I think everyone starts to feel a bit burned out from time to time when riding the waves of life. For me, it depends on where you are on the wave. If you’re on the top looking to the valley, it’s less likely you’ll burnout. If you’re at the bottom starting to climb, it’s more likely you’ll burnout.
This to me can be seen in two myths:
- Atlas – A titan condemned to hold up the heavens for all eternity. (The top looking down)
- Sisyphus – A mortal punished to eternally push a boulder uphill. (The bottom looking up)
Note: Don’t cross Zeus. The dude really likes eternal justice.
I’ve been talking to a few people who are just burned out. There tends to be a pattern to it all that I’ve noticed. The pattern is a recipe of:
- 2 cups exhaustion
- 1/2 tablespoon depression
- A pinch of cynicism
Burnout at it’s core is the product of repeated & prolonged stress. It’s not the result of working long hours, but rather what conditions you’re working long hours in.
This can be for many reasons. Some of the top of my head would be:
- Misalignment of your passion & purpose
- Uncertainty of effort & reward
- Lack of autonomy
Now jump back to our Greek example here.
Atlas is on top of the world & bears the responsibility of holding it. His passion & purpose is already defined because the world depends on him, there’s certainty of the effort & reward, and he is in control. Atlas is not likely to burnout.
Sisyphus on the other hand is at the bottom of a hill & must push a boulder uphill. His passion & purpose are not aligned, there’s absolutely no certainty of the effort & reward because Hades enchanted the boulder to roll away before he reaches the top removing all of his sense of control. Sisyphus is likely to burnout.
This may be a far-fetched metaphor of your locus of control, but if there’s one thing I do to prevent the chances of burning out, it’s having the courage to recover.
What does that mean exactly? Well it means setting clear boundaries and expectations for how you recover. It’s telling your boss that they pay you for 40 hours & you’re not going to see me this weekend. It’s telling your loved ones that you need an hour to exercise in the morning. It’s doing the thing you really want to do but haven’t had a chance to do for the last 6 months because you were “too busy”.
Without recovery, you’re susceptible to burnout.
Here are my personal thoughts on how you can best recover outside of having tough conversations about boundaries:
- Protect your sleep.
- Turn off the phone & get off the devices.
- Move your body
- Reset yourself (Vacation, Staycation, hermit-life)
The sooner you get started on your recovery, the less likely you’ll burn out. Because once you burn out, you can lose your sense of control to even be able to recover from it.