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How to Enforce Brave Boundaries with Dr. Sasha Shillcutt

Dec 01, 2022

Dr. Sasha Shillcutt is a renowned cardiac anesthesiologist, professor, bestselling author and CEO/Founder of Brave Enough. Sasha’s TEDx talk titled Resilience: The Art of Failing Forward has been viewed by more than 50K. Her writing has been published in both the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA. She’s the author of the new book, Brave Boundaries: Strategies to Say No, Stand Strong and Take Control of Your Time (HCI Books, September 6) and host of The Brave Enough Show podcast.  

When someone asks you for help, what do you say? Typically the answer is yes! And many of us have an “if not me, then who?” mindset. But after years of saying yes and prioritizing the needs of others, Sasha found herself exhausted, overcommitted, and empty.  

In Brave Boundaries, she shares how she moved from surviving to thriving by stepping out of expectations, recreating her life according to her priorities and well-being. She began to set boundaries.  

Utilizing practical and powerful tools, concepts, and exercises, Sasha invites you into a new way of life. She shares personal and professional expertise on how we can overcome burnout and take back control of our time and lives by learning to set clear work-life boundaries. 

Here are my top take aways from this episode:

  • Burnout is a clinical diagnosis. The top three symptoms are Emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and disengagement. Highly functioning people are the people at risk of burnout. We need to check in on our high functioning friends. 
  • Burnout is inevitable if we don't have boundaries. Make sure you look after yourself and have some alone time to check in with yourself. 
  • Be clear about your boundaries. Clear is kind. Set your boundaries, enforce them and be kind when you're doing this. 


Full Transcription


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt, James Laughlin 


James Laughlin 00:00 

Welcome to lead on purpose. I'm James Laughlin, former seven-time world champion musician, and now an executive coach to global leaders and high performers. In every episode, I bring you an inspiring leader or expert to help you lead your life and business on purpose. Thanks for taking the time to connect today and investing in yourself. Enjoy the show. 


James Laughlin 

Would you like to connect personally with some of my podcast guests? They are arguably some of the most influential leaders and high performers on the planet. Each month, members of my HPC, the High Performers Club, get to connect with a leadership titan in an intimate Q&A. They also get access to powerful high-performance leadership coaching, and monthly masterminds. There are only 20 seats at the leadership table. You can apply today by going to www.jjlaughlin.com/HPC. 


James Laughlin 01:06 

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James Laughlin 

I don't know about you, but sometimes I get home and I think, what am I eating tonight? It's the last thing I want to do. I don't know what to cook, I don't know what's in the cupboard or in the fridge. And it often leads to poor choices like ordering some takeaway. So recently, Caroline and I started eating green dinner table and it's absolutely amazing. After a long day, when I'm knackered, I know that when I get home, there's going to be a great recipe and all the ingredients I need right there in the fridge. And look, I absolutely love it. I've been doing it for several months. And it means I don't have to think at the end of the day, and I just know that I'm going to get good, nutritious, wholesome food. And look, it's plant-based, which has so many benefits. So, if you're a meat eater, perhaps you might want to start on maybe just three three-day plan. So, you've got three evening meals for you and your partner or you and your family depending on what option you want to go for. That the food is delicious. It's so nutritious and it means we don't need to think and as leaders of families, teams, and organizations, what we put in our bodies is just so crucially important. So, I urge you to go and check it out and I want to give you 20% off your first order. So, you can go to greendinnertable.co.nz and use the coupon code purpose. 


James Laughlin 04:17 

Dr. Sasha Shillcutt is a tenured and Endowed Professor and the vice chair of strategy in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Sasha is CEO and founder of Brave Enough, a well-published researcher in cardiac anesthesiology and gender equity. She's also an author and international speaker. Today, we're going deep on burnout, what causes it, how to avoid it, and the real deep importance of boundaries, not just any old boundaries but brave boundaries. So, I hope you sit back and enjoy the show. 


James Laughlin 05:10 

Dr. Sasha, a massive welcome to The Lead on Purpose Podcast. 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 05:14 

Thank you for having me. I'm super pumped to chat with you for the next little bit. 


James Laughlin 05:19 

Oh, such a pleasure. Now just to get started to get the ball rolling, I'd love to just ask you, what's your definition of leadership? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 05:29 

Oh, that's a good one. Probably. I always say its leadership is like an NF1. So, I'm a scientist. So, I consider myself a leader. If I get out of bed and put my feet on the ground and get out of bed that's being a leader because you're a leader of yourself. So, I think sometimes we say, oh, I don't want to be a leader. I don't have leadership traits. But most of us in life are leading someone, we're leading our child, or we're leading us, you know, co-worker, or we're leading ourselves. So, to me, the definition of a leader is someone who has strong ethics and a desire to improve whatever community they're in. 


