Everyone knows (or has said!) that thing about putting on your own oxygen mask first.
But do you really understand what that means? I was curious, so I spoke to an expert.
MSGT David Boynton USAF (Ret) spent twenty years of his highly-decorated military career in aviation physiology and as the director of the USAF High Altitude Training Center, training fighter pilots to survive at high altitude.
The thing that shocked me to learn from MSGT Boynton is that being oxygen-deprived feels GOOD.
Hypoxia feels like being a little drunk. You feel happy.
Then your mental state deteriorates so that you can’t remember how to save your own life. Your physical state deteriorates so that you no longer have the motor skills to put on your mask correctly.
Most of us are not going to pilot a C130 or a F35, so I asked MSGT Boynton how long you have on a commercial flight to get the mask on “in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure.”
About 20 seconds of useful consciousness. That’s it.
Twenty seconds to remember what the flight attendant said to do with the mask while you’re oxygen deprived, confused, and trying not to panic.
Contrary to what we all might assume, it’s not a sudden loss of cabin pressure that is the most dangerous situation.
It’s the slow leak. The gradual loss of air escaping through a poorly maintained seal. The slight hissing sound of air escaping.
While you "tough it out", ignoring the warning signs, "career hypoxia" takes hold.
Is this metaphor obvious enough yet? It's not the sudden crisis that pushes you over the edge that can be the most destructive. It's the gradual piling on of stressor on top of stressor.
In other words, have you been hearing the "gradual hissing sound" of stress and overwhelm?
How long until you grab the oxygen mask and start building mastery over stress and burnout?
Every professional is vulnerable to the effects of working beyond human limits.
But it’s pretty typical in our professional culture to push past the point we should.
You feel the excitement of the deadlines. Hooked on the rush of getting it done with minutes to spare on the last day of the quarter.
Or maybe you’re at the point where been overdoing it for so long, you need drama and adrenalin just to feel normal.
But by then, your mental focus is shot and your anxiety is now worse than ever. You procrastinate or stumble through the meeting. Your boss stops sending you the best work. Your spouse stops asking when you’ll be home because they’ll be out with their new friends.
Would you like my personal help to recognize the signs that career hypoxia is taking over, and what you can do without sacrificing your ambition? Watch my free intro training to see how I help high-potentials and high-achievers to be seen, be heard, and get to the next level. Find it at https://angiehooper.com/masterclass