is insidious.

I use the metaphor of the fear wolf and the courage wolf… the fear wolf is basically your brain. It resides in your brain, and your brain is five times as negative as it is positive… I don’t remember where I heard that, but it’s a powerful thing to think about. Your brain is wired to be negative. It’s wired for fear because that’s how we developed as humans. To survive.

And we have those vestiges… we’re constantly triggering the stress response with the simplest things. Even with our thoughts. And they’re usually false expectations appearing real. That’s fear.

Or false evidence that appears real. That’s negativity. Negativity is also self-criticism, feelings of lack of connection or lack of worthiness, and then projecting your opinions, biases and negative self onto others. And so that’s negative.

And the fear wolf, like I said, resides in your head.

But the courage wolf really is when you learn to think with your heart. The courage wolf resides in the heart. Developing positive attitude is feeding the courage wolf and starving the fear wolf.

So, you feed the courage wolf by doing heart centered things every day. By visualizing, meditating on your heart. By opening your heart to others through gratitude, through compassion, through good acts, through spontaneous kindness…

And you starve the fear wolf in your brain, by developing a positive internal dialogue which is hooked to a series of mantras or sayings that you say to yourself. So it’s interesting – this is something that a lot of people say, “well affirmations don’t work.”

And really what they should be saying is “affirmations by themselves don’t work.”

There’s a couple other things that you need to do with affirmations. But affirmations are an important part of a process of transforming into a positive mindset. Which includes your heart/mind.

So, affirmations don’t work if they’re just coming from your head, and you’re not connecting them to your heart. And affirmations don’t work if you don’t believe that you’re worthy.

So, we’ve got to work on this from multiple levels. One is your belief in yourself – and that’s tied to another aspect of these resiliency skills – self-esteem and optimism. Which I’ll talk about next.

So we gotta develop a belief that you’re worthy, and that takes work for a lot of people. Especially if you grew up in a tumultuous or traumatic way in your childhood. But even if you don’t believe it – or even if you did and you you’ve just been pummeled by culture and social media – you can start to believe that maybe other people are bad.

And if you believe that other people are bad, then there’s some aspect of yourself that believes that you’re bad, okay? So you gotta be really, really thoughtful about this.

Everything that we experience in life is first created in our minds. So, think about that. Everything we experience – so stuff comes at us, and we think it’s happening outside of us – but it’s our experience of it in our mind, and we get to contextualize it. We get to decide whether it’s bad or good. And we get to decide how we respond to it.

And so, this is an incredibly powerful skill. Developing a positive mindset means I’m going to take control over how I manage my internal mental and emotional states. And I eradicate negative thinking. And I eradicate fear-based thinking through positive internal dialogue, and mantras or affirmations. As well as connecting to my heart every day.

Those are really, really important skills.

So there are two practices that come out of that. One is a heart-centered meditation every morning using imagery. So visualization with gratitude and sending positive energy to people that you love and then even people that challenge you.

And then the act of starving the fear wolf through a positive internal dialogue that drowns out and overrides negative thinking.



The second skill I just alluded to is optimism built upon a positive sense of self or self-esteem. I can’t tell you how hard it is to be around pessimistic people these days. Yes, if you listen and believe everything you hear in the media, then the world’s falling apart. Henny penny, the sky is falling. Everything’s going to shit. We’re going to war with China. Global warming’s going to destroy everything. We’re gonna be at civil war.

It’s all bullshit, right? For every negative thing, there’s an equal and even more positive thing happening. And so orient yourself toward the positive. You can acknowledge the negative, but don’t get wrapped up in it. Don’t let it own you.

Just know that usually with the negative news there’s an agenda. And with the mass media, that agenda is to keep you in a state of fear and to sell you products. Whether that product’s a vaccine or fudge…

It doesn’t matter. It’s all for that reason and the media has such control over us because we give it our attention.

So turn off the TV, and stop believing all that crap that you hear. Start looking for the positive news. There’s some great newsletters that summarize positive news these days. I listen to Ozy – Carlos Watson who’s great and also 1440 is another one.