James Laughlin 06:09 

beautiful. And in recent years, who have you seen in your life for someone that you've admired, and go, Wow, they're really an aspirational leader? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 06:20 

Well, I'm a physician. And so just coming through two years of COVID, it's been humbling, and very inspirational for me to see. So many women physicians, specifically in my space, have stepped up to lead in the time of COVID. And, you know, they're leading like, they're, they're schooling their kids from home, while they're like working in the critical care, or the operating room. And also checking in with one another and everyone in the community, I have never been more impressed with, specifically women leaders than I have during COVID. It just blew me away. And so that's who if I had to pick a group or one person, it'd be hard, probably just a group. And that's, you know, just women out their work working women who are managing all the things and have done it with such grace and such humility during this time. 


James Laughlin 07:19 

That's beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. And when we think about it, so I want to talk a little bit about your profession and where you get all of your expertise and wisdom from. But when we think about the modern era, often the word hustle comes out, hustle, grind, you know, win at all costs. And well-being is kind of thrown in there as like a hey, we got to tick the box. But actually, we're seeing the statistics that it's not adding up, there's a lot of anxiety, a lot of depression, and suicide rates are soaring. So, I'd love to chat just about boundaries, how we actually set them why they're important, how difficult they are to set but what happens once we do set them, and you know how that plays out from your own research and what you're seeing in terms of your profession, how it impacts us physiologically, by not setting boundaries. So, let's start unpacking that a little bit. So, maybe if we could start with the physiological side of when you don't set boundaries, what are the consequences? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 08:20 

So, many people don't realize that burnout is actually a clinical diagnosis. And it's typically associated with three symptoms, you don't have to have all of them. It's interesting because women tend to have emotional exhaustion. That's one of them, where men tend to have cynicism. But both groups have the third symptom, which is basically disengagement. So, stressed people function burned out, people who were stressed, over-functioning over-functioning, all of a sudden find themselves not functioning, there, they withdraw, and it's actually out of a physiological need to conserve your energy. So, it's almost like a bear going into hibernation, right? You're like slowing down everything so that you actually have any energy to give. So, it's a dangerous place to be because it's associated with anxiety, it's associated with depression, it's associated with substance abuse, and I'm talking about highly functioning people. I always say lazy, people don't burn out. We don't have to worry about them. It's the highest high achievers, the leaders, you know, the business owners, the entrepreneurs, the people leading in the clinical spaces that are so engaged and so stressed, and then they over function, and then they find themselves in a place of disengagement. It's a dangerous place to be, it's highly associated with suicide, and not just you know, suicide, which is obviously terrible, but broken relationships. So, oftentimes what's happening in our daily life at work, we think we can compartmentalize, but we're bringing that disengagement home. And so, it's super important. I actually got into this space because about seven years ago, I was burned out, I found myself looking good on paper. I had an NIH grant, I was speaking multiple times a year, I had four little children, and I had a great growing career. But I was totally a mess inside and I was empty. And a good friend of mine who I actually looked up to her, she was, you know, two decades older than me, I just idolized her, took her own life. And she was completely burned out. And she was the most successful, amazing, talented physician, and it shocked me like it, like shocked me to my core. And I can tell you that in the last seven years, James, I have personally lost seven physician friends to suicide. So, physicians specifically have male physicians at a 2.3 increased risk and women at 1.6 higher than the general population. Because we and think about it, we're like, educated on this, right? We're supposed to be like healthy people. And we have no ability to handle oftentimes the ongoing stress and the trauma of our jobs to the point where we find ourselves, you know, having stress, anxiety, negatives, you know, substance abuse, all these things. So, this is a real issue. This is, you know if we were dying twice as much of cancer, all of us were dying as physicians, we'd all have grants and research, we'd be talking about this. So, this extends into, obviously, the corporate world into the industry. And it's just so important that we recognize that burnout is inevitable if we don't have boundaries like it's coming for you if you are a highly successful person. And one of the aspects that I have learned in the research that I've done and is in coaching, I coached hundreds of women, a physician specifically, is boundaries. It's not something we've ever been taught. I mean, I've taken leadership courses at Harvard, and I never have learned what a boundary is. And I always thought it was about having a toxic relationship or something. But it is so important, and the more boundaries you can set, and the more boundaries you can be comfortable setting in your life, the more likely you are to recognize those red flags of burnout and quickly make an adjustment. 


