August 15

From Burnout to Alignment



Have you experienced burnout? Or maybe you have thought you came really close to it. It could be a scary experience but it can also be a pathway to connecting deeply to who you truly are.

That has been the experience of Marie-Louise Pereira.

Marie-Louise is a certified coach, trained by the renowned Co-Active Institute and has been coaching empathic hyper-achievers to let go of their limiting beliefs, and connect to their heart to live a purposeful, and highly satisfying life.
She has worked for almost 25 years in different corporate fields in Sales and Communication, (from Luxury to the Pharmaceutical Industry) managing highly competitive and demanding positions (from individual contributor to being a manager) where performance was key.

She also offers programs to leaders to create a coaching culture within their organization where humans skills are key assets to increased success and wellbeing

You can listen to our conversation below.  


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In the beginning of our conversation, we mentioned Coachville, a coaching training organization, and a community, where we met.

Marie-Louise talked about Co-Active Coaching, which is where he attended her coaching certification training.


You can connect with Marie-Louise via LinkedIn.

We held this conversation on LinkedIn Live. If you'd like to take part in these conversations real time, follow me on LinkedIn.


"It is always a matter of choice. Life is choice."-Marie-Louise Pereira

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"I invite everybody to ask themselves this question:  Am I worthy to be living my best life?  Everybody is worthy. We are all worthy to be living our best lives. We have one life, and from this question, everything is possible. If you say yes to life, then you can ask for help. You can learn, you can fail, you can do everything."-Marie-Louise Pereira

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"When you start to realign yourself to your true self, you start seeing allies everywhere and then you start living your life on purpose. "-Marie-Louise Pereira

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[00:00:00] Isil: My name is Işıl Uysal Calvelli. I call myself a LifeWork coach because all I'm interested in is to create the work that is aligned with who we are so that workplace becomes a place and work becomes the thing where we can expand who we are and contribute to ourselves, the world around us and expand the life inside of us. And I'm excited to be with Marie-Louise today.

 [00:00:22] Marie-Louise, we met in a wonderful program from Coachville actually, where we worked in our dreams together. And one of our ideas was we wanted to do something creative. So I wanted to do something creative. You wanted to do something creative and we said, Shall we colloborate? So this live idea came and you have a wonderful story, I think. Well, I'm very curious about your story. Something connects us. We are both coaches, but at the same time, we are interested in work: creating, fulfilling work.

[00:00:52] And I heard from you you have a story, a happy story that started with a bit of unfulfillment, turned into fulfillment. So first let's start with you introducing yourself. You define how you define yourself, what is your work? And then tell us a bit about this journey that you had from unfulfillment to fulfillment.

[00:01:15] Marie-Louise: Yeah. Thank you, Isil, for the invitation. Yes, we had the connection on this program and to be true to you, I wanted to create something out of my comfort zone. So here we go. So what type of coach am I? Really, my work is very simple. It's really connecting the head and the heart, I would say to be very succinct.

[00:01:36] It's about really helping the client or the player- I love that name: the player, to become true to himself, to know himself, to know his values, his strengths, his aspirations, and start to realign himself to live the best of his life, to own this fulfillment in his life or her life.

[00:02:00] Of course my, story helped me to become who I am and to help now those people who are out of alignment. So obviously I was out of alignment myself about, you know, like even 10 years ago. I started my journey of coaching eight years ago, but already, 13 years ago, I was already out of alignment and I was, let's say, bored out.

[00:02:28] I was really searching for myself. I didn't like my job anymore. It was financially good, but, yeah, my soul wasn't having excitement anymore. I wasn't having excitement in that job. So, you know, it's so hard to take a lead towards who we really want to be. And I had no idea at that moment. I only knew that I was burned out, overwhelmed. I was having difficulties with relationships. Some of them were good. Some of of them were not good at all, not fulfilling and in the overall, my life wasn't fulfilling at all. So I started that journey and I could say that burn out helped me to rediscover myself.