I love my buddy James Clear’s blog type newsletter – comes out every Wednesday – he’s got some phenomenal quotes. There’s just some great information out there. George Friedman and geopolitical futures.

I get really good information from these people that is not in any way hooked to the negative news cycles and whatnot. I do scan google news once a day or twice a day – and I often play opposite day with a headline – say, “well, what’s the headline? And what’s the positive opposite to that?” And that’s very helpful for me to see what both sides are up to.

So develop optimism that the future is going to be positive. Because guess what? We get to create that future. So why not collectively create a positive future?

One of the reasons that I have a big vision to impact 100 million people is to have 100 million people thinking positively and having an optimistic vision for the future. And actually share that vision together and even simultaneously. And to know the incredible impact that we’re going to have on the world when we can do that. Super-cool.

So the third skill – and this should be no surprise, the big one that we teach through our SEALFIT programs – is to put your attention on others instead of always on yourself. Being self-absorbed is so icky. Like just get over yourself and start focusing on others.

And guess what? All that positive energy you put on others – you just leave the carbon copy right on yourself. So if you do an act of kindness to others guess what? You’re doing an act of kindness to yourself. How cool is that?

So we have in-n-out burger out in California, and sometimes there’s a long line of cars, because the place is so popular. And so you might be taking your kid through in-n-out burger or whatever the equivalent is. And why not just buy the person behind you, their meal? It’s a random act of kindness, and they’re gonna be surprised, their day’s gonna be uplifted…

But so will yours. And it’s completely anonymous. They don’t know who you are. But you’re leaving a carbon copy of kindness…

Instead of scrutinizing your… I’m not saying don’t scrutinize your bill… but really feeling like, “ah, that waitress or waiter did just an okay job, so I’m going to give a minimum tip possible.” Maybe you just have a standard that you’re going to give 20%? That’s my minimum standard.

Sometimes I go 30%, because guess what? When you tip someone, you’re tipping yourself. And that will appreciate, because you’re showing appreciation.

So just consider that. Put your eyes on others, take it off yourself.

That lack of self-absorption and focus on others has an enormous benefit on your positivity and your resilience. Just like the golden rule – that energy will come back to you 20x.

The fourth skill is really what I’ve already talked about with emotional intelligence – that’s to be able to maintain self-control. Stop playing the victim, right? Take control.

You can do this, like I said, by shutting off the news. Or playing that opposite day kind of game that I play. That’s taking control.

Not just assuming that what you’re being fed is truth. Create your own truth. And study, and research, and analyze… and starting with your mind. And study how to develop mental toughness.

And mental toughness is always positive. Like you can’t be negative and be mentally tough. That is flawed, right? That’s not mental toughness. Mental toughness is to be positive, optimistic, other-focused and to be in control.

So this applies whether you’re a leader or whether you’re just a teammate – quote-unquote – and both are equally as valuable, right? There’s no autocracy here. We are all in this together, leaders and followers.

In the seals we used to say – we still say, “I’m ready to lead. I’m ready to follow. I’ll never quit.”

Well, one moment you might be the leader – one moment you might be the follower. So if you are a leader – a positional leader – just know that you have to earn that every moment. And there’s a big percentage of the time you should be following and serving.

So we need to be adaptive, inclusive and transformational in our leadership… and yes, I’m throwing out some leadership theory buzzwords, because I just sat for four days in my doctoral leadership classes.

So when it comes to behavior – for true authenticity, you basically are open and transparent that you’re working on these things. That was the point of my book “Staring Down the Wolf,” that even as leaders – if you’re working on mastering yourself for years, you’re never going to be perfect.

There is no there there, when it comes to perfection. And so we’re transparent about always working on ourselves, and that develops great authenticity.

Authenticity is where you come in and you actually increase the energy of the team, and you uplift everyone even if you’re not perfect, even if you don’t have the answer. Even if you screw up.

Because you’re able to just say, “you know what? I am really sorry. I just screwed up, and I’m working on myself.”

So that’s valuable. And vulnerability is another important aspect of authenticity – just be willing to admit that you’re not perfect and that you deal with things like guilt and shame.