James Laughlin 12:16 

Wow, that's incredible. And first of all, I want to say, I'm really sorry for your loss. And I know personally, how difficult that is to traverse when you've got someone so close to you who takes their life. So, there are probably a couple of things I'd like to explore there, one being for those who are acutely in burnout right now who are listening. How can they say that they're there? And what would be a first step you would suggest they might take? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 12:46 

Great question. So often, when we find ourselves in a situation, we don't know, we don't have the energy to get out of it, right? We're like, I'm here, I'm disengaged, I have no energy, I have no joy. I don't even like doing the things I normally do. But I don't know how to get out of this situation, because the work is piling up least the less, I do, the more I have to do. So first, our natural reaction as high achieving humans is to go what is wrong with me, something's wrong with me, this is my fault. And the first thing to do is just to say, you're okay, you are alright. It's not that you're weak, or you're not strong, or that you aren't capable. In fact, that's how you probably got here by over everyone expecting more of you and over-committing and over-functioning for others. So, give yourself grace. And this the second thing is when we have that feeling, we often feel shame. So, we want to withdraw more. And that's actually the worst thing we can do. So, the best thing to do is to give yourself some time off, and I mean, I have doctors, male doctors who you would never think walk in my door, shut the door, and burst into tears. They're like, I can't do this anymore. And I say, Okay, let's take like, a week off, and they look at me like I have five heads. They're like, I can't take a week off. That's why I feel this way. Because I have all this work to do. And I'm like, we got to take a tour, we got to take an emergency week off. Because you don't heal in a week, James, but you get clarity. Like you rest your neurons to the point where you can go okay, I have said yes to all of these things. Or I have had this really bad truck traumatic experience this year. And I'm still expecting my brain to be able to do my normal operating systems and responsibilities. And that's not happening. So, I got to back off of these things so I can heal from this trauma, or whatever it is you get clarity in that time. And then you have to reach out to others because even though we love to think that we heal by ourselves, we don't heal in the community. And most of the time when we reach out to a coworker or friend, we say I am struggling. Your coworker or your friend will say you know what? I've been there. I've experienced exactly what you're talking about. And this is what helped me. And so, giving yourself space to think about and kind of do some self-coaching exercises on, like, what got me here? And what can I do to remove some of the non-essentials and set some boundaries for myself where I have time with myself every day, to think about the next day and how I'm going to get through the next day, you will be amazed at what clarity comes. 


James Laughlin 15:29 

And if the person that's you know, is in the heat of it right now, and they've just taken away some gold, that's awesome. But for the person who's not there yet, and they don't feel burnt out. But they know they're a high achiever. They know there's a lot of responsibility, they study left, right, and center, they read 52 books a year, they listen to podcasts when they're running, all that's stuff. For those people. Prevention is the best medicine, right? So how can we get those brave boundaries in place? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 15:58 

Yeah. So, the first thing I would say is to ask yourself, what boundary do you have with yourself? And the most important one, I would argue, is in the morning, most of us, our day gets away from us. As we start our day. I know for me, I wake up, and I'm already in work mode, like my brain, the minute I wake up, I start doing the list, and it goes something like this, you don't have time for exercise, you don't have time for stretching this morning, you don't have time for meditation and tea, you got to just pick up your phone and check your inbox, go, go, go. And I know that that's how my brain wakes up. Even though for seven years, I've done the same thing. Every morning, I wake up and I don't know, that is a lie, do not believe everything you think I have to spend 30 minutes alone, if I don't spend 30 minutes minimum alone in the morning, I am not going to be well, tomorrow, or by six o'clock when I come home from work, I'm not going to be okay. Like I don't want to I'm not going to have the energy to engage with my family. So, I have a boundary every morning with myself that I don't pick up my phone, I don't check my email, and I don't do all the things. And the busier my day is, the more time I actually try to spend alone. Because I honestly feel like I have so much more self-awareness, and so much more mindfulness as I'm going through my day when I've given myself that boundary in the morning. So, for me, it's I go to bed earlier than I used to go to bed because my morning actually starts the night before, I have to resist the urge to stay up and do late work or watch Netflix or something. And I have to set those boundaries for myself. And they are like a key to my mental health. 


James Laughlin 17:46 

That's amazing, some gold in that. And for those people who have the intention to do the meditation in the morning, the intention to do to stretch or to go to bed that little earlier, but they don't follow through. How did you get that ball rolling and start to build that habit? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 18:01 

The first thing I did was 15 minutes. So honestly, I was like, that's all I have like, which is like .02% of your day or something crazy. And I was like I don't have more than 15 minutes; I already have to be at work super early. As an anesthesiologist, this is crazy. I'm getting up so early. So, I started giving myself 15 minutes a day. And it was actually so revealing for me that I only had 15 minutes that I was like, this is not where I want it to be at this stage of my life. So, then it was 20 minutes, and then it was 30 minutes, and now it's like 45 minutes. Sometimes it's an hour. And A lot of times I walk because it's just super good for my brain to shut down and I will kind of self-coach talk to myself, think about my stress level. Think about who I feel like I'm in conflict with that I maybe need to just touch base with today or what I need to let go of that I cannot control because it's out of my control. And so, I would say start with 15 minutes, like just start with 15 minutes. And I bet if you examined your phone, and how much time you spend on your phone, on social or on the internet, you would be like hmm, I probably have 15 minutes a day to give myself and just a little bit of a breathing room there. It will become a lifeline for you. 


