And my 4-pronged approach to staying motivated, inspired, and happy.
Becomning willfully homeless is not one of the 4 prongs and according to my research is not a necessary step in overcoming burnout.
So, before we get started on this hero’s journey, lets try to identify what burnout is exactly?
Psychology Today defines burnout as “a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress— (and) is not simply a result of working long hours.”
A closer look at individual cases of burnout usually include some key additional components such as
- *a lack of purpose,
- *feeling ineffective, or
- *feeling like what you do doesn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things.
Maybe you feel that you just keep working so hard and you’re not quite sure why anymore?
Sure, things get done, tasks are checked off the list, you may even be hitting target goals but nothing feels different. You just keep running in the hamster wheel… Or maybe you just got a bigger wheel and now you need to keep running faster.
A 2019 Gallup poll found that 76% of employees experience burnout at least sometimes.
And, although the research is not as robust, surveys of entrepreneurs and people working in startups suggests burnout is a significant issue for these populations as well, even if they are “successful.”
Each individual experience with burnout may look a little different and today I want to share mine with you. In this article, I will discuss:
- A little bit about my background and how I got myself into a state of burnout.
- What it looked like when I was in it and how it was different from normal stress or exhaustion
- How I got out of it
- And how I’m changing my life to make sure I don’t find myself back there again
How I got myself into a state of burnout
Throughout most of my childhood and into my 20’s I knew I wanted something different than most people.
I wanted to see the world and have adventures, conduct experiments, recreate the wheel, take a deep dive into different cultures, and immerse myself in nature. You know, no big deal…
And I was really going for it there for a while, albeit, with a sort of disorganized and bumpy approach. It was exciting and interesting and I was happy.
What came next?
Over a decade long struggle with chronic illness.
Chronic illness that threatened my ability to take care of myself financially, kept me in constant pain, made it extremely difficult to think clearly or express the creativity and independence I’d identified with for most of my life and even interfered with my ability to connect with friends and loved ones.
My new goal in life was simply to no longer be in pain and be able to function.
After years of failed attempts from both conventional medicine and alternative care models, I realized it was up to me to heal myself. And that’s just what I did.
So, having achieved this, did I wake up each day and enjoy my life to the fullest?
I was so motivated to take what I had learned and help bring the same relief and opportunity to others suffering from chronic illness, that I just jumped right off a cliff and became consumed with this goal, plus the additional goal of trying to make up for all the lost time and revenue from the previous decade.
I had passion, I had purpose, I had motivation.
And I could go and go, keep pushing toward my goal. If my body was telling me to rest, learning all that I did from being sick for so long, I listened. A couple of days to rest and rejuvenate and I was back at it.
Then something unexpected happened…
I reached a point of success in my business, the point I had been working non-stop toward for so long. The point that should have made me feel all warm and fuzzy and accomplished and confident…
And instead, I just felt flat… and sort of like I was trapped.
I had lost the inspiration and the motivation necessary (for me with a Rebel Tendency) to keep up the momentum needed for continued success.
I realized the business model I had created (1 on 1 consulting/coaching) meant repeating the same process over and over. It also meant the more successful I was (more clients) the less time I would have to enjoy my life.
As an introvert who also gets bored with things once I feel I have figured them out, this didn’t really give me much to look forward to.
I’d already spent years, (even when I was no longer sick) not traveling and not really living the life I wanted.
All I could see was an infinitely repeating image of my life.
Lather, rinse, repeat… Lather, rinse, repeat…
I should’ve been extatic, I created an very effective system. I’m actually pretty good at that.
But instead I entered…
The Burnout Phase…
I wasn’t just tired or exhausted as I’d been in the past where I’d sleep for two days and be ready to dive back headfirst into the big life-consuming goal of the moment.
What I was doing just didn’t seem to make sense anymore. I felt disillusioned and uninspired. I knew I had helped many people but the modality seemed so inefficient and tedious and left me feeling drained.
Hello hampter wheel.
I didn’t have hobbies, I didn’t go on trips. I’d accumulated so much medical debt over the years, I thought I couldn’t justify these “extravagant luxuries” in my life.
Any time I took to go out with friends and try to be social I wasn’t able to enjoy the moment because I felt guilty for not working more and couldn’t stop thinking about all the other things I should‘ve been doing.