Empathy – this is really how you take… you may not feel empathy right away, and so taking your eyes off yourself and putting on others might be a strategy that you use at first.

But trust me, by doing that you will develop empathy. Because guess what? People are going to start supporting you. And you’re going to feel their gratitude.

So it’s a self-fulfilling kind of prophecy. You develop empathy by being empathetic and helping others out.

And if you are a positional leader or business owner recognize that we’re well beyond the time where you could treat employees as parts of a machine, right? We are in the conceptual age now where the collective insight and spontaneous genius of your team is your main asset.

And so we need to treat everybody really as humans. So if you have a machine mindset, you will burn people out. You have this relentless focus on KPIs and sales numbers and this and that…

And what might need to happen is you just back off of that and let the team’s genius… you can still set goals and everything, but don’t drive them with a whip. Allow the team to solve the problem.

And what will happen is they might find a whole other way to solve it. They might have a blue ocean strategy that you never could have thought of on your own. And it might just save your business.

A lot of what I’ve been reading and learning recently is just how much disruption there is and there’s going to be. And it’s going to be continuous. And so we have to learn to evolve ourselves and to think differently as leaders and as followers and as teammates…

Otherwise we will be the one getting disrupted. And that’s happening to a lot of people. And I think fear of that is what’s causing this burnout, as well.


24: 59

So when the stressful moment arises day by day – in the moment you’re working and you’re listening to what I say and you’re like, “yeah, that’s really great stuff, Mark. And I’m gonna work on that.”

Great, but shit still happens, you’re still going to get stressed, you’re still going to get blindsided… so what do you do then?

Well, you’ve probably heard me talk about the big four skills of mental toughness. You just deploy those skills, and you get through it. And you get stronger.

Big four skills are the ultimate resiliency training tool, because you come out of every situation stronger and wiser. And motivated.

The first skill, of course, is box breathing. We teach this as the first to seal candidates or all of our Unbeatable Mind students – slow and controlled nostril breathing, holding your breath at the top and the bottom. Now you don’t have to do this in conversation, obviously, but you can pause, sit at your desk, and slow down your breathing. Breathe through your nose to five counts, inhale, five count hold, five pound exhale, five count hold…

This box pattern leads to great calmness and clarity of your mind – and your body calms down it triggers that arousal response. So you calm down, you bleed off the stress. And guess what? Less stress equals less burnout. You do this every day; it’ll have a profound effect on your attitude as well.

The second piece is what really helps you with that, and that’s positive internal dialogue. So you train yourself – you grease the groove of an internal dialogue that is positive with mantras. And I’ve shared some of my positive mantras – “I’ve got this. Easy day. Piece of cake.”

Hooyah is one of them. Like, anytime something gets hard – hard workout, hard this, hard that… I know that I’ve got this, and that dialogue just starts popping into my head. And another one is “day by day in every way, I’m stronger and better.” So that’s cool.

And then from buds, I still have “I’m feeling good, I’m looking good. I ought to be in Hollywood.” So, I use those every day to this day. I’ve got others too, but I’ve used those, and they’re so entrained in my brain that anytime something hard is coming, or I’m in the act… I’m breathing deeply through my nose – either box breathing or without the holds – tactical breathing – and I’m activating those positive affirmations. Positive self-talk.

The third skill is to contextualize what’s happening, right? And so I love this notion of asking like, “in five years, will this matter?” And the answer is “probably not.”

What about five months? Will it matter? Probably not. What about five minutes from now? Maybe it will, maybe not. But pan out and say, “what’s really the impact of this thing that’s happening right now? And do I really need to be so stressed about it? Is it the biggest disaster ever? The fact that my boss just dumped something on me that I wasn’t expecting or was negative or something like that… do I really need to let that destroy my day?”

Contextualizing also helps or is important to remember why you’re there. Like, why did you take this job to begin with? Was it just for the money? Were you desperate?