James Laughlin 19:29 

You're still right, you really are. It's interesting. I had a client recently who was saying how busy they were. And they've got so much on there a high achiever they're juggling like five different things. I said, just humor me, grab your phone let's look at screen time, and go into your iPhone. Let's look at your screen time. Okay, let's look at how many hours you've used your phone this week. Okay, 45 hours, right? And quick. Let's look at the apps that you're using the most popular one is Instagram. Okay, how many hours did you spend on Insta? This week was almost 10 hours. I said, how much of your business is derived from Instagram? Zero. No, leads no nothing. Okay? How many of your true friends that you hang out with a week to week do you engage with on Instagram was like one. So, I said, look, there's almost a full day of time that you are just wasting. Imagine if you took 15, 20, or 30 minutes of that it the 10 hours that you're spending on Instagram and spend it on a daily basis on your self-care the difference that can make, to your mindset. 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 20:35 

It is huge. And, you know, our brains are living organisms, and they need rest, and they need rest that is not staring at a screen. Like when you go on a walk, and you just are listening to music or listening to something and you're just looking around you and taking in nature, your brain physiologically is like Thank you. Thank you so much. Like, if you talk to some of the most innovative and successful business leaders, they'll tell you, that's when they get their ideas, right? Like you always hear, oh, it's when I'm on vacation when I get my best business ideas, or I figured out what I need to do differently or how to restructure something. And it's true like you're because you're actually giving your brain rests during non-sleep hours. And your brain loves you for that. So, I think oftentimes, like I think we feel guilty when we do that, give ourselves that time. And we have to put a boundary around that and say, Okay, we have to recognize those boundaries. Don't just keep that out. They keep good in. And when we set those boundaries for ourselves, and we say, you know, every day, I'm going to commit to 15 minutes, or I'm going to commit to 30 minutes for myself non-screen time. Maybe I'm writing in my journal, maybe I'm thinking about something maybe I'm walking or just listening to something I like when we give ourselves that we keep our priorities in check and we keep our priorities matching our calendar. 


James Laughlin 22:09 

Yeah, that congruence with what is meaningful to me. And what's showing up on my calendar each day? Do they line up? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 22:17 

So, convicting, isn't it? Like, you know, every year I do this exercise where I look forward at what I think I'm going to do each month or what my plans are. And then I look at what I say I've written down as my priorities, and it's so conflicting, like, well, I say that I really want to spend a lot of time watching my son play soccer this year, but I just accepted like, five speaking engagements. Yeah, so I'm not sure how that's going to work. Like I got to reevaluate this. And it's really humbling and convicting to do that. 


James Laughlin 22:53 

I love that you also just bring that up, because I know a lot of high performers and leaders who are parents, who would rather like avoid that conversation and go, no, no, no, no, the Yeah, the speaking gigs and the soccer I'll make it all happen when they No, actually they won't. And something has to change. So, I think that says a lot about you, your courage to do that and to share that. So, thank you. 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 23:14 

You're welcome. It takes courage, right? It takes courage to say no, especially as a high achiever. I think that takes massive courage, and to acknowledge the hustle, and that, you know, you can get so caught up in that mindset. And you can become so competitive that you think, well, I got to do that, like I this is what I have to do. This is who I am. And I'll tell you, I just took my oldest son to college 1300 miles away two weeks ago. And when I dropped him off, I thought to myself, I am not thinking about the lost revenue from speaking engagements in the last two years, or the loss of publishing X, Y, or Z. I am so glad that I have spent the last few years really working on my boundaries because I have no regrets. Like, it goes so fast. And it wasn't it wasn't my job I was thinking about or my success in a business that I was thinking about when I said goodbye to him. It was I'm so glad for every minute that I got to spend with you when you were living under our roof. That's beautiful. 


James Laughlin 24:31 

I hope every parent's taking note of that, right? That's incredible. And it's interesting you talk about regrets. So, in the book by Bronnie Ware, Top Five Regrets of the Dying. She was a palliative care nurse and spent a lot of time with people who are in their last days. And one of the top regrets was that people get to the end of their life and look back and go wow, I'm so regretful that I lived my life based on what I thought others expected of me. So how does that tie into boundaries? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 25:04 