[00:03:17] Isil: I'm curious about this term burnout, because I don't know if I know how it feels like. This term is new, not new anymore, but it's very popular right now. I think a lot of people are experiencing this. I don't define my experience back then burnout, but probably I also don't know what it feels like. How did it feel? How do you know that it was burnout for you?
[00:03:44] Marie-Louise: So for me, it's like suddenly one day, I couldn't move anymore. I put so much pressure on myself. I have to do this. I have to be successful. I have to climb the ladder. I have to, I have to, I put so much pressure on myself that I burned. So one day I couldn't move anymore. I was lying on my bed and... I don't know if something happened. My body couldn't move.

[00:04:09] Isil: Was it at the end of these five years? You said it was already kind of 13 years ago.

[00:04:16] Marie-Louise: Actually to give you some details, I started having this boredom and stuff around 40, 42 and at 44 it hit me, right? And I suddenly couldn't move anymore. I was having a very hard relationship and tough relationship with my direct report and we weren't agreeing on the strategy and we were having conflicts, so mentally exhausted, physically exhausted, back pain, difficulties to wake up, to sleep, sleeping problems. I was taking stuff all the time to ..Painkillers.. And really I was out of alignment, but until that time that my body told me that's it, we cannot move anymore.

[00:05:07] Isil: How did you take the journey from there on?

[00:05:12] Marie-Louise: Oh, so I wasn't prepared of course. And I didn't understand what was going on. I never heard at that time about burnout. so I ... slowly by slowly actually.. You know, I went first to the doctor. I explained my problems and my doctor told me you are completely burned out. And, you know, I had to stop working. For three months I was in my bed, lying and lying and doing nothing. Not able. I mean, everything was so painful, so difficult, so heavy to do, even the chores, you know, the chores at home... I was having my kids of course, my husband, I barely could, you know, cook... even, you know, I couldn't. Terrible. It lasted for three months and slowly by slowly, you know, um... actually what happened is like, well, during those three months I had to stay within myself and to stay still and to be: to be with whatever, you know, whatever was happening to myself in my body. It was pain. Yeah. Painful. And I was having pains, but couldn't move. So I just had to stay in my being, right?

[00:06:27] Isil: When did the shift happen for you where you recognize something new is being born?

[00:06:32] Marie-Louise: So after those three months, four months, I would say, suddenly I had some taste to go out to explore nature. I had this, I don't know how I can say that, this energy. A little bit, not energy, but this will to go out, this will to go into nature and to give myself permission to hear the birds and to be in nature just to contemplate. Something very simple, right? I think I wasn't ready yet to have relationships and start to immerse myself into being with friends and stuff. I wasn't ready, but I was ready to have a peaceful, mindful... I started mindfulness actually, right? In nature. And slowly by slowly, I had the will to.. to eat one, you know, specific food or to go to the cinema or to see the movies. And slowly by slowly, I started, you know, being alive again.

[00:07:38] Weird journey, right?

[00:07:40] Isil: Wow, I was talking with the two colleagues today and we were discussing how our lives are changing. I've recognized that we had been acting from a place of responding, or reacting like, I don't want this, or I will fight against this, rather than this call inside of ourselves that genuinely authentically desiring or wanting something. And to me it feels like you find yourself this stillness or your body called you out, woke you up into this misalignment that you were experiencing and probably you practiced a lot of patience, I believe, when you were so much on a roll, and then when you find yourself in a place of silence, that should be also challenging to stay with.

[00:08:29] Marie-Louise: You learn resilience, you learn to be resilient and then patient, because at the very beginning, I mean, truly I'm not patient, I'm not someone who's patient .

[00:08:38] Isil: I can imagine. I think, patience is something that we develop as we practice and through that patience, you allowed something real emerge inside of you and that bit by you.. you told beautifully, you started going out doing things. When did the meeting with coaching start? How did you start to this new journey?

[00:09:00] Marie-Louise: The company I was working for was going through redundancy. They were offering redundancy.

[00:09:05] So I said to myself, okay, this is the best that could happen to me. I wanna start something new, something that feels real to me, something authentic, aligned with. And a friend of mine... I was going to the gym and I started, you know, going to the gym again and stuff... He told me, you know, I know this coach and maybe she could help you.