Okay, fine. Then recognize that it’s brought you some value, so look for the positive there. Recontextualize your why. Remember why you were there, and if it’s not right for you, that’s great… now you’re aware of it, and maybe this is one more data point…

So what are you gonna do about it? That’s the question – what are you gonna do about it? Instead of blaming your boss, take action, figure shit out, find a new job…

Nobody said that work was going to be easy. It is though how our culture is organized, and it is worth it to work. And burnout is something that we can take control of and get on top of. And eradicate it through these strategies that I’m talking about.

Remember, we’re all human. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone’s going to experience highs and lows.

But when we train our minds and our bodies to be healthy and positive and whole, then we have much smaller ranges of high and low. Like they’re little, tiny blips on an optimized performance meter.

Whereas, if you don’t train your body and mind, then you become a whipping boy for society and culture and the environment. And any crisis can bring you down. So, it’s really important that you take responsibility for training your body your mind. And do it every day, and then ultimately you do it every moment…

No one said this is going to be easy. I just said it would be worth it.

And the fourth skill is what you do next will determine your attitude, and your state going forward. Where you are right now was determined by what you just did or what just happened to you.

But what you do next will determine your near future. So pause, breathe into that, and ask yourself “what can I do to bring myself back into a positive state and a positive mindset?”

Well, activating these big four skills is one. And then focusing on something positive and productive that’s going to change your state.

Again, there’s all sorts of scenarios that you could apply this to. Like, if you just had an argument with your boss, does it make sense to sit there and stew on it? And to call someone bitch about it?

Or can you get up out of your chair and go walk outside, and actually enjoy the sun and to start breathing fresh air and start your positive dialogue. And just say, “you know what? This will pass. It’s not going to matter in five months for sure. And probably won’t matter tomorrow. Let me move on, maybe he’s having a bad day – or she’s having a bad day.”

Don’t carry all that negativity with you all the time. Let it go, and then figure out what to do about it. It might require a crucial conversation with your boss. Great. Go do it. No big deal.

So, what can you do now or next to change your state and stop focusing on the negative? And to focus on the positive? You can take a walk, you can meditate, you can do some burpees…

You can laugh, right? I love laughing yoga – I probably wouldn’t do it in front of everyone else – they might think I’ve lost my mind – but go outside and just start chuckling to yourself. Listen to something inspiring.

If you’re really feeling burnt out, just tell your boss, “I need some personal time. I’m taking the afternoon off.” Boom.

Maybe you could call someone to cheer you up and say, “hey, cheer me up please.” That’s all you need to say, “just cheer me up. I’m having a down moment.”

So, what you do next counts.

All right, so big summary points – stop the negative input, take control of how you train your mind by taking control of what you put in your mind and your internal dialogue, take control of your body with your breath, take control of your focus and your attention by applying these attention control skills of asking what’s the most important thing I can do right now? That’s going to lead me forward productively.

And what next action can I take that’ll allow me to be more positive and to focus on others? And to be more grateful and to develop those four skills of resiliency that I talked? Optimism, positive dialogue, focus on others and self-control.

Also, maybe one of the reasons your experiencing burnout is that you’ve just taken too much on. You have too many commitments. You’re overloaded, and you’re not well supported.

So, you can simplify things by letting things go. Or you can get support by delegating, offloading or hiring an assistant. There’s a lot of ways to simplify so that you reduce the stress load.

And then we really have to look at getting physically, mentally, emotionally healthy through positive habits and training. That’s daily. Daily positive habits and training.

And the physical part can’t be understated – if you’re burned out, there’s a good chance that you’re not physically fit. Because when you’re physically fit, you’re doing things every day that maintain balance and that bleed off stress.

You’re breathing deeply, getting all that oxygen in your body, blood your cells… you’re moving, sending positive energy through your body, getting stronger. Detoxifying. Clearing your mind…

All the endorphins and all the hormones are firing and doing the work they do… so, can’t underestimate how important fitness is to your mental health. And the fastest way back when you’re depressed or burned out mentally, is to get your body back into shape.

So, I think that’s probably enough said. Thank you so much for listening, I really appreciate you and I know that you’re doing your part to make the world more unbeatable and stronger just by listening and deploying these tactics. One day, one lifetime at a time.

Till next time, stay focused and be unbeatable.


This is Mark Divine. Talk to you soon.

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