What an ominous sounding word!  And, for good reason.

Early on, a “dead line” was a mark drawn in the sand to show the absolute limit of movement allowed Civil War prisoners.  When combatants were captured on the battlefield, there were no stockades to hold them.  Guards simply scratched a restricting line on the ground with a sobering warning, “If you cross this line, you’re a dead man!”  

That line in the sand haunts us, especially if we’re compulsive types.  Consider your coaching client, Conscientious Cal/Callie, who lives by clocks, calendars, and checklists.   Cal/Callie is successful, a productive pacesetter in the workplace.  Conscientious Cal/Callie does the right thing in the right way at the right time, and sticks with tasks until they’re completed.  So, what’s the problem?  Poor Cal/Callie is overloaded and burning out from the inside.  Cal/Callie’s internal “to-do” list is too long with an inner timer set on fast forward.  Still, Conscientious Cal/Callie’s a “star” for one simple reason: workaholism is hard-charging organizations’ favorite addiction. 

To survive today and to thrive later, burned-out Cal/Callie is looking for relief now and for a new work style for the future.  Conscientious Cal/Callie wants to transform deadlines into lifelines.   How can you help compulsives untether themselves from unhealthy deadlines?

Fan the ashes in the direction of lifelines.  Successful folks rarely turn corners fast.   Their styles have helped them succeed in the past.  They may need to crash and burn—or nearly so—before they can ask for help.  With clear motivation from an infrequent failure, Cal/Callie may finally be primed to grow and change.

Plant seeds to grow new habits.  Compulsive types are creatures of habit.  Challenge them to plant new seeds of balance and sanity through new habits.  Help them use their strengths as habit-followers to re-new their lives—literally.

Add “fun” to “to-do” lists.  Cal/Callie will likely “have fun” on command.   However, some change-of-pace activities are probably healthier for Cal/Callie than others.  Remember that some avocations like golf are highly structured and metrics-oriented, just the stuff that both enlivens and kills conscientious folks.  Maybe fishing or gardening are better hobbies for compulsives, since the fish and flowers set the agenda.

Be alert for ways to reframe deadlines into lifelines.  Otherwise, Conscientious Cal/Callie may live by deadlines and die still looking for lifelines.