[00:09:26] So I said, a coach? You know, it was nine years ago, And I said, a coach? All right. Yeah. Why not? We can have a chat. So I called her and she said, let's have a chat. I went there and actually she asked me, what do you really want?

[00:09:41] I was, oh, God! Well, I wanna be happy in my life. All right. She said, you know what? I'm giving a workshop: play your bigger game, two days workshop with another coach, a friend, she was from Canada, she was coming to France and she said, we're gonna have to play our bigger game within two days. I said, okay, let's go for the workshop. And oh my God, after the first day of the group coaching (we were a group, right? 12 people) I started crying. It was so moving, you know, the questions and the exercises we did to reconnect to our true self, right? And I said, no way. I mean, I need to do that. I need to move forward with that coaching thing. And I wanna become a coach actually, you know, It resonated so much. I still have goosebumps when I talk about it. That was the start of my coaching journey. And I started being coached. I started taking the coaching curriculum to become a professional coach And I went to a leadership program, the coactive leadership program for 10 months, it was an immersive experience where I learned a lot about myself, about my peers. So it was an amazing journey.

[00:11:07] Isil: What resonated with me, what landed was you were exploring. Somebody told you something. You were curious. And then there was another invitation. You allowed yourself, gave yourself permission to play. And then out of this, a new insight emerged for you and you followed this through.

[00:11:29] Marie-Louise: Yeah, I followed my intuition. That was something that was aligned with me deeply. And then having this impact to help other people being of service... that was very much resonating with me. I always wanted to help people, but you know, I did commerce, I did so many things. I was having great talks, but I wasn't helping, I was selling, I was, you know, contributing to the benefits of the company, the business and stuff, but I wasn't aligned at the end with that.

[00:12:04] Isil: I think you are now giving bit of hints of what makes fulfillment for you at work. And one aspect you were touching right now was people. And, I felt authenticity. It was you and being real with other people, not for selling, but really contributing and serving.

[00:12:27] Marie-Louise: Serving to their growth, serving them not to buy something. It's okay. I mean, you help them choose, buy, know a few things, technical stuff, whatever you're selling, but here with coaching, you are really getting to the core of, I mean, the soul of someone, and developing them to self actualize them to be happier, a happier version of themselves and that's fantastic. I feel that it's the best gift.

[00:12:56] Isil: And this experience for you having transitioned from burnout to coaching, what have you learned regarding what makes work fulfilling?

[00:13:08] Marie-Louise: Hmm, well, I learned to follow my values, to understand myself, to understand my strengths, to honor my strengths, to honor my values, to be true to myself, to listen to that little voice that could tell me, uh- uh, it's not the right thing for you. Also, to know myself, what were my belief system not to become my best self, what those saboteur inner critics that are derailing us and preventing us from being our full self. So I learned all those things and it's really a practice. It's not a small journey. It's really something that I keep doing. I keep realigning myself with my values and honoring my values all the time, setting my boundaries, learning to say no to honor more yourself, coming back to my center. And so it is something that is fulfilling me because I love to learn. I am very curious and I love to play, so yeah, I'm still learning, still learning. Yeah. So it's continuous growth.

[00:14:19] Isil: Yeah. I was connecting with my experience and what I have written in the book. I feel this is like a continuous journey as you were describing.

[00:14:27] And one of the metaphors that I was using for this unfulfillment experience was we don't know ourselves and our shape, it feels like. It's as if we are going through a cave and then we are hitting here and there and our hands are tight. And through this, you know, hitting here and there we are understanding, oh, okay, I have this kind of shape.

[00:14:49] So with this experiences of upset, unfulfillment, we are understanding, okay, these are kind of important to me I didn't know about. These are my values. What new choice I can make with this? It's like bit by bit, not immediately, something appears, but through a process of discovery, taking new action. And then again, And it's never ending, I think.