I was highly motivated for a long time and then, all of sudden, I wasn’t.
So at this point, because I didn’t have a clear goal, it seemed like a good time to spiral out a bit…
What did this look like?
- Partaking in more recreational substances than normal,
- Lots of block puzzles and sudoku on my phone (little doses of dopamine)
- Activities we’ll loosely refer to as “dating”
- A significant amount of time navel-gazing
- A consistently tidier home than I’d ever experienced in my adult life
- Canceling all future networking or marketing events and associations
- Quitely winding down all of my existing clients
- A STRONG aversion toward my laptop
- An inability to commit to anything more intense than coffee next week
- Waves of nihilistic thoughts and existential angst (Enneagram Type 5)
- Regular workouts at the gym
- No desire to read or listen to the business and health-related books and podcasts I’d previously had an insatiable appetite for.
I was unable to see a future, to make any big decisions, my critical thinking skills were gone.
Basically I let go of the idea I would do anything like what I had been working so hard toward for so long and, for once, just let myself be.
I didn’t want to run into anyone I hadn’t seen in a while. What would I even say? My life had become a blank page.
I didn’t know if my ambition and motivation would ever come back. And I am not a “disciplined” person. I don’t really know how to do anything without ambition and motivation.
This time was very strange. It often felt amazing, light, quiet, and FUN (I’d forgotten what that was). Sometimes it was terrifying. I’d identified for so long only as whatever goal I was pursuing, and without that, I didn’t really know who I was anymore.
Slowly with time (and block puzzles), I was able to access my critical thinking skills again. I started thinking of little projects to do and feeling motivated and creative again.
I let my mind wander. If I were to completely start from scratch and design the life I really, truly wanted… what would it look like?
And I just kept coming back to those things I wanted as a kid:
I wanted to see the world and have adventures, conduct experiments, recreate the wheel, take a deep dive into different cultures and immerse myself in nature.
I had almost forgotten who I wanted to be before chronic illness lowered my expectations of life.
And I realized something about myself as well. I need to create a life that feels not at all constrained. A life that’s filled with just the things I want to do, and nothing I have to do.
I am not a disciplined person. Never have been. My parents could tell you some entertaining stories.
I am, however, a highly motivated person. I am most happy (and productive) when I have a goal, a puzzle, a mission, or a seemingly impossible task to strive toward and figure out.
All that joy and motivation goes away when I feel like I don’t have a choice.
Now, if you’re thinking that all this sounds like I am trying to create a life by playing mind games on myself, I would whole-heartedly agree with you.
So, how do I get everything I’ve ever wanted while staying inspired, motivated, and healthy?
Well, first of all, this seemingly impossible-to-answer question has got my attention!
And, of course, you’ve got to have a system!
That’s where my 4-pronged approach to life/happiness/goal achievement/world domination… whatever you want to call it, comes into play. Here it is:
- Pursue Extreme Efficiency – for the soul and time-sucking, adulting type tasks that deplete energy and needlessly cause decision fatigue.
- Take A Multi-Passionate Approach – to alleviate boredom, diversify income, and not have my identity or self-worth tied to the success or failure of any single business idea or project.
- Maintain and Optimize Health – because I know all too well that this is the most crucial foundation for true freedom, independence, and longevity.
- Reframe the Narrative – because mindset has been scientifically validated to have a profound effect on both health and happiness (just as each of those does on the other) and the things you tell yourself can either stop you before you ever get started or take you beyond what you ever dreamed was possible.
So, I am switching things up a bit, or a lot, actually!
My New Goal:
To achieve the ability to move about this earth as I please.
And, for me, I’ll know I’ve achieved this goal when I can travel indefinitely as a happily homeless nomad until I feel like parking it somewhere.
Watch as I turn my narcissism and self-interest into a business model that will help others along the way.
I will live a life of choice, not limited by physical restrictions or the sick-care system, unbound by expectations and societal norms, and fueled with creativity and the pursuit of continued growth.
Take this journey with me!
Now, you may not want to get rid of most of your belongings and live out of a Go-Bag indefinitely, but…
I bet there are goals and dreams you’ve lost sight of or given up on. Obstacles you may think are insurmountable. Mundane, soul-sucking tasks that take away from the people and activities that you love and would rather spend your finite time on this earth enjoying.
I want to hear from you!