Yeah. Oh my gosh, that is so good. Yes. So, I primarily coach women professionals, and I can tell you that there's in the United States at least, there's this, like, a societal expectation of making sure everyone likes you as a woman, and that you are liked and being liked is like, it feels like, Okay, I'm being successful. And the likeness and accessibility are very linked. And we are taught this, right? And so, when I am coaching these women to set boundaries, that's like their first thing. They're like, I'm going to disappoint this person. And I always say, and I write this in the book, if you think you're going to live your life well and not disappoint nice people, you're wrong. Like, like, you will not remain well, without disappointing nice people. I don't know about you. But I don't really care about the people that I don't like that I say no to. I'm like, no, I don't want to do that, right? But I feel bad at times when I let people down, who are expecting me to show up and do something for them or with them. But that is a critical part of our courage and our transparency with others is to recognize that we have a narrative in our mind of what another person thinks about us that may or may not be true. So, we may think, oh, gosh, if I say no to this talk or this manuscript, or if I say no to this volunteer thing, or whatever, these people are not going to like me, they're going to think I'm bad, they're going to think that I'm lazy, or that I am not committed. And most of the time, that is all a story that we have created in our own brain, and you tell the person No, and they think about it for less than 20 seconds, and they are on to the next thing. And so, when we have to get the courage to, as you said, be able to look back at our life and say, like, I did the things I wanted to do with the energy and time that I had put in the places that were most important to me and not living for someone else's expectations because boundaries are very individual. So, boundary, for me may not be a boundary for you. And we can't expect other people to read our minds or know our boundaries. And so that's why in the book, I talk about how important it is to find the courage to tell your boundaries to others. Because what you're doing then is you're saying, I'm a person who respects boundaries. And I care about you enough that I told you this. So please tell me your boundaries if I'm ever crossing them. Or if I ever asked you to show up in a way that you can't be there fully and you don't want to be there. 


James Laughlin 27:52 

I'm really fascinated by this. I really am. So, there are a couple of things that come to mind. One, when you invite people to run, so friends run for dinner. I mean, I go to bed super early. I love going to bed early, and I love getting up super early. That's just that's great. So, when it's getting to like 8:30 - 9 o'clock, and people are still there. I'm kind of like guys like I'm doing the dishes like talking about the plans for tomorrow. Like, I find it hard to actually set that boundary. So, in something simple like that, that's it's a low level, not a life-changing thing. But it causes frustration, and it causes angst. So, if I was to approach something like that, and communicate that, I imagine when I do that beforehand, like Hey, guys, super excited for you to come around our finished time is 9 pm. 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 28:37 

Yes, absolutely. I've totally gotten this because we have a pool. And our house is like the party pool like and a lot of times, I will send out an invitation, I have learned to send out an invitation and say, hey, we're starting, you know, barbecue at one, and we're wrapping it up at a hard 7 pm. Because I'm the same way. I'm like, I got to get in bed, and it takes me like an hour to wind down and do all the things and my husband is like, you are so funny. He's like you literally are like, we're going to have fun for six hours. And I'm like, oh, we are we're going to like party hard for six hours and then we are cutting it off. Everybody respects that like nobody. It's not like nobody comes to our parties, right? They all show up. They all want to still come so  


James Laughlin 

I think people like it.  


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 

yeah, I think they do. And you know, like, if you think about like your best friend or your partner, that person is like the person that you can say, I know that you really want me to go to this thing, but I want to go, and they are still going to love you. They're still going to invite you again. That's the kind of person you want to be, right? like you want to be that person for others. So, I actually like it when my friends say hey, Sasha, I know you invited me to do this thing but I'm just not into running the turkey trot on Thanksgiving please do not ask me to. I'm like okay, you know, like I don't get my feelings hurt. I actually respect people, and they tell me their boundaries. So, I think most people do if you give them credit to do that. 


James Laughlin 30:06 

That's brilliant. And for those who are thinking, where do I need to set boundaries? They're struggling to figure out where they might need to set them. How do we know where we need more boundaries in our lives? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 30:17 

Good question. So, in the book, I talked about doing a boundary inventory. And there's like six different areas, that most of us have one or two areas that need some work, you may have really good boundaries, let's say around email, then another person really struggles with, and they don't understand why, like, you're not answering your email in like, two hours, why? You know, they answer their email immediately. And you're like, oh, I have I batch my emails or whatever. So, it goes through an inventory of areas of your life that really are needing boundaries that we have to be constantly boundaries with. And so, you can kind of do that little test and figure out like, Oh, I'm good here. But over here, I need a lot of help. 


James Laughlin 31:01 

And that person who's going, Okay, people expect a lot of me, I am a busy person, but they always say, you know, if you want something done, ask a busy person, if not me, who's going to do it? So, for the person that is asking that question, if it's not me, like who's going to do it, I better do it. How did they like getting that boundary setup? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 31:19 

Good question. So, what you're really talking about is operating out of ego. And we, our brain tells us that we're being servant leaders, like, oh, if not, if not me, who, right, I'm just going to do this. But what you're really doing is you're not number one, if you're a leader, you're not empowering your team, you're taking on the responsibility, that is likely someone else can do. And you are operating from a sense of ego. And that is feeding your ego that thinks that only you can do this, or you can do the best job. Now maybe it's true that you are the best person for the job. But that's where the 80% rule, I think comes into play. Like, I have to ask myself all the time, can one of my, my employees do this at 80%? If they can, it's a giveaway, if I don't have space for it, and this person can do it at 80% of the capacity that I could do it at. I'm handing it off. So, I think we have to understand that, that is a very egotistical thing to actually think we don't realize it when we're thinking it like Oh, I'm the martyr woe is me, I have to do this, nobody else can do it. But number one, if that's true, then you don't have good structures in place where other people can't you've trained other people to do it. A lot of smart people know to ask busy people like you've said because they know that they will show up and do it every time. And that actually can be a trap that can feed our ego and make us over-committed and over-functioning and lead to burnout. 


