I understand there are times to sprint and I’m also not opposed to hard work. Anyone who knows me, knows I am a huge advocate for work ethic. For example, April 3rd I launched my eCourse Jumpstart Your Life. It was definitely a sacrifice for both my wife and I. I was working more, and she was taking on more than usual. Here’s the problem, after the launch I immediately had the desire to do more without taking the time to celebrate myself. (I’ll write on this topic soon. There’s too much to unpack here).
See, I’m still working to understand that life’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. This is a topic that’s been hard for me personally. As a former Marine, my approach is going hard 24/7 then “sleep when you die.” Logically I can see the destructive nature of such approach, but I have yet to unlock the ability to change this reality permanently.
I don’t believe I’m alone.
When I realized where I was heading (on my way to burnout…again), I chose to write about the topic. It helps bring clarity and jar me out of my own cycle.
What Leads to Burnout
First, you have to learn what leads to burnout in the first place. Without this step, you’re stuck in a state of reaction, which is no way to live. Here are a few drivers of burnout.
Reacting to External Needs – There will always be a need. There was poverty, hunger, people with lack and pain for thousands of years. If you are driven by external needs over time, you overextend your personal capacity. There are ways to grow your capacity, but it’s impossible when you’re trapped consistently putting out fires.
Missionaries, pastors, entrepreneurs and CEO’s are notorious for this. I love them (and I am one myself), but they often get stuck reacting to other people’s needs. If you let external needs be the fuel it comes at the expense of your own legitimate needs. When this happens, you sabotage your ability to take on more and slowly lose the capacity you currently have. (burnout).
Lack of Healthy Personal Boundaries – This ties into the point above, but it’s a little different. It’s a guarantee that people without personal boundaries who don’t protect their heart, family, spiritual life, physical health, etc. become one of two things.
- A victim who feels powerless to life. These are the people that always complain about their issues but never take ownership.
- An emotional doormat to be accepted or find value. They let people invalidate their legitimate need to feel love.
These two realities are not sustainable and will lead to burnout because it requires them to give authority to someone else in order to do life.
Not Knowing Your YES – If I were to sit you down in my office and ask “What is your Yes?” Would you have an answer? Saying no to distractions, creating boundaries, and focusing on what matters comes easy when you clearly define what you’ve said yes to. I’m not talking about small commitments. I’m referring to the bigger picture.
Let me use myself as an example:
My “Yes” is fathering people by teaching and activating them into the fullness of their potential. I’ve chosen my blog, my eCourse, and my consulting practice as the tools I use to fulfill my yes. I’m able to easily say no to business ideas that are pitched to me (which happens more than you may think) because they don’t fit into my “yes.”
Inconsistency and Lack of Focus – Over the last nine months I have begun to better understand the value of consistency thanks largely in part to my intern, Rose. Before her entering my world I had bounced from one big project to another, sometimes in completely different fields of practice. Remember, I’m the all-or-nothing guy who tends to prematurely take on tasks that I shouldn’t, which in turn leads to inconsistency.
Over time inconsistency eats away at long-term success. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “it takes the most energy to get a train started.” That’s because once a train hits its cruising speed, it can reach up to 470 miles per gallon. Similarly, when we lack consistency we’re exerting a significant amount of energy to get it started, but never hit a stride where we can become more efficient and over time it becomes exhausting and actually leads to a sense of hopelessness.
I’ve learned a lot jumping from one thing to the next but it came at a heavy price. Each time I changed direction I lost momentum and had to hit the reset button. On the other hand, there’s a good chance you’re reading this blog post as a byproduct of me learning the value of consistency. Part of this focus has been on producing new content… consistently.
Pursuing the Wrong Definition of Success – If you’ve ever been around someone who has pursued financial success at all cost, you will know what I’m talking about. They work hard at the expense of enjoying life or meeting their needs. Often their families don’t have a relationship with them, or it’s laced with emotional abandonment. When they find what they’ve been striving for, they’re exhausted, unhappy, and often alone. They don’t have a community that intimately knows them, so no one really knows what’s going on. They’re propped up on coping mechanisms like drugs, alcohol, food, painkillers, energy drinks, etc.
This approach to success is like helping a friend move into an apartment on the fifth floor, but there’s’ no elevator. We run up and down the stairs without resting. When we get tired, we turn and slam a steroid shot into our leg and keep going. Eventually one of a few things will happen.
- Your body will give out, and you’ll have a physical ailment which forces you to slow down. This could be a nervous breakdown or some kind of sickness.
- You learn how to deal with the pain, but it comes at the cost of not being connected to your heart or present in life.
- You become isolated and alone because your friend (metaphorically speaking) can’t keep up with your pace. They feel left behind and eventually gravitate toward relationships where they can do life in a healthy way.
- Or all of the above.
Trust me, it’s not worth it.
What Happens When we Burnout
It Decreases Your Capacity – We all have an inherent desire to do more, be more, and provide for those we love. These are good desires to have, they’re Godly. Expanding our capacity is one of the first commands God gave Adam and Eve. He told them to be fruitful and multiply. The only way you can do this is by growing into the person God called you to be, which almost always requires expansion. Burning out does more than just lower your capacity, over time it completely blocks your ability to expand and grow. When this happens you go into survival mode, which is reactionary and limiting.
It Robs Your Ability To Be Present – I remember several moments sitting on the couch wanting to engage with my kids, but didn’t feel like I could. I was numb and exhausted because I had overextended and ignored the signs of burnout. It fed into shame, porn, and wanting to check out… which only caused pain for my wife and shame for me. It was one of the contributing factors that ate away at my masculinity.
It Distorts Your Relationship With God – When you reach a state of burnout, it’s easy to blame God for your circumstances or even lose trust in His desire to want what’s best for you. In response to this belief, you begin to feel distant from God, and your intimacy begins to fade. In the long run, you’ll feel solely responsible for your life, not just financially but in every area.
The problem is, God had nothing to do with the choices that led to your burnout. It’s impossible because it would require violating our free will. His heart is always for us to thrive, it is our responsibility to learn how to do it in a way that’s sustainable.
Isolation Becomes Our Safe Zone – This point ties into the effect it has on capacity. The last thing I want to do is connect with people when I’ve reached a point of burnout. Doing something simple like replying to a text or planning something feels like it’s too much, so the solution is to not do anything at all.
This is a scary place to find yourself. When you’re at this stage, it is then you need people the most. It feels safer to hide than to let people into our weakness. We all long to be intimately known, even if the thought of it feels foreign or scary.
Now that we’ve identified how burnout happens, and the byproduct of it, we need to breakdown ways we can identify burnout before it happens. In my next post, I’ll go into detail on the main indicators, what we can look for as well as what to do about them.
If you haven’t subscribed to my blog posts yet, you should because you don’t want to miss part 2. 🙂