Two weeks ago I wrote about my overactive need to save the day and the trap of being dependent on adrenaline. I confessed to my periodic “addiction” to the surge of excitement and aliveness I feel as I jump in to solve crises. Or even perceived crises.

The more I think about the energy I sometimes feel as I rush from meeting to meeting, with too much to do, too many people to respond to, and too many next steps on my list, the more I realize that there are times when I need to disengage from that energy rush. And the more I speak with clients, or watch colleagues in action, the more I think that perhaps we all could benefit from lessening our dependence on, or infatuation with, having too much to do with too little time to do it. We complain about it, but I think we also kinda like how it feels.

So how do we break the habit? Here are five challenging, but doable, ways to at least address it, if not cure it.

Give them a try.

  1. Notice – Notice when you’re running around frantically, and notice how you feel as you’re doing it. Be present to the moment. It’s hard to stop a behavior if you don’t realize you’re doing it. By simply paying attention you’ll go off autopilot, and by noticing when you’re charged with that adrenaline rush, you can choose to stop and step away.
  2. Admit it – Once I realized the charge I was getting from the busy-stressed feeling, I realized I wanted to operate at that frequency less often. And once I admitted it out loud – once I posted that blog – I became even more aware of how often I was flying with adrenaline and how much I wanted to change that. Admitting it – out loud, in public, to people I care about – strengthened my resolve to build different habits.
  3. Practice – I needed to practice different behaviors, such as slowing down, pushing back on or questioning deadlines, breathing more consciously, and taking more breaks. As contrary as it may seem, the antidote to adrenaline is not rushing to get more done, but slowing down to get a bit less done more thoughtfully. I had to build an arsenal of other approaches besides an adrenaline charge, and had to build those muscles by practicing. And practicing some more.
  4. Get support – It’s easier to break old habits and build new ones with support. That’s why workout partners are recommended when you’re trying to achieve a physical goal. Losing your constant addiction to adrenaline is no different. I had to find people to support my desire to do things a new, slower way. If you find a few good friends (or one good colleague or coach) to hold you to your promise to do things differently, you’re more likely to succeed.
  5. Notice again, and reward – By paying attention to how good I feel when I am more deliberate and Thoughtful, I am reinforcing my new behaviors. It’s important to notice how different – and good – you feel when you have more time, can go more slowly, and can be more Thoughtful. You need to call out the positives about your new behavior, and to also reward your new behavior. This reinforces your new way of action and interaction, so that you can keep it up.

There are times we need to rush to get things done, and times we need to call out our tendencies to rush to get things done. By taking these steps you can cure, or at least address, your “addiction” to adrenaline, and show up more as the leader and person you want to be.

How have you handled your adrenaline “addiction?”
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