James Laughlin 32:54 

It's really interesting just to think of how that plays out, both professionally and personally. So, like, let's go to more personal so we're in the home or in the domestic side of things. And for millennia, the patriarchy has dictated that men don't do specific things. And women don't undo these specific things. So, when we think of, you know, the patriarchy, what they would expect women to do, it's the bringing up of the children. So, raising the children doing all the laundry, their dishes, their housework, making the food, all these things. The world has changed, thankfully. But not everyone has kept up with this new world, this new idea of like, actually what equals we are true equals. So, what advice do you have for a woman to start with? And then we'll go to the man. Who's listening to this right now going, Oh, my God. I'm so successful at what I do professionally. I'm out there doing great stuff. Yeah, I come home. And I'm expected to do X, Y, Z. And my husband's like, no, my dad didn't do my grant and didn't do like you're you raise the kid you do the dishes; you do the dinner? What does that woman need to hear right now to help her with that courage to go? No, no, I'm going to be brave. And I'm going to start setting boundaries that I respect about myself. And I demand that respect from others. 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 34:20 

This is a real scenario. So, this is something I coach women on every single week. And these are not these are like highly educated trained women who you know, are probably in the 1%, earners, right? And they're like, I'm like, What's your biggest stress point? And they're like, cleaning the house and doing dishes and I'm like, why are you doing that? First of all, there are actually people that you can hire to do those things for you. Well, my mom did it, right? Or, or they say, and I love this, like, my husband doesn't do this and it's our biggest fight. Well, first of all, if you're doing it, why would your husband do it? Like my husband? There's never going to be like, I am so excited to empty the dishwasher like that is not in his brain. Many times, it's how it was modeled for us and that is not even something my husband thinks about, like, his mom, you know, stayed home, he didn't even he didn't he has not even seen the dishes in the dishwasher. So, there are two things that I coach women to do this number one, does your husband actually have time to do these things because, for example, in my household, both of us work, we are more than a 2.0 FTE family, we are more like a 3.5 FTE family. And we require 1.5 Other FTEs to make the training work, right? And there's nothing wrong with that there is zero shame in that. So, for example, for many years, when our kids were young, I was like, I'm going to work out in the morning, that's going to be my exercise. My husband was an evening workout person. And every for like two years, we argued about who was going to like, go through all the school papers and pack all the lunches. And I was like, you're going to do it. He's like, no, you're going to do it. I'm like, Well, I'm in more important. He's like, I'm just as important, right? And we have this constant fight. And then it was like, a light bulb. And I was like, why don't we have the neighbor girl who is in high school, come in the morning, for an hour before school, go through the papers, make all the lunches, empty the dishwasher, we will pay her $10 a day to do this task. It was life-changing for us because instead of pushing it on each other, many times, you just need to hire somebody to help you. And it doesn't have to be this huge, you know, 40 hours a week person, it can be small things. So don't just push it on your partner and expectation on your partner, especially if your partner doesn't have space or time for it. The second thing is to sit down and have these conversations, I am so amazed at how often women don't talk to their husbands about this. Or husbands don't even know that this is stressing their wives out and that they are willing to do it. Or the wife is like, well, I can't ask him to do it, because he doesn't fold my towels three ways. Again, for 80%, right? So, I will say I've been married for 25 years, we have four kids. And at every stage of our probably every three or four years, our roles have changed. There have been times where I've done cooking, and he's done, you know more traditional things. And then there's, there's probably a couple of years where we've hired people to meal prep, and then we're kind of back to him doing cooking, like, give yourself the ability to have conversations with your partner, because most of the time, there is an answer there that you just haven't opened your eyes up to. And it's not like your partner is trying to make your life harder. They honestly most likely don't want to make your life harder. They just don't know how to make your life easier because you haven't had these conversations. 


James Laughlin 37:59 

What you just said, I feel is totally applicable to both men and women like that. That's amazing. 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 38:03 



James Laughlin 38:06 

And what about our little ones? So, I've got a little boy Finn, he's six. And how do we teach our kids whether they're tiny kids and their toddlers have grown adults? How do we teach boundaries to them? When can we start? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 38:20 