[00:15:14] Marie-Louise: No, no. And something that is fulfilling to you right now, maybe is going to change, the shape is gonna change and it's gonna take a different form in the future also, right? And so, it's good to know that it is a journey. It's not a set thing. Like of course, sometimes we do coaching and we have clients and for a set amount of time, we are with them. We guide them. But it's really important to know that it's a continuous way of living life. We just need to ask ourselves the right question. What do I need? What is important for me right now? What excites me? What is fulfilling to me? Letting go of what is not fulfilling, having the courage to go for what is more rewarding to us. It is always a matter of choice. Life is choice.

[00:16:07] Isil: With your current self, when you look back into your past experience before you burned out, what could you have done so that it didn't last so long for you?

[00:16:17] Marie-Louise: Well, I could have had the courage to ask for help. Because, I thought at that time that I had to make it myself. I'm the oldest. And, you know, I've always had to prove or to show that I knew or that I... yeah, because behind me, I have a sister, so I had to be the best to show her the way so I never had to ask for help. It was hard for me to ask for help. So I learned that during the whole process: Ask for help. Because for me, asking for help was like I was a failure, right? I didn't know, not knowing for me was like, oh my God, you don't know? And now I'm jumping into the unknown. I'm giving myself the permission to not know. Why should I know everything, right? That's great not to know. And then you can play, try, test, tweak something that is not working. So there's more playfulness in my life now. And I'm not beating myself up because I'm not knowing or I'm failing at something. And the mindset shift is really, I'm not failing at this I'm learning.

[00:17:34] We never fail actually. We always learn. So it makes life much easier, much lighter.

[00:17:41] Isil: I think it's the... You cannot change... What was the saying called? You cannot solve the problems through the mindset that created them. I think when we are stuck, probably the same mindset is in operation. So it's exactly the point where we get a partner, to have a different view for us, to be challenged on, to maybe also mirror someone else's mindset, and to look from outside to have a...

[00:18:11] To bring ourselves to play is such a challenging thing, I think. While you were talking, I was seeing your energy. And then I.. When you said, well, I'm playing with it, it's okay for not knowing, making mistakes... "So what gives you the security?" is something I want to ask you because usually people don't act because they want the security of knowing.

[00:18:33] Marie-Louise: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It is safe.

[00:18:36] Isil: And how do we train ourselves to take leaps towards the unknown?

[00:18:42] Marie-Louise: Yeah, I failed so many... I, I didn't fail so much, but I failed one big, big, big thing for 10 years and that I didn't achieve what I wanted. And so I learned to let go. It's about letting go of the pressure we put ourselves. You have to, you need to, you should... The shoulds, the have to, judgemental thoughts are nasty, nasty saboteurs, I would say, yeah? So it's about letting go of those thoughts and acknowledging them first of course, but letting go of them because they're not useful to become that playful self. And really letting go is something that I had to learn to be playful and be willing to learn, not fail.

[00:19:35] You know, tweaking language is very important when we do coaching. We really are very cautious about what we say and how we are articulating. And we change from one word to the other one. And so failing is not nice. I don't like it. So I like the learning, yeah?

[00:19:51] Isil: Playing big and learning from it.

[00:19:54] Marie-Louise: Yes, absolutely. That gives me energy when I say, you know, I'm learning and I'm very curious to learn more and to try and not judge myself if I fail, right?

[00:20:07] Isil: So from your story, what you shared, what stayed with me as lessons if I could summarize is, what keeps us stuck is these expectations of ourselves: the shoulds, have to... So recognizing these, asking for help as early as possible so that we can get out of this mindset and create a fresh perspective for clarifying what is it that we need right now and what is important to us, what are our values so that what next action we can take for going towards what is important to us. And also celebrating mistakes: failure doesn't exist, but celebrating learning.