You can start now I love this question. Because I want us to get rid of this idea that to be a good parent is to be an always parent like I am always there for my kids. I am always there for my spouse or partner. Well, you can't be both, right? Even that in itself is a conundrum. So oh, you want to be a parent who teaches your kids boundaries? I always tell parents; do you have a space in your house that your kids know if you're in that space not to enter? For me, it's like a certain chair and my kids know unless you're hemorrhaging to not approach. When I'm sitting in this chair. I am having mom time like I am decompressing. I'm thinking, I'm writing, I'm reading, please don't bother me unless you're dying. My husband is the same. And the reason that this is so important. And you can teach this to toddlers, honestly, you can literally teach toddlers This is because you want your kids to be able to regulate themselves. I mean, Finn is going to grow up and he's going to get super busy like medical school, he's going to have all these things. He's going to get tired. There are going to be times when his friends are like hey, Finn let's go to this. And Finn is like, I kind of just want to stay home and have pizza tonight and just be alone. And I love that I've now seen this in my teenagers will literally say Mom, we know you want us to all go to watch so and so play soccer tonight. We're not going to do that we're tired. We're staying home and ordering takeout and I'm like, good do that if that's what you need for your wellness. My teenagers have even tech now they'll text me and say so and so wants me to spend the night, but I don't want to spend the night can you say no? Oh, I'm like, no, you need to say no, you got to be empowered to say no. So, we want our kids to learn how to say no to peer pressure to learn how to regulate their own mental health, and their own physical well-being and rest. And that is by teaching them how to set boundaries.  


James Laughlin 40:15 

That's amazing. And is there such a thing as a good or a cane boundary? And then like a negative or like a restrictive boundary is there a difference between the two? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 40:27 

I think there definitely are, I think, you know, Brene Brown says clear is kind. And I think the more transparent you are, about your boundaries, any boundary can seem to mean, or, you know, obstructive. But that's typical because you haven't, you've either not delivered it from a good place, you're in the basement, so to speak, when you are delivering the boundary, or you've waited too long to set the boundary. Or you haven't explained the why. You know, I mean, it's like if you said, hey, Sasha, I want you to speak at this summit. And I'm like, no, I just send you one email. No, you probably are like, oh, wow, that was a kind of harsh boundary. But if I said, you know, I would love to speak at this, however, I have X, Y, Z, and I'm unable to be there. You're, that's, that's totally different, you're not going to write me off. So oftentimes, we wait too long to set a boundary until someone has really pushed, pushed, pushed. And that's on us, right, because we can't expect people to read our minds and know that last week, you didn't mind when I crossed the boundary. But then this week, all of a sudden, you're coming at me with some unprofessional, you know, tone or behavior. So, I think any boundary you set has the possibility of being good or bad, just based on how you deliver it. 


James Laughlin 41:54 

Lovely, I really like that. And I'm thinking a little bit about people who are studying in the corporate world. And let's say it's a female studying the corporate world wanting to really challenge themselves and move up. The leadership ranks as they progress. I can imagine it would be difficult, as somebody who says 2122, just started in an Ernst Young, or a Deloitte big firm. And they're being asked to do things. They're like, oh, that feels a bit. Doesn't feel right. Like I'm being used here. This is not right. They're crossing my boundaries. I imagine it would be difficult for a young male or female, but particularly female in a male-dominant, corporate setting, to enforce that boundary of like, no, that's, I'm not going to do that because of this. So, what advice do you have to that individual who is young who is starting off, who does want to be a great leader, but feels like their boundaries are being crossed and just doesn't know where to start? In terms of having a conversation upwards with their supervisor, manager, or CEO? Where would they start? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 43:05 

Good question. So, I've done some research on this specifically in academia and we know some. Those are called, there's something called citizenship tasks. And I talked about this in the book, the research around, women being more likely to be asked to do citizenship tasks in the workplace than men and they are unpaid necessary tasks. So, they're important tasks that have been identified by leadership that need to be done. But women are often handed to them on a platter and asked to do that. And that is what starts the pay gap. Quite frankly, one of the reasons there are many reasons but one of them is it starts the pay gap because men typically are given tasks that lead to promotion or outcomes, whereas women are doing giving tasks that are just kind of routine tasks that need to be done and that are unpaid. So, one of the reasons or one of the mindsets shifts that I teach women how to do or, and quite frankly, men that are getting taken advantage of at this early stage, because many early career people are when you are asked to do something, it is a compliment, right? If Someone is asking you because they believe in, you. They think you have the talents or the gifts or their capabilities, you are in a position of power. They are asking you so a response to that is oh, I would love to take on this project. Thank you for seeing me as someone who could do this. I would be interested to accept this once you tell me about the resources, the time, or the money associated with it. And can we have a conversation about that? So, what you're doing is you're not saying no, you're not like putting up a stiff hand. You're saying I would be willing and interested to do this. And it's in my capability. I would like to know about the resources and the time and if the response back is, oh, there's no resources and time I would ask why are we doing it. Like if it's not part of the strategic mission or the plan of the business? Why would you want me to utilize my hours to do this project? If it is something that has to be done, then it should be part of a paid someone's pay, right? It should be part of your work responsibilities or something that is going to get you promoted something that you know, is in the line of promotion. So, if it opens a door, and it takes you from being in a position of oh gosh, I'm, I don't know how to say no to this, they want me to do this, they're taking advantage of me, too. You're all of the sudden assuming the power position, and saying, I have the ability to do this, where's the time or the money or the resources associated with it? 


James Laughlin 45:36 

That's really good advice. I love that. That's gold. And on a slightly different tangent, but still, really boundaries-focused. As an adult, who's listening, and they've got parents, who are, you know, 20 - 30 years, they're seniors, sometimes they can be the hardest individuals in our lives, to set unenforced boundaries with. So, what experience or advice do you have in that area? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 46:01 

I feel like you're like reading my life like you've been watching my life for so long. Yes, there's a whole chapter in the book about boundaries with our family, and the people we love the most because it's actually the most difficult and I tell funny stories in the book about it. But many times, they just don't know they're crossing a boundary they have, again, they just don't know. And they are well intended. But our parents, our family, often are the people we have to continually set boundaries with over and over. And I hear this all the time, people will say I've told them this once, why am I having to tell them again? Most likely, it's because they don't have that boundary themselves. So, let's say they just show up unannounced at your house all the time. And you know, I have one client, her parents just literally don't even knock, they just show up. And she's like, I just don't know what to do. And I'm like, do you know why they're doing this? Because they would love it. If you just showed up, like, if you just popped in one day, they would be like, oh my gosh, she's here to visit me, right? So, to them, they don't understand that this is a boundary for you. So, one of the things that I teach people to start the leading statement with is I care about our relationships so much that I need to talk to you about this same if you have to conflict in the workplace. Say, James, you and I are office mates and we're constantly at each other's throats. But we have to work together. And you're doing something that is constantly ticking me off. A great way to start is James I actually care about our working relationship a lot and you mean a lot to me. Whether it's true or not. You mean a lot to me. I need to tell you this because it's causing conflict with me. And it makes it about you not the other person. But how can I tell you this in a way that is unexplained in a way that you mean a lot to me actually are working relationship? This is bothering me, or this is hard for me, or I don't understand why you're doing this. Those are the ways that you start the conversation, because it puts the patient person on like instantly off the defense, right? Like you're not coming at them, you're walking towards them with open hands, saying like you mean something to be, we need to set this boundary. 


James Laughlin 48:24 

That's incredible. I can think of that. I'm one of those people I really don't like when people just drop into the house. Like I really don't like let's organize it I want to make sure the house is tidy. I want to make sure everything's good. Like I want to be wide awake, like don't drop around first thing in the morning. So that would be great. Now that I know that I'm going to try that was a few people who just dropped in. 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 48:45 

I'm the same way I'm like, it's still it actually driving down. What is happening?  


James Laughlin 48:51 

I want to get a big get at the front that nobody can get in and they have the buzzer and I'm not answering. That's awesome. I love it. Well, Dr. Sasha, this has been an incredible conversation. I really enjoyed it. And I'm going to make sure in the show notes to put a link to all your socials but also where someone can actually download the book right now, I know that for the listener, you're listening right now most likely on your phone. And if you're not driving, please get on there and get the book ordered. I'm going to put it in the show notes. I'm really excited for everyone to get into that. And the book, what are you most proud of with the book? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 49:31 

I'm pretty transparent in the book about how I let my ego get in the way. And it led me to overcommit to people. And it caused me a lot of strife and a lot of burnout. And so, I put it in the book then I took it out, but I put it in the book, but I took it out. It's pretty personal. But now that I have the book out and I published it and I've received some feedback people have told me like your transparency was what made it real to me. 


James Laughlin 50:01 

Good. Absolutely love it. And the title is Brave Boundaries. 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 50:05 

Brave Boundaries. Yes. We got to have a little courage right to set those boundaries. 


James Laughlin 50:10 

Absolutely. No, absolutely. Now, one last question before we do wrap up. I'd love you to just in your mind's eye fast forward, and think about the very end of your life. So, we're fast-forwarding away into the future. And it's your last day. And someone very special and dear to us very young could be a grandchild, great-grandchild, they come up and they say granny, or grandma or Sasha. I want to know how to lead my life with purpose. What advice do you have for me? What would you say to them? 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 50:49 

I would probably tell them, to define themselves, and not to let society or others define who they are. And being your authentic self will make you a good leader. 


James Laughlin 51:09 

I love that. For the listener that's listening right now please rewind that and write that down and share that with someone you love. That's just incredible. So, I just want to say a massive thank you for the work that you do. It's incredibly important work the world needs you. And I hope one day I get to see you on a stage down here in New Zealand or Australia. 


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 51:29 

I would love that. Thank you for just having me on and allowing me to share it's been an awesome conversation. 


James Laughlin 51:35 

Now it's a pleasure and very best of luck with the book.  


Dr. Sasha Shillcutt 

Thank you! 


James Laughlin 

Thank you! 


James Laughlin 51:56 

Thanks for tuning in today and investing in your own personal leadership. Please hit that subscribe button. And I'd love it if you'd leave me a rating and review. I've got some amazing guests lined up for you in the coming weeks. And leaders. It's that time to get out there and lead your life on purpose.