[00:20:52] Marie-Louise: Yes. That's a nice way to put it together. Absolutely. And, and I would say also, you know, when we are in those moments of deep questioning, it's really to ask also ourselves 1 question, which is key. This one is really very important to me: Am I worthy to be living my best life? That's a key one. Everybody is worthy. We are all worthy to be living our best lives. We have one life, right? So from this question, well, everything is possible. And if you say yes to life, then you can ask for help. You can learn, you can fail, you can do everything. So I invite everybody to ask himself or herself this question. I just had a discovery session with someone. And at the end, it was really that question. Do you feel you are worthy of becoming this happy self, this fulfilled self? Do you feel worthy, right? Are you worthy for and ready to become this person, right? And we are all worthy. Of course.

[00:22:12] Isil: What if the person answers no? When they don't feel they are worthy?

[00:22:19] Marie-Louise: Maybe it's not the right moment for them to do coaching then. Maybe it needs a little more staying in this mindset that doesn't help and seeing after one year or two years, that they're still stuck, they're still in the same place, they're still unfulfilled, unhappy, and then maybe they might remember our conversation and say Oh, that's it. I'm done. I really want to become someone else. I feel worthy. I am worthy. I'm gonna do the work because it takes time and we need to work on ourselves to become fulfilled, that it's a lifelong journey, but, at least the first step is really to acknowledge our worthiness. That's the start.

[00:23:02] Isil: The question that you ask, am I worthy of living the best life I can have? What was it? Can you repeat again?

[00:23:09] Marie-Louise: Am I worthy to live my best life now? Can I start to be living my best life right now?

[00:23:15] Isil: Yes. I was exactly getting that, like, what is the best life now for me? And what can I do in this moment to experience this?

[00:23:27] Marie-Louise: Everybody can ask himself or herself that question. Very simple. And you can take a step forward to that question.

[00:23:38] Isil: What is your answer to it now? I was just curious for your next days, what is your next step for your best life?

[00:23:47] Marie-Louise: I would love to have more impact and of course for now I'm doing one on ones with coaching, but I would love to go beyond the one on one and have more impact on groups.

[00:23:58] So, that's my next step, I think. Scary one though. Scary because I've done few coaching groups, programs, but, I'm thinking about the theme and the topic. And I would love to have some people joining me in that journey of realigning people to themselves and do some group coaching because when you are a group with the same goal, It's so much fun and you see that you're not alone.

[00:24:28] I wasn't on that journey alone and I feel that sometimes it's so good to have partners in crime, I would say, with the same goal. So that's my next experience.

[00:24:44] Isil: I can see that happening. So people who would be interested in the group, being part of the group, they can follow you on LinkedIn. They would see your profile. What else would you like to add before we come to a closing?

[00:24:59] Marie-Louise: I wanted to thank you for asking me those very fundamental questions. I hope it was helpful to the people that are listening and I wish them to really give themselves at least the chance to not waste their lives and their energy to things that actually don't matter. We put so much emphasis on recognition, on status and, external validation. That's not the truth. The truth is that really, when you reconnect to yourself, you are the most happiest version of yourself. And then, things start moving and being abundant, and you meet the right people like we did. Because we are having this fulfilling life, we meet the right people and we connect with the right people that are on the same path. That's what happened to us, right? So when you are starting to realign yourself to your true self, authentic self, your values, your strengths, your aspirations, and when you listen to your deep calling, deep purpose, then you start seeing allies everywhere and then you start living your life on purpose.

[00:26:14] Isil: Beautifully said. Thank you very much, Marie-Louise. Thank you. I acknowledge your strength, your courage coming live. I enjoyed very much talking with you. I sensed your energy and I feel you have gone a long path of discovering the lightness. You impressed me with your journey and the way that you said with "should"s and "have to"s, it really showed me that you learned to let go. And that you are living in a place of lightness and playfulness. I can see it in your face and in your energy. I can feel it.

[00:26:53] Marie-Louise: Thank you. Thank you, Isil. Thank you so much for inviting me and letting me express myself. Hopefully, other people would join this alignment party and play.

[00:27:05] Come join the party. It's a great ending. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

About the author 


I am a LifeWork coach, the author of the book The Gift of Being Unfulfilled at Work, the host of Unique Careers, Unique Lives podcast, and the co-founder of BeCoach Academy. Learn more on

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